Time We Left

Stories and poetry for the outward journey

Edited by Terry Grimwood


Works by Allen Ashley, Sarah Doyle, Sophie Essex, David Rix, J.J. Steinfeld, Terry Grimwood, Ray Daley, Tim Nickels, Ahmed A Khan, S. Gepp, Bryn Fortey, Mike Adamson, Douglas Smith, Russell Hemmell, Colleen Anderson, Tim Jeffreys, Frank Coffman, Mark Towse.

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

25 thoughts on “Time We Left

    by Allen Ashley

    “: I’m drinking Buxton mineral water not Brachiosaurus wee-wee.”

    As it turns out, a sort of non-fiction intro to this book, an engaging discussion of our potential diaspora from Earth’s lockdown.
    You never know with whom you might rub along, I guess — upon such a journey of bundled distancing.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/allen-ashley-matt-cardin/

  2. LAIKA
    Thoughtfully evocative poetry by Sarah Doyle

    “caught and collared, Earth no,
    more than a distant ball with
    which you cannot play.”

    From ‘street-mutt’ to a comet’s tail as words.

    My previous reviews of Sarah Doyle: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/sarah-doyle/

    [as a suggested lead for further reading, the link to my review of ‘Looking For Laika’ by Laura Mauro: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/11/17/interzone-273/#comment-11060 ]

    by Sophie Essex

    “I’m tripping balls here.”

    From the previous work’s mere streak of a mutt to this one’s heavy muskrat, where gravity is magicked away by mind over matter, I guess, in its own avant garde SF as a vanguard style of this poet whom I earlier reviewed here: https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/704-2/

    “crazy things can come true”

    and they do, and they have done, for good or ill, believe them or not, love them or hate them. This heavenly heavy launch seems more loveable than not? Honestly thought. I think.
    Time we left.
    I’ll get our coats.

  4. SPACE OPERA by David Rix

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/david-rix/
    As a Rix fan, I do not expect to be disappointed by the following novella or even in my own following of it….and there was a fan “bumping lightly behind”, as it happened…

    Pages 27 – 38

    “And one of the great constants of life was that there was always dirt.”

    Via dizzying disorientations and tussles with artificial gravity, one pans in on the sole persona, it seems, on board the Space Hotel, bereft of other people as much as the scarred Earth — around which this once purpose-building does wheel sporadically above stars or such scars — is also thus bereft. By alternating third person narration and her first person blogs on a disconnected internet, we learn she was a singer at this hotel — stage name Cinnamon Thorns — with a yearning to perform opera. The way things are or were or will be, performance arts in ANY field would seem to be something beyond the scope of any audience! But perhaps not when this was first written! We get a full sense of here as well as her, via the special Rixus imprimatur of a style’s slants and mirrors.

    “And quests for isolation always seem to prove delusional eventually —“

    • Up to page 63

      “And so utterly isolated that it was surreal. So isolated that they hardly knew they were isolated.”

      Am I the first person to notice OLA embedded in “isolated”? I shall call this fiction work itself OLA, for fear of a plot spoiler otherwise. You will find out more about OLA in due course, no doubt, if you haven’t yet reached thus far in reading it. I shall try to keep up this subterfuge, sexy arse or not. Cinnamon meets Ola, then, and strikes up a relationship, and, with Ola’s help, we continue bumping lightly behind Cinnamon as she is given a tour by Ola of this incredible space hotel, with its views of Earth from its near coronal orbit or it. Wondering about the ultimate silence between such giant communication systems, these systems and the maze of chutes between them are as mind-fazing as the dizzying views themselves. What has ended to create this situation. Nuclear war? Global apocalypse? Or something more pervasive or insidious that we at home reading this now know more about since Ola was written down. For the record, Trump is mentioned at one point. That fan earlier was said to be capable of blowing a mini-hurricane, I recall. Not sure that is relevant, though.

      “I think that many, many people suffer from diseases they never know they have.”

    • Pages 63 – 89

      “Maybe she would have to find another fan,…”

      … a fan that later allows the breeze to “blast over her” or, even later, reducing it “to a blast against her face.” Something later that the Aberystwyth compound’s deadpan ‘insanity’ (like talking to a local council!) translates into blasts in a wider sense of having been ultimately responsible for her predicament in this ‘orbiting coffin’ of a Musk-like adventure in spatial hotelling. I hesitate to tell you any more for fear of spoilers, and rest assured this novella is something increasingly special, something thus easily susceptible to spoilers! Suffice to say it is compulsively prophetic lockdown stuff, where the beauty of silence and ironical isOLAtion is something to be cherished not glibly discarded as an “orbiting coffin”, this Space Hotel in close-orbital view of Cinnamon’s stamping ground of London’s East End, but not really a coffin at all but a personal lockdown rite of passage, even with views of blurred or grievous-looking ‘scars’ upon the Earth, accompanied by some hint of “grey corruption” spreading — spreading from the beast of politics? Utopias always self-destructive. Opera being an unfinished requiem as well as Cinnamon’s wonderful improvisations of singing. Any detachable escape-craft with cartoonish controls — and views of Earth only properly viewable through old-fashioned binoculars!

