Reviews: Asimov's Science Fiction Sci-Fi Short Stories Science Fiction Reviews

Shorts: The Backward Lens of Compromise

This story is an ode to science education and the power it can have on the minds of kids who can barely afford to get by. We see a woman with a strange power I can’t fully grasp, accidentally using it to show kids the history of science and how far we’ve come in understanding the universe. The kids fight for their education, trying to make sure they have the same opportunities as everyone else. It’s an important narrative, and one that should be broadcast country-wide.


Octavia Cade
Asimov’s Science Fiction
July/August 2018


A woman has a superpower that changes her environment around her, swapping things for other things within her field of vision. Her solution to this issue is to become an astronomer, to expand her scope to include the universe and allow her mind to reside within it in the hopes of suppressing this inconvenience. We see a trek through the history of astronomers as she accidentally starts to swap her observatory’s telescope with telescopes from the past, ending with Galileo’s. It’s a strange little story, but fun as you see these kids learning about science and trying hard to be taken seriously in a world that wants to write them off as a budget cut.


The primary character is conflicted with the life she’s led, believing she only makes the world around her worse with her strange superpower, or defect as she most likely sees it. She works with underprivileged kids because she was once in their shoes, saved only by a scholarship attained because of her obsession with science and the stars. In the end, she saves their little part of the world through inspiration and showing the kids they matter and can fight for what they deserve in their education.

We also see little snippets of past astronomers, women and men, hearing about their love for science and the reasons they look to the stars for answers. It’s a cool learning moment, though it took me a bit to realize what was going on. I appreciated the depth the author gave to these parts of the story. She showed how important science is to our world’s history.


The story takes place in a rundown area of a large city, primarily within an old observatory with outdated equipment that’s on the verge of being shut down. With snippets of the past, we are transported around the world, though the setting isn’t all that important. Most important is what we see on the other end of the telescopes, the stars and planets these astronomers are so keen to witness and document.


Astronomy, Alternate Reality, Science Education, Science History

Photo by Arnaud Papa on Unsplash

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