Robert Silverberg is one of my favorite authors. He’s one of the few writers whose work I actively collect—I’ve got crumbling, decades-old paperbacks, 1st edition hardcovers, book club editions (which were often the only hardback versions ever made of some of his works) and trade paperbacks.
As a reader, I’ve loved the range of his stories, from tales set billions of years in the future to convincing SF tales set in contemporary times. As a writer, I’ve admired his style and his skill, and his ability to write in so many genres, under so many pen names, for so many decades. He makes it seem so effortless, and his best works, such as Dying Inside, haunt your thoughts long after you’ve finished the book.
But for all my Silverberg collecting, I’d never secured an Advanced Reading Copy until recently (An ARC is an early edition sent to reviewers prior to regular publication.) I picked up this copy of When the Blue Shift Comes at ArmadilloCon in Austin this summer, and not only is it a unique addition to my collection, but it represents a new concept in fiction publishing.
When the Blue Shift Comes is part of The Stellar Guild Series by Phoenix Pick, in which famous authors are teamed up with up-and-coming writers. Sometimes the well-known writer selects a protege with whom to collaborate, sometimes the publisher suggests a candidate, but you end up with a tale begun by the famous author and completed by the newcomer. Besides Silverberg, some of the other authors in the series include Larry Niven, Harry Turtledove and Mercedes Lackey, so the publisher has some heavy-hitters lined up.
When the Blue Shift Comes is Silverberg without restraints, a tale set in a distant future where humans hop between galaxies as easily as we drive to the next town. How far in the future? Well, it’s the Year 777 of Cycle 888 of the 1111th Encompassment of the Ninth Mandala which, if you check your calendar, is pretty far out there. Earth is populated by immortals, at least until a universe-threatening anomaly is discovered and sets the story in motion. Silverberg wrote the first half of this novella and then handed it off to Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, who did a fine job completing the story. It could not have been an easy task—Silverberg employed a very unique voice, almost as if a flighty angel were telling the tale, but Zinos-Amaro picks it up seamlessly. In addition, Silverberg set a very large stage that must have been a mind-bending challenge to finish. Hey, how would you like to have to take a half-finished tale that moves us to the brink of the very end of the universe itself, and bring it to completion? Nicely done, Alvaro.
When the Blue Shift Comes will be released in November in trade paperback and e-book.