    • To end on page 116

      “Of all the times in history we could have been alive, we managed to be here at the truly defining moment. And of all the places to be, we managed to be up here with the best view in the house.”

      We being Cinnamon and we readers and visualisers of what she views below as versions of ourselves, too, a bubble isOLAtion, a solipsism of Sapphic masturbation each within each, that is more a Heaven above than a Hell below, a Heaven in judgement at the Hell below and defining that Hell where we once lived, and still live, remembering our friends, the places where we once lived, without really understanding the details of what about Hell, our Earth, makes it such a Hell. What the colours seas antipodal Pacific green patches now scars that we see. Listening to words spoken as cast communications from below, recorded or not, plus pieces of music. Till she sings back at them with atonal truths disguised as space opera. Very moving. A genius standpoint optimal at this indeed defining moment. The characterisations believable, too, particularly of Ola and us … Ola as us. Cinnamon communing with one of her final memories living below (a musician friend, “drifting like a feather on a fat, oily river—“), and that wound she shows off with pus as well as us as well as blood. Lava, too, as cyprine? (See S here synchronistically about an hour or so ago.)


    Much to my shame, I have very little knowledge of Ray Bradbury’s work. And I feel disqualified from commenting further on this story. Sorry.

  6. THE GRIEF ENGINE by Terry Grimwood

    “Whatever it was, the vista was stunning, even to a hardened astronaut like herself. Spread out below was the blue and white glory of Earth.”

    Perfectly born from this book’s earlier Rixus vistas, this Space Opus soon becomes its own rictus of straight-on head-on unashamed deadpan staccatos of rapture, a read that I could not stop coming at me. Incantatory, minimal, then not minimal refrains and pains. There is no way anyone can apply standard critical considerations to this work. No way I can describe it other by its own inchoate rudiments. It just is. It just seems inspired. As we follow Laura as experienced astronaut earlier in her journey to Venus and the unforgettable alien she sees there, then her guilt and grief at the death of her small son when she was there, and her being co-opted, in later years, by that same alien and its prehensile semi-organic craft between stars, a craft to be powered by her provision of the alien’s new invented power source: an “unutterable and debilitating” source: towards an extremely moving catharsis in outer and inner space, as she relives a mercy journey to the hospital where her dying son is being treated, a journey being taken both again and somehow for the first time. A journey transpiring retrocausally, I guess. But that guess of mine, however glibly said, is as good as yours. Every doorway or hatch to somewhere else is a wound. You just have to get through it. Oh, I used the word ‘moving’, above, in the uncertain, oscillating sense of empathetically emotional or poignant, but moving is not the right word. There is no right word. Moving will have to do.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/terry-grimwood/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/the-places-between-by-terry-grimwood/

  7. BASTARD SPACE by Ray Daley

    “We named it J space…”

    Misbegotten jerk-space or what? Here we jump, instead, from an intriguing, if possibly naive, SF story to a more complex and controversial fable for our times, one about a rift in space through which humanity can airbrush light-years of journey time, except in the first trial voyage using this rift, a rift or Grimwood’s human slitted wound as a hatch in space, I infer, whereby crew members vanish into thin space, as if they were never born, anti-natalism in action? Except, on this first voyage, one crew member remains as the exception that proves this vanishing rule. And when humanity’s authorities send, on the next voyage, arguably expendable members of a military prison instead, some of us might reach a startling, politically-incorrect conclusion…a fable reaching towards its moral of miscegenation in motion?

  8. The next story below retrocausally, if inadvertently, factors Darwinian, as well as more numinous, explanations into the concept of travelling through the previous story’s ‘rift’. And in hindsight, perhaps vice versa.


    “God, I think I might have snapped two ribs. Bastard body.”

