If you live your dreams, you can remake the world...
One strange and magical winter day in 1924, a young surrealist follows a dark-haired woman down the avenues of time to the Paris riots of 1968. Together they learn the awesome power of the imagination to turn lies into truth, death into love, darkness into light... The Dream Years is at once at tour de force of fantasy as well as a remarkable work that blends both history and fiction into a stunningly imaginative story you will not soon forget. Nominated for the World Fantasy and Locus Awards.
"The Dream Years is a short book but an intense one. Like all Goldstein's work it's beautifully written and full of marvelous lingering imagery."– Jo Walton, Tor.com
"As long as the visions of the time-traveling Surrealists retain a hard-edged palpability (like the most memorable dreams and nightmares), the complex narrative succeeds on two levels - it teases the fancy while it engages the intellect….that makes one eager to read more of Lisa Goldstein's meditations on life and art."– New York Times
"Whether you choose to consider The Dream Years formal science fiction or not, it certainly partakes of the central esthetic thereof, yet demonstrates its unity with surrealism on the level where form follows function as well."– Norman Spinrad, Science Fiction in the Real World
Antonin waited for Robert the next day outside the Bureau, eyes like mica. "Sorry I'm late," Robert said. "I overslept."
"No problem," Antonin said.
He led the way inside. "Well," Robert said, sitting up on the desk. "What do we do now? Did anything happen?"
"No," Antonin said. He watched Robert intently. "We were waiting for you."
"All right," Robert said. There was no point in trying to talk to Antonin. He stared out the open door. If the woman were to come back she would be as likely to come here, nexus of probabilities, as anywhere else. The dark-haired woman says good-bye at the station, he thought. Was it poetry if anyone could do it? André would say that that was the point. But was it? A notebook lay open on the desk and he began to draw in it aimlessly, following the curves of the woman's dark hair. A noise made him look up. Three or four people had come in the door.
Antonin stood by the door, his arms crossed. He still regarded Robert with a look approaching fanaticism. Was Robert supposed to be doing something? Antonin did not move. All right, he thought. He jumped down from the desk.
"What's your birthday?" he asked the man closest to him.
"What?" the man said.
"The day of your birth," Robert said. "What is it?"
"Are you an astrologer?" the man asked.
"No," Robert said. "A student of coincidences. An assigner of probabilities. I know the stars and signposts of everyday life, the treasures evoked by the banal. What's your birthday?"
"March eighth," the man said, hesitantly.
"And yours?" he said to another man.
"And yours?" to a woman.
"March eighteenth," she said.
"Ten days apart!" Robert said. "What's the probability of that happening, I wonder?
Do you two know each other?"
"No," the woman said, amused. The man shrugged.
"And yet you've shared almost your entire lives," Robert said. "He's seen only ten days that you haven't seen. You both have more in common than you and I would ever have. Assuming you were both born the same year, of course. What year were you born, sir?"
"I—" the man said. "Eighteen ninety-three."
"And you?" Robert said to the woman. More people came in the door. "Wait a minute—I have to ask these people. Why don't you come back tonight? We'll talk about life and coincidences and the nature of dreams. Was it just a coincidence that you happened to walk through the door on a day that I would be here? What day were you born, sir?" The woman laughed and waved good-bye. The man who had just come in the door looked around and said, "November—"
Robert had been watching the open doorway absently. Like a page from an old book or a fragment of a dream, she had gone by, the dark-haired woman. He shouted, cutting off the man's reply, and ran out the door. Antonin watched him, nodding slightly as he left.
"Wait!" Robert said, shouting to her. "Wait, I have to talk to you!"
The woman turned back at the shout. Their eyes were at the same level. "It's you!" she said. Her smile made him stand stock-still. "We got through again!"
"Listen," he said, running to catch up with her. "I have to talk to you. Yesterday." He still could not get his breath back. "No, the day before. When I followed you—it was you, wasn't it?—and you told me—"
Lights flashed around them, leaving afterimages. He felt the same terrifying sense of disorientation, terrifying to him because never in his life had he been lost for more than a few minutes. The streets stretched out to infinity and then contracted. He waited until they were solid again. "Where was I that night?" he asked. "In the future?"
"Yes," she said. Her voice was musical: he longed to hear her sing. Ahead of them a woman played a grand piano someone had pulled out into the street. A man and two women sat grouped around the legs of the piano in earnest discussion. Another man had his head in the lap of one of the women: he was asleep.
"But how?" Robert said. He wondered if he was truly going crazy this time. "What's going on?"
They passed the piano, passed two men balancing a ladder in front of an enormous billboard. After some talk, one of the men began to climb the ladder. He was carrying a bucket of paint.
