Tordotcom is thrilled to announce that Ann VanderMeer has acquired Time’s Agent—a science fiction novella in which the multiverse and time travel intersect with the unholy child of academia, capitalism, and colonialism—by award-winning author Brenda Peynado, whom Julia Alvarez has called “a writer willing to cross literary borders: magical realism, fable, parable, fiction, [and] nonfiction.”
The deal for World English rights was brokered by Michelle Brower at Trellis Literary Management.
“What would you do, given another universe, a do-over?”
Forty years ago, archeologist Raquel and her biologist wife Marlena once dreamed of the mysteries they would unlock in their respective fields using pocket universes— geographically small, hidden offshoots of reality, each with its own fast or slow time dilation relative to Earth time—and the future they would open up for their daughter.
But that was then.
Forty years later, Raquel is in disgrace, Marlena lives in a pocket universe Raquel wears around her neck and no longer speaks to her, what’s left of their daughter’s consciousness resides in a robotic dog, and time is a commodity controlled by corporations squeezing out every last penny they can.
So when a new pocket universe appears, one that might hold the key to her failed calling, Raquel seizes one last chance to redeem herself to her wife, live up to her own failed ideals, and confront what it means to save something—or someone—from time.
From author Brenda Peynado:
I began writing Time’s Agent with the idea of a robot dog with a daughter’s voice and a wish: that this world be better than it was. For so long, I tried to write this story about a world that had failed us, the hope that being able to step into a new one could afford us. But I wasn’t able to really finish it until it became about complicity, about our desires for love and for keeping what we feel we deserve. For someone who can step in and out of time, in and out of worlds, how do they learn when to open a door and when to close it, when not to entrust themselves with the key?
Not to mention, it was so much fun remixing my childhood memories of the Dominican Republic with a time-bendy future and my love of AI fiction.
From editor Ann VanderMeer:
Brenda Peynado has the uncanny ability to see into the future and write stories that take place there, and yet, these stories are so relevant to us today. In her short story “The Touches” she imagines a future where people no longer connect with each other physically, but only in virtual spaces. This story was published on Tor.com before the COVID pandemic and subsequent shutdown. How timely this story was for all of us!
Her insights into human motivations—why we make the decisions we make, some stupid and some brilliant – are remarkable. She has the ability to delve into the deeper reasons. And even when the reader questions a character’s actions, in Brenda’s skilled hands, she allows us to understand fully, and without judgement.
In Time’s Agent we see a possible future, where one can explore (or hide out) in ‘pocket worlds;’ alternative universes that provide a respite from the so-called real world. However, Agent Raquel Petra decides to (mis)use these places in order to overcome her grief and loss. This results in unintended consequences.
Brenda Peynado’s genre-bending short story collection, The Rock Eaters—featuring alien arrivals, angels falling from rooftops, virtual reality, and sorrows manifesting as tumorous stones—was named one of NPR, the New York Public Library, and Electric Literature’s best books of the year. Her stories have won an O. Henry Prize, a Pushcart Prize, the Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award, and inclusion in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. She teaches creative writing at the University of Houston.