I'm trying to find a short story about a woman whose job is processing time travelling refugees from a future genocide/dystopia. The protagonist is in charge of settling them in refugee camps. She's beginning to experience empathy fatigue, and she feels guilty about this. Some of the refugees have brought a device back in time with them to the "present", and she worries it's a plant from the future oppressors to try to hasten the development of the future which the refugees are fleeing from.

I may have read this in an Analog magazine.

It's older than 2010. Unfortunately my parents had an incredible library, so I'm not sure if it was from 2009 or 1970! I suspect it was from the 2000s but I'm not sure.


1 Answer 1


I am pretty sure Radiant Doors by Michael Swanwick is the story you're looking for. It was published in the September 1998 edition of Asimov's Science Fiction. The story, and a few more of Michael Swanwick's stories, can be borrowed and read online thanks to the Internet Archive.

Plot summary courtesy of Wikipedia (emphasis is mine):

The story follows Virginia, a woman who works for an aid organization helping millions of refugees from a future Earth. The refugees have traveled to the present through time portals called "radiant doors," and are fleeing the horrors of the future leaders of Earth - the Owners. One of the refugees gives Virginia a small, humming, multi-colored device from the future, which she does not turn over to the government. Eventually several people come looking for the device and its true purpose is revealed.

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    This looks so promising! Thank you!! May 16, 2022 at 13:45
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    Please come back and let us know if this is actually the story you are looking for (you should click the checkbox to accept the answer, if this is the correct answer)
    – Basya
    May 16, 2022 at 13:58
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    "Unfortunately my parents had an incredible library" - many people would envy you!
    – GordonD
    May 17, 2022 at 8:48
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    @Basya this is the right answer, did I checkmark it correctly? Apr 30, 2023 at 13:05
  • @ZillaNovikov Yes! Thank you.
    – Basya
    Apr 30, 2023 at 13:19

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