I’ve always maintained that it is difficult to do a romance short-story because the format doesn’t allow for the required amount for character or relationship growth. I’m happy to say that the anthology Someone in Times: Tales of Time-Crossed Romance is the exception that proves the rule, with an amazing collection of love stories in short-story form (some with happy endings and some not) and not a poor story in the lot.

All of these stories are about relationships that are shaped by time travel, but they are tonally very different. Sometimes the mechanism of time travel is never explained. In “Romance: Historical,” by Rowan Coleman, a bookseller from the present day connects with a man who is/was a patron of the same store in 1914 through a mysterious 12 inch square space in the stacks. In “The Difference Between Love and Time,” by Catherynne M. Valente, a woman has a life-long, turbulent relationship with the personification of the space time continuum, in a story that begins as a whimsical thought exercise and becomes a bittersweet, unexpectedly powerful meditation on family and humanity and, yes, love and time. The heartbreaking “Unabashed, or: Jackson, Whose Cowardice Tore a Gap in the Universe,” by Sam J. Miller involves a young man who can’t stop obsessing throughout all the different futures that he could have had provided he had changed one tragic decision.

Even the stories that base time travel on some technological mechanism focus more on the actual relationships than the mechanism itself. Seanan McGuire’s story, “First Aid,” begins with a detailed examination of why a person might be sent back in time, what rules they would have to follow, and how they would prepare – all of which is detailed with precision right up until the time machine glitches with very funny results. Alix E. Harrow’s “Roadside Attraction” talks approximately a time travel portal which, once discovered, causes a lot of drama until it just doesn’t anymore:

There was a lot of fuss when it was first discovered-minor wars, international espionage, secret government agencies with a bewildering array of acronyms-but when the stone failed to provide either profit or power, the land was quietly sold to a private entity.

In some stories the fate of humanity depends on time travel, particularly in “A Letter to Merlin,” by Theodora Goss, in which the ultimate human beings use time travel in a desperate attempt to save humanity. Zen Cho contributes a narrative approximately time travel in Hong Kong (“The Past Life Reconstruction Service”). Lavanya Lakshminarayan wrote “”Bergamot and Vetiver,” a narrative in which a traveler from ‘Nova India’ visits the Indus Valley Civilization. Sameen Siddiqui’s “Timed Obsolescence” discusses time travel from a futuristic South Asian perspective. Travelers in several stories are working deep undercover, sent back in time for what is often intended to be a one-way mission. The variety of plots and concepts in the anthology, from time travel as a tech-related mission to time travel as a intellectual exercise, helps make each story feel fresh and unique.

The book includes several queer authors and multiple stories approximately m/m and f/f relationships, as well as cultural and racial diversity among the authors and settings. I do wish it included stories by Black and Latinx authors, and as is usually the case, I pine for more disability rep. Otherwise I can’t remember the ultimate time I read an anthology in which every story touched me so much. Some have happy endings and some do not, but all of them are deeply affirming of the idea that human relationships, specifically romantic ones, are important. Some of these stories are sad but none of them are nihilistic or cynical, and all are beautifully written. Many are happy, with intelligent and subversive resolutions. I had really given up on romance short stories, and while not all of these stories have an HEA, all of them are moving and positive in their own ways.

As a bonus, I can’t resist mentioning that the only two romance love stories I’ve seen work (prior to this anthology) are “The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair,” by Ray Bradbury, and “April in Paris” by Ursula K. Le Guin – the latter of which, coincidentally involves time travel.

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