365 Days of Women Writers

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Day 30: No Time Like the Present by Carol Emshwiller

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No Time Like the Present is a time travel story that is completely uninterested in being a time travel story.

Ok, there is the sort of nominal “better not do much or we might disappear” nonsense but it rather has the feel of “don’t stare at the sun or you’ll go blind” The kind of warning that no one really believes deep down inside because who would possibly look at the sun that long? I tried when I was a kid and I couldn’t do it! (Before you write in and tell me how stupid and dangerous that was, I shall tell you not to bother because of course I couldn’t possibly read them because I must be blind. Nyah!) So completely different from “Danger High Voltage” warnings.

So what sort of story is it? It has a very YA flavor. It’s told from the perspective of a young girl and the lens of her narrative focuses on boys and school and clothes and all the things you’d expect a teen to care about.

There’s some obvious commentary on environmental damage and how we’re ruining the planet:

Then we hear that exactly the same night, north of us, in Washington State they also lost a lot of lumber. And another place in Nevada lost half their grass-fed beef.

Funny though, Huxley said all this was our fault. Even that they’re here in the first place is our fault. He said we should have stopped cutting down trees.

But that’s low key enough that while the message is there, it doesn’t feel too shoved down my throat. (Though the time travel theft makes me want to go watch Time Bandits.)

It’s partly a story about displaced populations and how communities react when a large group of immigrants move into a neighborhood. But even that feels rather surfacey and predictable. The tentative stab at friendship across the barrier. A period of acclimation where interest in the newcomers wanes. The inevitable witch hunt when something goes wrong.

One of the failings in the story is I don’t think the story is complex enough nor do the stakes feel high enough to make it particularly engaging. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a well written story with a likeable voice. I guess I wanted a bit more from it.

ps, what was up with all the people in the future being white and blond? And why were they all wearing jika-tabi? Was there a point to that I completely missed?

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Written by Chance

October 17, 2010 at 2:12 pm