Unusual for a non-retrospective or non-best-of collection, the ten stories contained within George Zebrowski’s In the Distance, and Ahead in Time (2002, re-released by Open Road Media in 2015) appeared over a twenty-five year period. Opening with the first he ever published, the moody “The Water Sculptor,” and closing with one of the last stories he published prior to the assemblage of the collection, “Between the Winds,” it is in some ways, however, a style retrospective. Covering a variety of the author’s themes and motifs and revisiting the settings of some of his novels, it serves as a reminder, overview, or introduction to Zebrowski.
The collection is divided into three sections: Near Futures, The Middle Distance, and Far Futures. And the stories begin brief, almost vignettes hinting at larger concepts, and move to novelette length, digging ever deeper into character, setting, and the ideas inherent. Colonization, post-humanism, aliens, mobile worlds, post-apocalypse—a number of typical sf tropes permeate the stories, some with more than one. Similar to Brian Aldiss, however, they always possess Zebrowski’s controlled, probing voice, attempting to go further into the artifice to get at the human implications beneath.