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"Eyewear"  
Golden Reflections
Author Harry Turtledove
First Appearance Golden Reflections
Collected No
Genre(s) Science fiction, Time-Travel, Secret History, possible Alternate History
Publication date 2011

"Eyewear" is a short story by Harry Turtledove, published in Golden Reflections (Baen, February 2011). This volume collects The Mask of the Sun by Fred Saberhagen, as well as seven short stories set in the same universe as Saberhagen's work.[1]

The bulk of "Eyewear" is a secret history (as opposed to an alternate history) in which the historical Moorish slave, Estevánico, one of the four survivors of Pánfilo de Narváez's failed Spanish expedition to Florida in 1527, gains possession of a version of the Mask of the Sun. The story opens in 1536, with Estevánico, his master, Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, Alonso del Castillo Maldonado, and Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, making their way across the Sonoran Desert. One night, Estevánico finds eyewear akin to spectacles. When worn, the eyewear "suggests" the way back to civilization. Soon, Estevánico and his fellow survivors make their way to Culiacán and safety. Along the way, Estevánico receives oblique guidance by a time-traveler named Esperanza, a character from Saberhagen's novel. While Esperanza cannot advise Estevánico too directly, he can make suggestions, although he is able to warn Estevánico of the futuristic Aztecs, who, in another timeline, were able to defeat Hernán Cortés. As in The Mask of the Sun, Esperanza frequently vanishes and reappears, as some force seeks to prevent paradoxes in the time-stream.

Three years later, Estevánico, having returned to civilization in Spanish Mexico, joins the Coronado expedition for the Seven Cities of Gold. During this trip, the eyewear is stolen, and Estevánico is subsequently killed by the Zuni at Hawikuh, as in OTL. The story jumps to an epilogue set 140 years later, in 1679. The Tewa shaman Po'pay finds the eyewear in 1679, and uses it to plot his historical rebellion against Spanish rule, while Esperanza watches on.

Literary commentEdit

While "Eyewear" makes references to The Mask of the Sun, including the crosstime Aztec empire, the nature of the Mask, and the fact that Cortés used the Mask to conquer the Aztec, it isn't necessary to read Saberhagen's novel to understand Turtledove's story. On the other hand, familiarity with the former will lead to a better appreciation of these references and the concepts Turtledove uses.

Golden Reflections contains the story "Like the Rain" by Jane Lindskold. Placed immediately after "Eyewear," it depicts Po'pay's rebellion and use of a Mask. However, it is not a follow-up, but is set in another Mask timeline. Lindskold's Po'pay acquires the Mask much earlier than Turtledove's version, and under different circumstances.

Furthermore, it is difficult to determine whether "Eyewear" contains any alternate history. Esperanza implies that he has visited alternate universes with many different outcomes to history, but none of these are visited in the story. The broad strokes of Estevánico's life and times, and the manner of his death, conform rigidly to what is recorded in history, suggesting that his story takes place in OTL. The only distinction between the story and actual history occurs in the epilogue: the POV shifts abruptly from Po'pay to Esperanza, who reflects that Po'pay's uprising granted the Tewa 30 years of relative independence. In OTL, it only succeeded for about 12-15 years. While this could be a simple error on Turtledove's part, if this discrepancy is deliberate, then a Point of Divergence came sometime after the bulk of the story had already happened.

See AlsoEdit

  • "Vilcabamba", a story Turtledove says was inspired in part by the research he completed for "Eyewear".

ReferencesEdit

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