‘The Very Slow Time Machine’ by Ian Watson
It is hard to make a time travel story which isn’t redundant but Watson has succeed here. The case the editors make for considering Watson as a hard SF writer is pretty iffy though:
He is a generational contemporary of Gregory Benford and holds a similar position in the U.K. to Benford’s in the American field, as a writer who brought new levels of literary technique and characterization to hard sf. But Watson has never committed himself as exclusively to hard sf as has Benford.
Even with their hedging this is pretty bonkers. Watson is nothing like Benford, he is much more like someone like James Morrow; the editors are right when they say he is as interested in metaphysics as physics and there is a warm pessimism and wit to this work.
It is worth noting that the introduction opens with some extremely fulsome praise: “Ian Watson is the finest young hard science fiction writer and one of the most acute and perceptive sf critics to emerge in England during the last two decades.” That was written in 1994 but quite a lot has changed in the last 15 years. I don’t think any of Watson’s work is in print apart from his Games Workshop tie-in novels and Orgasmachine, his 1976 novel that has just been published in English for the first time by Newcon Press. Equally, Watson continues to review for Vector – I’m just waiting for the right book to send you, Ian – but his criticism doesn’t have much of a profile. What happened?