The Anomalous Archive, Part XXIII: 'Forgotten' by Edward D. Casey
[This review was originally posted on the Anomaly forum on July 21, 2011.]
"Forgotten," 3rd in Issue 8 of The Cross and the Cosmos
“Forgotten” by Edward D. Casey contains an interesting hybrid of science fiction ideas. First of all, the futuristic vision and the conception of space travel are realistic and familiar, feeling like an extension of NASA and the current space situation. In fact, Casey seems to be predicting a trend toward corporate space technology that recent news seems to support (I just read an article about the end of the shuttle program). All of this gives the space travel a hard, classic feel.
But the technological device around which the plot is structured is different. I think the concept of faster-than-light travel could fit within the framework of a relatively near-future, hard science fiction, but I wouldn't expect it to be portrayed anything like the way it is in “Forgotten.” Although the story explains that the technology is not brand-new, and even though there are many difficulties with it that the characters have to overcome, it seems unlikely that interstellar missions would be able to instantaneously jump ten light years, even while interstellar space travel is still experimental. Casey gives his astronauts a more potent technology than is typically seen in far-future space operas, a sub-genre that “Forgotten” does not at first glace seem to have much in common with. Even in Star Trek, where faster-than-light travel is much better controlled, some time elapses as the starship journeys to distant systems. Furthermore, the historical application of faster-than-light technology in the story is a bit confusing; another vessel made the same ten light-year trip in seven years, some thirty before.
My confusion was not enough to shatter the worldbuilding for me. I particularly like the way artificial intelligence is portrayed, an element that I often find hard to swallow. Casey's AI is not a disembodied mind so much as a computer programmed to simulate one. Although the technological aspects of the worldbuilding are great, I'm skeptical of the very little that is seen of the political landscape. The vision of the future seems to utopian for me, but the part of the story that seems to indicate this may be exaggerated. Anyways, this is definitely a fascinating story, I imagine especially for true devotees of classic science fiction.