A career-spanning collection of time-travel tales from Silverberg, the 2003 Grand Master of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.
Silverberg has compiled his favorite time-travel stories published between 1955 and 2007, and in it, he seemingly leaves no “what if?” unanswered. “Needle in a Timestack,” first published in Playboy in 1983, engagingly explores what could happen if the past were altered and people could, at least for a few hours, remember their lives before everything changed. “Against the Current,” from a 2007 issue of the magazine Fantasy & Science Fiction, asks what would happen if a man simply became unmoored from time and began to inexplicably drift into the past. The 1983 novella Homefaring (arguably the most thought-provoking and compelling story in the bunch) asks what would happen if a time traveler catapulted millions of years into the future—so far that humans were extinct? And what if, when he arrives, he found that the dominant species on Earth is…lobsters? Most of the entries, Silverberg notes, were written at the direct request of an editor, and he prefaces each with a brief anecdote, often about the editors themselves. There is, however, one disappointing aspect to the collection: Although the stories zip between bygone times and far-flung futures, the characters remain firmly rooted in the mores of the 20th century. Virtually every main character is a man, and most women are capricious girls or bitchy, unfaithful wives—scarcely more than things to be ogled, fought over, or, in one disturbing scene in “Jennifer’s Lover,” to have definitely-not-consensual sex with. (The latter was published in a 1982 issue of Penthouse.) The quality of the rest of his work is nearly enough to overcome these failings, though, leaving readers to hope that perhaps Silverberg curtails his victory lap and writes just a few more stories for this century.
Revolutionary time-travel tales, if you can overlook the fossilized characters.