Short Stories 366:8 — “Double Time” by John Chu

coverOkay, it’s possible my heart shattered a bit with this one.

Found in People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction, “Double Time” opens with a contemporary enough feel: a girl performing at a skating competition. It’s only when she notices the flickering of light out of the corner of her eyes—people jumping back in time to watch something a second time—that things take the SF turn, and even then, Chu manages to weave that piece of technology and do something pretty amazing with it.

He turns time-travel into a no-big-deal thing, and instead turns the fallout of the technology into something incredibly personal and heart-breaking and emotionally engrossing in the life of his professional skater character. She’s still young, is feeling absolutely overwhelmed and ground down by what seems like the endless criticism of her mother, and even her coach isn’t always a solace. Her mother wants her to be the next Michelle Kwan, but without any of the learning curve or setbacks. It’s painful to read, and so easy to slip into her thought process, even as the skating world around them is changing due to the technology: because now, people can do a routine, then jump back four minutes in time and skate a duet with themselves, aiming for perfect synchronization and amazing scores.

The fallout of this particular quirk of short-range time-travel, the mother-daughter relationship straining to the point of a near break, and the place where Chu brings the reader (and leaves the reader kind of heart-broken and snivelling, in my case)?

Just fantastic.

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