“Fire Watch” by Connie Willis

The story I’d like most to include of Connie Willis’s is “Fire Watch,” which she initially published in 1982. It’s clear she wrote it before the Berlin Wall fell. It’s also rather disconcerting to see that a whole bunch of violent things were to happen in between the year 2000 and 2015. Those violent things didn’t happen, of course, but other (startlingly similar) violent things did. 

Still, it reads like good alternate history and time travel now, rather than just a story about time travel. My only problem with “Fire Watch,” which is set as an undergraduate in a future history department heads back to 1940 and the London Blitz to learn about the reality of history, is that it’s long. If I use a long story of Connie’s then I’ll have to cut some other great long stories. Besides, her work is still in print and others aren’t.

“Fire Watch” won the Hugo and the Nebula in 1983 (and probably some other awards as well).

Yet this story echoes her classic Doomsday Book and her two Blitz novels published just a few years ago. I reread “Fire Watch” to see if it’s as good as I remembered, and it’s better. Pick up your Best of Connie Willis and read it (and “The Winds of the Marble Arch,” also too long). You’ll be happy you did.

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