“I Remember the Future”
I Remember the Future: Apex Publications 2009
Nominated for the Nebula Award: Short Story
Burstein’s story opens with a mournful statement of a writer helping to create fantastic visions of the future and lamenting that few people care about those visions anymore, or care about making them real. That statement is then followed by a passage from a fictional science fiction novel from the fictional writer Abraham Beard. This passage features future explorers coming across a cache of “the ancient lost library of New Earth” and they feel hope they will be able to find “the location of the original human home world”.
This sets the stage for the rest of the story. Burstein alternates between the narration of an old man with a visiting daughter, and various passages from other Abraham Beard novels which mirror the preceding scene.
What the reader gets is the perspective of a man who lives more in his stories than he does in his real life, which is also borne out in the conversation between the man and his daughter. It’s a sad story of an elderly science fiction writer, but it is sadder from the daughter’s perspective than the narrator’s because, outside of one or two brief lines left unexamined, the narrator doesn’t seem to quite realize the effect he has had on his daughter.
The mirroring effect of the fictional passages with the real world narration is a bit too neat. This is the intent, obviously, because the Beard (the old man, this isn’t much of a spoiler) spends more time in his imagination than in his life, but the parallels don’t work. They set up the ending, but each passage of Beard’s fiction serves to distract from the more immediate story of a man and his daughter. It is that personal story that is stronger than the framing devices and the Beard passages only brings the overall story of “I Remember the Future” down.