…Where Angels Fear to Tread: Steele takes on time-travel

fantasy and science fiction book reviews...Where Angels Fear to Tread by Allen Steele…Where Angels Fear to Tread by Allen Steele

Allen Steele promised himself he’d never write a time-travel story, but nevertheless, here it is. In his introduction to this audio version, he explains that he didn’t want to write about something he thought was impossible, but one of his friends challenged him to write a story that could overcome his own doubts. And thus we have …Where Angels Fear to Tread.

There are two timelines going on in …Where Angels Fear to Tread. In one, time travelers from the future go back to study the cause of the Hindenburg explosion. In the other timeline, Dr. Murphy, a modern day scientist who is embarrassed to work for the government’s Office for Paranormal Sciences, investigates UFO sightings. The two stories converge when the Hindenburg doesn’t explode on schedule and a paradox is created.

This story was exciting and fun once we left the tiresome bar scene at the beginning. I loved the idea that UFOs are time travelers — it explains UFO sightings and also explains why we (think we) don’t see time travelers. I also loved the ending of this story which celebrates the influence of science fiction on scientific progress. That’s a beautiful thought. (But, sorry Mr. Steele, you still haven’t convinced me that time travel is possible, and I don’t think you’ve convinced yourself, either.)

…Where Angels Fear to Tread was originally published in the 1997 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. It won, among others, the Hugo and Locus Awards, and was nominated for the Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon Awards. Allen Steel later expanded …Where Angels Fear to Tread into the novel Chronospace. I listened to Audible Frontier’s 3-hour long version read by the magnificent Marc Vietor.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. I really liked the first two Coyote Books, but never tried the third because, except for one rare occasion, I cannot stand Peter Gamin’s narration style. He manages to suck all the life out of a fascinating world. Yet, I like Steele’s writing, and I think with Vietor, I should give this one a try. I may go back and read the other Coypte books narrated by Gamin, so I can listen to the ones he doesn’t narrate.

  2. Peter Gamin is rather austere-sounding, which some readers prefer. Marc Vietor, though, is a favorite of mine.

  3. Brad /

    Would the original story be available in a paperback collection of any kind? Since I read only a little fantasy literature (except in comic book form!), I don’t know if these award winners are regularly collected. Even better, I would love it if fantasy stories were available as “Kindle singles” not only because I like my Kindle, but also because I could add it to my college courses without increasing student textbook costs too much. What is the best way to get quality fantasy short stories?

  4. Brad, I’ve done a little searching and I can’t seem to find Steele’s story anthologized in any of the year’s best for 1997, probably because it’s a novella (they’re long enough that editors often skip reprinting too many of them, if in fact they include any at all). But if you’re looking for good places for short fantasy and science fiction, the two magazines publishing the best of it, in my opinion, are Asimov’s and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. You can get e-versions of both, if that’s your preference. Some of the ezines that are especially good are Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld and Apex. Free may be useful every now and then, so try Strange Horizons, Tor.com and Subterranean. Also, SFSignal has a weekly (I think — maybe less frequent) round up of free science fiction and fantasy on the Web. Finally, if you want to go the anthology route, Gardner Dozois has an SF year’s best that goes back to 1984, while David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer have a series just a bit shorter than that; Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have a year’s best for fantasy and horror that ran for 21 years; Paula Guran has a dark fantasy year’s best that’s been going for a few years; and Rick Horton has an SF best that’s gone about as long. For original anthologies, you could do a lot worse than to read everything ever edited by John Joseph Adams, Ellen Datlow, Jonathan Strahan and Paula Guran.

    Finally, when it comes to award-nominated fiction, you can often find a copy of a nominated story somewhere on the web if you search around enough — at least when it comes to the current year and prizes that haven’t been awarded yet. It might take some searching, but sometimes you get lucky. Hope you do!

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