The woman stopped. "Damn," she said. "There's never enough time." She looked down the street, obviously wanting to stay and move on at the same time. "Listen," she said. "We're in the middle of the revolution. I promised my friends I'd help them organize some of the strikers—it's very important and I'm late already—otherwise—" She stopped, moved her hand impatiently. "Believe me, there's nothing I'd like better than to stay and talk to you. I didn't know we'd be able to open the avenues of time again. I could—I'll introduce you to some friends of mine—"
No, he wanted to say. No, stay with me—what's the revolution compared to having a good time? He felt lost, cast adrift in this strange future. She was his anchor.
A young man walked by distributing leaflets. "Minutes," he said to Robert and the woman, handing them each a copy. "What's been decided so far at the Théâtre de l'Odéon, a list of our demands. Come by and give us your opinions."
Robert looked at the piece of paper. He could make no sense of it. He crumpled up the leaflet and threw it on the ground. "Don't do that," the young man said. "The
garbage collectors are on strike. We're on our own now."
Robert looked around. The street was festooned with trash like party decorations.
He looked at the young man, shrugged, and picked up the leaflet.
They began walking again, passing a shop that sold fashionable clothing. Someone had painted across the side of the shop the words "Never work." The woman had gone a little ahead of Robert again and he ran to catch up with her. "Wait," he said.
"Where are you taking me?"
"To the Odéon," the woman said. "I'd like you to meet my friends. They don't know that you're from the past— you can tell them or not, whatever you like. I'll try to come back and find you. But I think you'll be interested in the meeting—and they'd probably be interested in your views." They had come to the Odéon. From inside Robert heard the sound of loud laughter. The theatre had been spray-painted and some of the letters on the front had been removed. They went inside.
Whole rows of seats had been taken out and the curtains torn down. A man up front was talking to a large group of people. Someone shouted to him from the floor. People had stretched out in the aisles or on one of the seats and had gone to sleep or were talking among themselves. The place smelled of wine and stale clothing. And they thought I was crazy, Robert thought. Then he thought, no. They're surrealists. André's won, his ideas have stayed alive. He felt a chill start at the root of his spine and continue up to his hair. He turned to the woman. "What year is it?'' he asked her.
"Nineteen sixty-eight," she said. "It's May." She smiled at him for the first time. "You can take your coat off."
A group of people had come up to the woman and started to talk to her animatedly. Robert shrugged his coat off, not listening. "It's ridiculous to talk about the examinations now!" someone on the floor was saying. "We're transforming society, we're not back negotiating with the university. When we're through there will be no university and no exams, no professors and no students."
A few people near the woman who had spoken applauded. The man on the stage continued, unperturbed. "We have to transform society slowly, by stages," he said. "We have to decide what we want from the university, and then where we want to go from there—"
"Reinvent everything!" someone shouted from the floor. "Now!"
Bio: Lisa Goldstein is a fantasy and science fiction writer whose work has been nominated for Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. Her 1982 novel The Red Magician won an American Book Award. Her 2011 novel, The Uncertain Places, won the 2012 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, and her short story, "Paradise Is a Walled Garden," won the 2011 Sidewise Award for Best Short-Form Alternate History.
The Watch by Dennis Danvers
When an enigmatic visitor from another world appears at the deathbed of Peter Alexeivich Kropotkin in 1921 Russia, offering him a chance to be reborn, Peter gladly accepts, but his new life in 1999 America is far from idyllic as he is faced with a bizarre new world of plastic and capitalism, where other refugees, both past and present, crave freedom and justice.
"A philosophical inquiry with a basic moral point, this literate time-travel tale also thoroughly entertains. In 1921, the ailing, 78-year-old Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin is visited by an "angel," Anchee Mahur, who offers him a mysterious choice. He can either die or resume life as a young man, but in 1999, in Richmond, Va., Kropotkin agrees to a new life, but never loses his distrust of Anchee… Does he go along with Anchee's plan or suffer the consequences if he does not? Can he trade personal comfort for humanity's potential slavery? Danvers succeeds in making the reader really care about the answers."—Publishers Weekly
This is a novel of ideas, but it is also one of great heart and fabulous personality. Read as a thoughtful meditation, or simply as a delightful yarn, this is a story and a hero that should find an enthusiastic audience.—School Library Journal
Boris and Sasha were talking excitedly about the most remarkable meteor they had just seen blazing across the sky. Boris babbled some superstitious hokum trying to implicate me and my ill health in the business of the cosmos. I wanted to inquire further concerning the shade of green light the meteor emanated, but it was too much effort to speak, had been for days. And with speech came the coughing, and life itself had come down to not coughing if one could help it, knowing that soon, very soon, I couldn't help it, and I would die coughing. I couldn't imagine any other death.
They thought I slept, but I was awake, listening. It was my last connection with life—their voices. Certain profound moments of complete solitude have touched me in the way, I imagine, that mystics claim to be touched by God. But for me the voices of those I love, or even the memories of them, are a sufficient reason to live. I listened.
Even when my inner eye could no longer mount a reliable image of the speaker, I listened to their words.
So when there was silence, an absolute silence, I forced my eyes open to see what death looked like.
