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A Surprise Beginning (Analog Shorts)

A Surprise Beginning is a time travel tale without the dystopia, imagining a future where the world doesn’t end in a burning mess. Benford gives a gleaming version of reality, complete with technologies we can only dream of. It’s well written with hard science, black hole theory, and a surprisingly down-to-earth narrative.


Gregory Benford
Analog Science Fiction & Fact, September-October 2018 Issue



My favorite part of A Surprise Beginning is the accidental aspect of the time travel. The main character wakes up 20 years in the future and doesn’t seem too concerned about it. Benford has imagined a world with untold technological advances. These range from climate change control, life extension, space tourism, inner-city transportation networks, communications technology. I’m always amazed at authors who are able to fit so much innovation in such a small space. In this instance, it was done flawlessly.


The main character is a regular guy stepping into a future world. He’s not worried, he doesn’t freak out, he just finds his brother and gives him a hug. It’s a great portrayal of somebody realizing the world they left behind is gone. Instead of fear or anxiety, he’s excited to hear what’s changed. It’s like telling a little kid what the future holds, except he gets to actually experience it now. It’s almost an exciting prospect.


We see future San Francisco amidst a world where a lot has changed. While the city is different after twenty years, it’s not different enough to confuse the main character. Buildings are still where they used to be, there are just more of them. The city still thrives, it just has more technology. I appreciate seeing a future where we got our nonsense together and finally figured out how bring peace to the world.


Time Travel, Black Holes, Space Travel, Climate Change, Environmentalism, Aliens

Interested in more stories like A Surprise Beginning? Read our short story reviews here.

Photo by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash

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