In some history course or other that I took sometime or other, the instructor talked about "steamship time." That's a view of history that says that when the era is ripe for something to be invented or discovered or changed -- when the right infrastructure of ideas has been building steadily -- someone will invent or discover or change it. It's a view of history that minimizes individual talents and emphasizes social/scientific climate. In other words, if Robert Fulton hadn't invented the steamship, someone else would have, because it was steamship time.
I have no idea if this theory is true, or universally applicable. (It's difficult, for instance, to imagine "general relativity time.") But the theory came to mind yesterday because I was organizing my magazine basket, a large wicker structure into which I pretty much dump everything until it won't hold any more. Among the magazines were the August and the October/November issues of ASIMOV'S. The August issue contains Ted Kosmatka's terrific story "Divining Light." I sat on the floor beside my basket and reread it.
"Divining Light" concerns the metaphysical implications of the two-slit experiments in physics, seminal experiments in which the wave/particle duality of light collapses OR NOT depending entirely on whether there is an observer. When I first read about these experiments, decades ago, I was struck dumb by them. They seem to imply that human consciousness -- or somebody's consciousness -- is woven into the very fabric of the universe. For a very long time, I wanted to write an SF story about that. And last year, I did. It's "The Erdmann Nexus," in the October/November ASIMOV'S.
Ted's story focuses tightly on the two-slit experiment. "The Erdmann Nexus" is about other things as well (which may be why editor Sheila Williams didn't see the two as repetitious), but the two-slit experiment is at the heart of it. I'm proud of this story; I think it's one of my best. But sitting on the floor and reading Ted's "Divining Light," I was struck by the similarity at their hearts. I didn't meet Ted until a month ago, at Worldcon, and we have never corresponded.
Maybe it's just two-slit-experiment time?