Time Is the Fire: The Best of Connie Willis

Connie Willis
Time Is the Fire: The Best of Connie Willis Cover

A Best Of Collection That Actually Delivers


We all know that "best of" collections rarely live up to their name. Fortunately, it does in the case of Time is the Fire. The book is populated with ten short stories that won either the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award or both, along with three speeches written by the author, one of which was never delivered. These speeches are just as good as the stories. I really enjoyed listening to this collection as an audiobook. Each story was read by a different narrator with the introductions and afterwords narrated by a single "host." In this way, each story is literally given its own voice and individual feel. Here is breakdown of the contents:

A Letter from the Clearys: A small group of survivors deal with the emotional realities of their post-apocalyptic existence, told from the perspective of a teenage girl.

At the Rialto: A humorous look at quantum mechanics, the main character draws parallels between her misadventures during a scientific conference and quantum theory.

Death on the Nile: A member of an Egyptian tourist group starts noticing that not everything is as it should be and what that may mean for them all.

The Souls Selects Her Own Society: A mock-scholarly work detailing how Emily Dickinson was the one responsible for turning tide of the Martian invasion, made famous by H.G. Wells War of the Worlds, despite being dead at the time.

Fire Watch: The first Oxford Time Travel story, set during the Blitz in WWII England (for the most part, anyway).

Inside Job: Probably my favorite story in the collection, a professional skeptic and debunker investigates a medium who seems to be channeling the spirit of the great skeptic H.L. Mencken.

Even the Queen: This story asks the question, "What will constitute women's lib in the future when technology advances to a state where a menstrual cycle is no longer necessary?"

The Winds of Marble Arch: A look at a couple struggling with the past, the future and the changes wrought by both.

All Seated on the Ground: A first contact story where nearly nothing happens. A lot better than it sounds. My second favorite story in the collection.

Last of the Winnebagos: A story about the loss of things that we have heretofore taken for granted, like recreational vehicles, open roads and canine companions.

The speeches included are her 2006 Worldcon Guest of Honor speech, her 2011 Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award speech, and a back-up Grand Master speech which she never delivered. This was the first exposure that I've had of Willis' work (I know, shame on me) and I was not disappointed. Looking forward to diving into Doomsday Book in the near future.