Alternate Histories and Impossible Dreams

I just got done reading this story, Tim Pratt‘s “Impossible Dreams.” And when I was done, I did something I’ve never done before.

I clapped when the story was over. I clapped for a full minute. Because this is one of the best short stories I’ve read in a long time.

And it seemed appropriate to applaud when the movie was over, and that’s what this is, it has the lush and slightly blurry quality of film rather than the grainy realism of video. It’s the kind of cinema Lucas and Spielberg wanted to make…except it’s a short story.

Some of you might remember my story, “Only the Good Die Young.” I tried to write an alternate history story about a different music industry, where Lennon’s alive and Dylan’s long dead, and those of you who read it know that it didn’t quite work.

It’s strange. I carried that story around in my head for years, and finally got it down, and it was this misfit. So I wanted to do it better. And now that I’ve read “Impossible Dreams,” I realize I don’t have to…the story’s already been done. And far better.

I have to wonder, of course, if there’s some alternate reality where Pratt chucked his story, and I thought to build mine around a romance. Then again, I probably never got into science fiction at all, as Bradbury never finished turning “The Fire-Man” into a novel. I wonder how Pratt would differ.

Go and read “Impossible Dreams.” Then come back, because you’ll understand what I mean when I say “Impossible Dreams” is what “Only the Good Die Young” could’ve been.

PS – speaking of alternate histories, one day I’m going to write William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Siddhartha, or the Awakened Man. I’ll file it next to my republican Confucius and that Viking version of the Diamond Sutra as “things out of my Civilization 4 games that amuse the hell out of me but are of no interest to anyone else.”


About R. Jean Mathieu

They say he speaks five languages, was conceived on a chess board, and once seduced a tong boss' daughter and lived to tell the tale. All we know is, he's called Roscoe. You can find more scurrilous lies at and buy his books at View all posts by R. Jean Mathieu

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