Triceratops Summer • shortstory by Michael Swanwick

★★1/2

Meta: ISFDB. First published on the Amazon.com website, August 19, 2005. I’ve read it in the anthology The Dog Said Bow-Wow.

What do you do when there is no tomorrow?
Swanwick takes the sujet of changing time-lines to ask how an elder pair would behave if they knew that nothing they did the next couple of months would matter in the long term because everything will be reverted by a time-machine.
What would you do in such a situation? Go to work? Do the garden? Read books?
Dozois‘ answer is: It matters more how you spend your time than how much time you have to spend.
Swanwick’s answer seems to be „marriage, hard work, community, and simple human kindness“.

The other things are the dinosaurs, of course – it starts with them:
The dinosaurs looked all wobbly in the summer heat shimmering up from the pavement. There were about thirty of them, a small herd of what appeared to be Triceratops. They were crossing the road
– don’t ask me why – so I downshifted and brought the truck to a halt, and waited.

Waited and watched.
Dumb like sheep. Not green as often illustrated but colorful like butterflies. But they didn’t have the awesomeness of Jurassic Park.

The last sentence in the citation demonstrates the slowness and style of the story. No fighting against the time laboratory or against government. Slow and caring about the two protagonists. I don’t need action in a story but the tension arc and resolution were just meh.

The story was included in THREE best-of anthologies in 2005/6 – Strahan’s, Dozois‘, and Horton’s. And I don’t get it. Maybe it is my personal taste. Maybe 2005 wasn’t such a good year for SF. Maybe it is favouritism. Maybe it is the money. But I certainly would have selected something else.

In the end I nearly liked it. There certainly is some quality in the narration and the raised questions keep sticking in your head. It might be the case that the story needs time to ripen. But one day after reading it, it was only ok.
And it worked as part of the anthology!

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