    You know, Tim Nickels has long been one of my favourite writers, and when I heard on the grapevine that he had a new story out in this anthology, I immediately bought it. I had not even heard of this anthology till then, so you have this author to thank for an extra sale. And I have not been disappointed. Far from it. And I genuinely believe Tim Nickels is Literature’s missing link. Dare I say underrated? No, he would never be underrated if more people read him and if he wrote more and if he did not hide his light years under a bushel. This story has his wondrous leitmotifs amid an extravaganza of imagination and wordplay. A salmon leap of teeming ideas. A vast panoply melding a residential care home, with a stone rocketship, a bone structure (your brittle bones, too), Darwinian victims & survivors, Ligottian anti-natalism transcended, the fossilised motion in cliffs as you sit on the beach having been taken by your vast generations of family on an outing from the home, ultra-time travel, ‘ear lobes catching in a woman’s armpits like empty breasts’, a time-place-space called UP, the stillness of a single moment, Andrea Bocelli, and much more both ordinarily quotidian and transcendently epiphanic. With characters that sinuously infiltrate your mind while they morph not only themselves but also YOU. This story needs experiencing, its bone folders and all. It crystallises by the end if you let if flow over you like a rapture. It also mentions Ray Bradbury somewhere! #justsaying.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tim-nickels/

  9. A PLANET CALLED RUBY by Ahmed A Khan

    Another ‘jump’ start (here by four scientists from Earth /a hyper jump) towards a giant pulsar in distant space, a pulsar that turned out to have a relatively small orbiting planet wholly of pure ruby-red diamond. In spite or because of some politically incorrect gender interactions between two of these four professionals, the only woman and the head scientist himself, a dire disaster is obviated by their marriage ceremony upon this their priceless wedding ring stone itself, I inferred, and, by some means which I don’t think I understood, this act somehow allowed them to SOS back to Earth by means of the pulsar itself issuing such an SOS signal, their love-craft vehicle having otherwise failed and lost its own mojo! At least their offspring won’t be bastards, I guess.

  10. SENTIENCE by S. Gepp

    A story that gradually grew on me, a tale of footfallers with face masks on, as they follow First Contact Protocols on a near-Earthlike planet that “sits right on the edge of the Cinderella Zone for this star…”
    More botany there than bots or bods like us. Only the drone we put there in the first place.
    I think I followed what was happening, at first the grins behind the face masks, then the sighted rusting of the drone, later of our shuttle itself, the sudden human silences as in Bastard Space…
    Any more from me, and this planet would be spoilt beyond recognition. For it would otherwise grow on you too soon.
    Sentience: …and without the I, just the sentence is left, unread, silent…
    Not even a pumpkin coach to take us back.
    We should already have got our coats.

  11. BLACK YONDER by Bryn Fortey

    “What happens in Black Yonder, stays in Black Yonder.”

    But I have just come back from there to report here…keeping some things to myself, of course…
    A moving story, one somehow moved literally by grief, too, like the Grimwood above, a thought-provoking exercise in levels or pecking-orders of space crew in different levels of deep space, Black Yonder being the deepest, I guess. Some humans bred with animal traits, and there are certain constraints between levels — and I sense Cordwainer Smith as well as something unique I have not encountered before. Something inscrutable concerned with the way characters touch characters in this scenario, a spirituality transcending taboo with instinctive loyalty. Two separate cracks that snapped shut, one by one, at distant time from each other.
    Crack echoing crack, as a singular healing art’s welding of polarities apart.

  12. PETRICHOR by Mike Adamson

    “This was a case of fleas believing they understood the dog.”

    As we do God?
    Yet the worshipped and the worshiper often need to battle for survival. Whichever of them wins often makes the mistake of believing winning is forever….and then the winner becomes the other.
    This is a suspenseful, and nicely detailed description of the bio-security suiting-up logistics of the narrator returning to his base on a planet, one that as approximating Earth conditions originally seemed very promising for colonisation, but he has heard screams and sees what he believes to be snow. This is a variation on ‘Sentience’, here more geological than botanical. A gravid petri-dish of spores. Adeptly conjuring up and almost prefiguring one of today’s co-vivid dreams we now share through the porous stonewalls that seem to swaddle us as much as they distance us….

  13. SYMPHONY by Douglas Smith

    “The plague had forced the Last Chance to launch before completion of its biosphere. “

    Another ‘jump’ for this book, seeking other worlds for colonisation, but eventually towards mutually-inimical repercussions both for colonisers and colonised, but again, which is which, which the worshiper, which the worshipped? Worse-shipped? This story inspired me with my own love of music, and I even mentioned Scriabin to myself before the story itself did. A synaesthesia of music, as we follow a married couple reconciling themselves to finding a cure for their son Anton’s autism. And the consequent themes of, not a mutual-inimical relationship, but a Close Encounter via music, a hoped-for mutual cure of respective mental alienation conditions between planet and us. And I felt Anton becoming Anton Webern, whose music seems to have been my own counterintuitive musical cure all my life.

