"Empty Spaces" by Michael A. Burstein (mabfan
) is one of two original stories to appear in Burstein's story collection I Remember the Future
which was released by Apex Publications
in the fall of 2008.
"Empty Spaces" marks the fourth story in Burstein's "Broken Symmetry" series. Each of the previous three stories appeared in ANALOG with the first story, "Broken Symmetry" receiving a Hugo nomination and the third story, "Reality Check" receiving Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial award nominations. While past performance isn't always an indication of future results, it is my opinion that "Empty Space" is the strongest of the stories in the series. Moreover, it is a poignant tale that stands very well on its own. For both these reason I think it is very much deserving of a nomination for Best Novelette for 2008.
"Empty Spaces" is a story about loss and redemption. A gateway between universes established as the result of Super Collider experiments loses its connection between universes. The characters in the story, scientists, teachers and bureaucrats alike are forced to deal with the ramifications of the loss in their own way. Scientists look for reasons why and ways it can be fixed. Bureaucrats look at costs and how best to cover themselves. And a teacher is still seeking an old friend who might still be lingering around one of those possible universes. The puzzle within the story (how to fix the gateway) coupled with the emotional impact of its loss on the people it most affected make this story reminiscent of other science fiction classics like Isaac Asimov's The Gods Themselves
and Robert J. Sawyer's Hominids
(both of which, incidentally, were also Hugo-winners).
Michael Burstein's writing exemplifies outstanding science fiction at three levels:
- It provides an excellent introduction to science fiction for readers who are new to science fiction.
- For long-time fans of science fiction, Michael's fiction exemplifies what Asimovian (and through lineage, Campbellian) science fiction has become in the twenty-first century.
- For writers within the genre who strive to publish award-quality short science fiction, one can do no better than look toward Michael Burstein as an example.
"Empty Spaces" encapsulates all three of these principles in a moving, well-told science fiction story. I first read this story in pre-publication form and I thought at the time that Michael had written a winner. Having recently re-read the story prior to writing up this recommendation, I'm still convinced it's a winner.