decided to be flexible about the cut-off date for the first phase of
this project. I was going to give my young critics only works
published before 1980 … but if I want to include a story by Connie
I will have to fudge a little. So, a story from 1982.
I’m going to hand them an early Connie Willis, “Fire Watch” is
the logical choice. Not only did it win both the
Award for Best Novelette
and the Nebula
Award for Best Novelette
it provided the setting for Willis’ Doomsday
(also a Hugo and Nebula winner) and To
Say Nothing of the Dog.
the setting for the interminable, nonsensical, and inexplicably
we’ve seen, past popularity means nothing to the young people of
today, who insist on judging stories on their merits and not the warm
feeling their grandparents may have had reading a now-venerable
story. What did the Young People think of this classic story?
Watch is included in
Best of Connie Willis
Best of Connie Willis is
I would have preferred a Bujold story, but it turned out that the
specific story I had in mind was from the end of the 1980s. I am not
prepared to be that
story didn't keep hold my attention well enough to stop me from
wandering off to look at other things while reading it. Which is sad
because I can't point to anything I dislike about it. It just didn't
hold my full attention. It did take a bit at the beginning to make
clear what was going on, and even once it became clear that the
narrator was a time-travelling historian there were still bits that
confused me. How does someone from the mid to early 21st century not
know about cats or alcohol? Even if they've been gone since some time
shortly after the 80s (when this story was written) people these days
know the names of things from past centuries that we don't use
anymore, especially really popular things. How much more should a
historian know this stuff? And I am pretty sure the narrator is from
the early-mid 21st century from his talk of the pinpoint bombing of
St. Paul's being in 2008 and his proximity to that event.
thing, how do you keep a trick like that secret at a university? The
number of people who have to keep quiet is huge, and growing every
year. Somebody's going to spill the beans to the undergrads at some
point and then the bait and switch ceases to work. Which I don't
think would be that big of a problem, the overall point of the test
still probably works even if the undergrads are just thrown into the
test with minimal prep time available.
I liked it, the twist on Langby was great and the punch was
cathartic. I just wish the writing had held my attention better.
found this story... hard to focus on. Maybe it was the daunting
length of the story, the format (on my desktop computer), the
environment I read it in (surrounded by a chatty crowd of people), or
my mood today, but I really could not focus on it. I like the
premise, I think – future history students do a final exam where
they get to travel back in time. Cool! They are woefully unprepared –
odd? They have to do... something, and nobody tells them what needs
to happen. Frustrating.
should have intrigued me. Possibly historically accurate information
where there's a mystery – why is the main character there and what
is he trying to do/figure out/learn? But I'm not sure anything was
learned, and I'm not sure anything was revealed.
this story would have been better if I'd read it on a different day.
After looking it up online, it sounds like it was well-received, and
it sounds like an accurate representation of some of the events of
London in WW2. But it just didn't absorb, so I'm not really sure what
liked this story, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it
didn’t blow me away (pun not intended – sad trombone). Maybe
there was too much red scare fear. Or maybe Bartholomew reminded me
too much of a character I don’t like, like Holden Caulfield.
story starts off strong. A time travel practicum is a great, fun idea
– in theory. We’ve all been asked the question: if you could time
travel to any other era, when would you go? And almost invariably,
anyone who isn’t a white male chooses the present or future.
Rights, contraception and sanitation, please.
to the beginning of the story: I liked it well enough, but I probably
would have liked this a lot more when I was a teenager or early in my
undergraduate degree. At that point, it would have reminded me of The
Secret Garden. Instead, now I think of conversations I’ve had with
others about co-op, practicums, and job searching. Much less
whimsical as an adult.
little while ago, I would have found the communist red scare fear
with the implied nuclear war to be funny. Not so much with recent
have no memory of the cold war or the fall of the Berlin Wall, and I
remember watching James Bond movies and thinking the villains were
quaint and ridiculous. I also remember watching Red Dawn and finding
it a ridiculously teenage coming-of-age story because it seems all
teens feel like they’re rebels fighting against an insurmountable
force. (I must have missed that day in How to Be a Teenager 101 – I
was an extremely obedient child who had to be taught initiative and
story would be a good starting point for high school classes to talk
about history. I can imagine students getting an assignment to
research an event and then to write a story or diary entries as if
they were there. I’m not sure if many high school students would
choose this story for themselves, but it’s definitely a nice change
of pace from the extremely dry and boring history classes I had in
high school. In fact, I might recommend it to one of my friends who
teaches high school students…
in all, solid. This story is worth some thought, but it’s not the
most fun. A few jarring notes that brought me out of the story like
asbestos coats. And how does this guy keep this record hidden and
secret for three months? But aside from that, it’s an interesting
read worth recommending.
story completely failed to hold my attention. It took me forever to
read, because I kept getting bored and wandering off to do more
didn’t like the narrator, and his narration didn’t make me care
about any of the other characters, or the church they were supposed
to be saving. I understand that the narrator didn’t understand what
he was supposed to be doing, but it resulted in it feeling like there
were no real stakes to the story.
found the narrator’s reaction to communism ridiculous. As far as I
can tell, the narrator is more upset by the idea of communism than by
the Nazis actively bombing the city. The idea that someone so removed
from these events would have such a personal hatred of communism,
despite coming from the far future, makes this story feel very
American and very dated.
usually like time travel stories, but apparently not when they’re
the running commentary of a whiny guy making all kinds of assumptions
about the people around him. I didn’t trust his judgement, so I
didn’t believe his assessment of any of the people or situations
story was dull, way too long, and even once it was over didn’t seem
to have a point.