"Space, Time, and the Incurable Romantic" Review

"Space, Time, and the Incurable Romantic" is the third Babylon 5 short story written by J. Michael Straczynski for Amazing Stories. It is printed in Issue 602.

It is impossible to talk about this story without revealing at least some spoilers. However, I will try to keep them to an absolute minimum. If you don't want any spoilers skip ahead to the section titled "Other Items in Amazing Stories 602" to learn about additional material in this magazine related to Babylon 5.

Here Be Spoilers!

Who is the incurable romantic on Babylon 5? Why, it's Marcus Cole, of course. If you watch the end credits of "Sleeping in Light" closely or look up his entry in the Official Guide CD-ROM then you know that his body was placed into cryonic suspension. Susan Ivanova ordered him preserved in the hope that future technology may be able to revive him.

Future technology comes through for Marcus. In an event that Joe Straczynski predicts will "send a ripple all through B5 fandom", Marcus Cole is revived and restored to health. He is suitably indignant: "It's getting so a man can't even die heroically without someone spoiling all the fun." However, he soon learns that he has been in cryonic suspension for nearly three hundred years.

Susan Ivanova is dead. She is revered by the Rangers since she served as Anla-shok Na, the leader of the Rangers, after Sheridan's death. Marcus finds himself alone, much as Susan found herself alone through most of her life.

The symmetry is poetic. Marcus saved Susan's life so that she would have a chance to find love. She never did. She had successful careers in Earth Force and the Rangers, but she never married and was never truly happy. Now, Susan has saved Marcus' life. But what is he to do? Susan may have intended for him to find love with someone else, but he loves only her, and his new life seems like some sort of revenge. Is he destined to live a lonely life just like Susan did?

Marcus' solution is ingenious and takes advantage of all the advanced technologies available to him. He is able to engineer his own happiness, but it comes with a price.

This is the part that makes this story so good. Without any more spoilers, I will say that Marcus opens up a huge moral dilemma but never addresses it. Straczynski deftly downplays the question, but the implications are there for the astute reader.

Marcus finds happiness, but the reader is left to wonder if this is fair. Is Marcus cheating by becoming happy when Susan spent her life unhappy? He can rationalize to himself that he has also made Susan happy, but again the reader can ask, "Does this count?"

None of these questions are asked overtly. Indeed, the ending is very cheery and upbeat and gives a fairy-tale happy ending to the one Babylon 5 character who deserves it most. However, the reader picks up on the sinister, subliminal impressions of the moral issues even though Marcus never sees them. Straczynski's ability to convey this feeling without distracting from Marcus' positive point of view is remarkable.

Unlike Straczynski's previous Babylon 5 prose, "Space, Time, and the Incurable Romantic" works best as a short story. It could never have been an episode. It is a wonderful science fiction story that comes with all the depth we expect from Babylon 5 and its creator, J. Michael Straczynski.

Other Items in Amazing Stories 602

There are a few other items in Issue 602 of Amazing Stories that should be of interest to Babylon 5 fans.

First there is a review of Frontier Earth, the science fiction Western novel by Bruce Boxleitner.

There is also a brief review of Peter David's first Legions of Fire novel, The Long Night of Centauri Prime. The full review is available online.

Finally, "Crucible of War" is a scenario for the Babylon 5 Wars starship combat game. It includes a short piece of fiction plus setup instructions and special rules for the game.