To my surprise, even without my eyeglasses, I saw perfectly, something I hadn't done in years. There were a trio of lights by my bed—the flames of the candles—but they didn't move, didn't flicker. Their light was unnaturally steady. With surprisingly little effort, I rolled over onto my back, and there was Boris standing over me, frozen in mid-sentence, his hand poised in a passionate gesture. The tears on the cheeks of Sasha and Sophie didn't flow. Atabekian stood motionless, the poker in his hand thrust into the fire. A cloud of sparks hovered above the grate.
The only movement of any kind other than myself was a man, a black man in a white robe or gown, watching me intently, his eyes blinking. When I caught sight of him, he stepped forward and sat on the edge of the bed, Boris looming over him like a statue in a park. "Peter Kropotkin," the black man said. "Do not be afraid. I am a friend. I have come a long way to see you. I am from the future. My time owes you a great deal. I have stopped time so that we may speak. You are about to die ..."
I stopped listening to his precise words—for they scarcely made any sense to me—and attempted to fathom what was going on. It was quite the speech, rehearsed I would say, but well delivered. Everything about him bespoke a sense of purpose. Is he an angel? I asked myself. Does his presence mean there is a God after all? The thought so distressed me that I felt a wave of revulsion and anger—to have been so wrong about such a fundamental question right up to death's door. Worse to imagine a God who would willingly preside over such widespread suffering and inequity as fill the world. No. No God. I refused to believe it. No angels either.
"Who are you?" I interrupted in English, for he was speaking English, though in an accent strange to me.
"I am Anchee Mahur," he said, then summarized his recitation in slow and precise syllables: "I've come from the future to offer you a second life. By scientific means, I'll restore your body to what it was in younger and healthier days, then transport you to a different time and place, where you may live out the balance of a new life. If you so wish it, that is. We force no one."
I was vainly trying to comprehend what on earth he could be talking about when he laid his hands on my head, and said, "Allow me," and all came clear like a sudden burst of inspiration when the most incredible things seem as if they have been obvious all along. Of course: my body restored to youth and fitness, transplanted into some future time like a cutting from an old tree.
But I am not a tree, and there was still much I wanted to know. "A time machine?" I asked, and it was then he claimed his science would seem magic to me, magic he could not explain in anything less than hours. "I wouldn't even know where to start," he said. "You don't have a grasp on the most basic principles involved." How odd, I thought. He can stop time, but still be in a hurry. Eager to get on with things, I would say.
But did it matter, I asked myself, whether I understood the science or not? More important (presuming this wasn't just some deathbed delirium) was whether he was telling the truth and whether he could be trusted—reminding myself they weren't always the same thing.
He was very handsome and very dark. Also quite young, maybe twenty, with a bit of that cocky brashness about him, but so old in his bearing—a great dignity that was no mere haughtiness—that I had no idea what to make of him. I'd never met anyone even vaguely like him before, and I have met a good number of people from all over the world. It was easy to believe he came from the far future. Much easier than believing him an angel.
"But what of them?" I asked of the frozen mourners, for it was as mourners that I thought of them even before Anchee showed up. "Mightn't they be alarmed when I vanish altogether? That sort of thing could arouse the most ridiculous rumors. I don't wish to be the cause of any new religions sprouting up. There are quite enough already."
He laughed heartily, and I was glad the future, even his magical future, still possessed a sense of humor. It was that discovery more than anything else that decided me. (That and the likelihood the entire experience was hallucinatory). There was no way to know if he was trustworthy. Whether he spoke truth or delusion would be clear soon enough. "No one here will know," he reassured me. "When time resumes you'll still be here just so, but you'll go on to live another life unknown to them, in the future."
"When in the future? In your time?"
He found this amusing, with a little laugh and a big smile.
"No, not nearly so far. You couldn't possibly adapt. You would say the year 1999. April 8. A lifetime from now."
"My lifetime, to be exact."
"Is there some scientific reason for that?"
"Hmm. More aesthetic I would say."
"Why do you do this? What possible reason could there be for making an old man young again and inflicting him on future generations?"
"I don't know if you can understand."
He was beginning to annoy me. "Try me," I snapped. "I'll concede the science, even the aesthetics, but not the ethics."
"I'm sorry. I don't mean to condescend."
"Comes naturally, does it? Take your time. I gather that as long as you stay, I don't cough, I don't die." I tested this theory by sitting up, planting my feet on the floor, standing up effortlessly.
"You don't want to die?"
"Most definitely not."
This apparently encouraged him and gave him renewed patience to answer an old man's questions. "Time isn't a single stream," he said, "but an infinite number coexisting. We've learned to . . . weave them together by transplanting lives from one time to another. In this way we make new times, new realities. We move among them, experience them, learn from them."
He made a face. Tact did not come easily for him. "In a sense. Zola, I believe, spoke of his novels that way. You love the opera, I believe. It's more like that. An experience. A work of art."