  14. THE HEAD OF THE DRAGON STAR by Russell Hemmell

    “‘Decisions are often extraordinarily simple, even when they’re difficult,’…”

    An extraordinarily inspiring story, especially in view of today and what some of our people need to do tomorrow. Like leaping or jumping from the Miranda Rupe with only a winged exoskeleton… between the dash-typos of this edited text.
    This story sort of culminates the book so far, with a group of well-characterised far-seekers of a landing safely upon a feasible elsewhere — seekers of a new life, some of them in cryo, others potential ‘guests’ or aliens… some have been ‘lunatics’ already on Moon colonies….
    Now, amid doubts and mutual suspicions, and earlier disappointments, we must “Shoot for a system […] This time we get somewhere, or we die.”
    Not chasing a dragon, but riding it.

  15. ELEGY FROM THE LOST COLONIES by Colleen Anderson

    “One warm memory will buoy me
    before journey’s final freeze”

    …being a couple of lines that are very telling on 1 September in this our waning midsummer before the spike of fall? Hence the poem’s reason for this book’s diaspora? Buoy or boy, though, I wondered, having just looked up the definition of the poem’s oft-repeated word “hornback”, looked it up in the internet’s urban dictionary. Not knowing what it was till I did that. Like entwined vines, too… and to ride the bucking world with leather balls… tantalised and taunted and troubled by this poem’s oblique relevance to this book’s overall overt theme. ….disgorged, spat out, from a pumphouse? Wallowing in life mud…an elegy from a playground of lost colons, as well as colleenies?

    Reviews of this author’s story in the Ha of Ha: https://horroranthology.wordpress.com/728-2/
    And my review of her co-edited Playground of Lost Toys: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/01/23/playground-of-lost-toys/

  16. THE WAY STATIONER by Tim Jeffreys

    “You’re not living, you’re hiding. That’s what you’re doing. You’re hiding yourself away from life.”

    A planet, with two moons, originally called Kayin (somehow later morphing into Kayis) as a Way Station between Earth and the worlds on the outer rim, a place to stay over, in transit. Each rocket ship a shooting star for her to wish upon rather than weigh in some balance she has not yet made. To weigh what detrimental things humankind has done to the places where it has lived and where it is about to live. A quietly touching story of Amelia, a young woman, but old woman by the Way Station’s count of smaller years, here just with a cat. Her new thoughts we infer are ignited between her own spiritual lockdown, having known little else, judging by her backstory, and the passing through of a man who crash lands there…
    I see, from research, that the name Kayin means ‘Long-awaited child’.
    A wish that is its own being? Origin that is before it is. The two moons her long-awaited parents by counterintuition of planetary years in onward diminuendo.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/the-haunted-grove-tim-jeffreys/ and https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/tim-jeffreys/

  17. THE LAST TRANSPORT by Frank Coffman

    I know there is no way that I can do full justice to this beautiful poem, one that seems to have a structure of rhyming and scanning that is instinctive and numinous. One strict rule that I have about my reviews over the years, is that I may well read something again and again till I have exhausted its meaning, but whatever my real-time review says of it, the review is written after my FIRST reading. My first reaction is that it is blood-brother to Amelia in the previous story and to what I wrung from the name of its planetary way station: Kayin, aka Kayis. The cycles of humankind’s diaspora, settlements, counterintuitive paradoxes of purpose, Toynbeean challenge-and-response, and its furtherance by birth beyond the stars themselves…
    Whatever the footnotes say.

    My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/test-patterns/#comment-11650

  18. SKIN SUIT by Mark Towse

    “, there is that connection once again, but it somehow feels stronger right now—“

    A synaesthetic symphony (this wonderful book’s now discovered gestalt as well as one of the previous stories using Symphony as its title) has Towse as its evolutionary coda, as well as its only code. A boy as outsider at school, daydreaming and extrapolating SF themes he watches, sensitive to other people’s perceived futures, including, poignantly, that of a girl he actually gets to know. His parents, like the two moons in the Jeffreys, are not his parents at all, or are they? — as he is transported, one night, into a spacecraft, a close encounter to the nth power of far more than three, that blends the music of his life as well as the possible parental conspiracies and frequencies behind his childhood. For someone not comfortable in his own skin, this story serves to replace it. And much else that will continue resonating with your own frequencies. But like the Towse story itself, my review as well as this book’s own code of connections cannot end but will strive to


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