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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Time Travel

New Years, with all its “Top Ten” lists and “Best Of” picks looking back at the past year, seems an appropriate time to write about time travel.

Time travel is a great, almost cliché, science fiction device. [I've noticed that some online SF magazines don't even want stories about time travel anymore, because it's been used so frequently.]
Wikipedia has a nice entry on it, though. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_travel I love the fact that scientist take the possibility of time travel seriously, as if it is not fiction, but an achievable goal. More power to them. I am reading a book called Science Fiction, an Illustrated Encyclopedia, which devotes several pages to it. 

Basically Time travel is divided into three types: travel to the future, travel to the past, and someone from the future traveling to our time. [I plan to have an aspect of time travel in my SylFaen Tree Saga stories. But unlike most time travel stories, it will not be the center of the story.]

It seems that there are two big decisions if one wants to write about time travel. First one must choose a means of travel. Sleeping for centuries is a frequent choice. There are a plethora of time machines designed for the job. There are also time portals of many types.

Second, one must decide how to deal with changes in the time stream, perhaps creating alternate time streams. [This was a fun nut to crack for my own story.] And how to deal with paradoxes, for example, the grandfather paradox : what to do when you inadvertently kill your own grandfather. There is a real scientific principle that proposes that this is physically impossible. It is called the Nivikov self-consistency principle. Wikipedia has an entry on this, too   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novikov_self-consistency_principle.  [I have a fun plan for how to demonstrate a version of this principle.] And there is always the question of what happens when you see yourself. J.K. Rowling dealt with that in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. [Time travel is so much fun.]
The Wikipedia entry discusses the literary history of time travel with stories like Rip Van Winkle, by Washington Irving, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, by Mark Twain and A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, before going on to the hard Sci Fi of The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells. Wikipedia also discusses mythological references to time inconsistencies in dealings with deities and supernatural worlds, but missed some important mythological references to time travel. There is no mention of Fairy Land, where time messes with people all the time.

In general, I think it is sad that time travel stories are considered hackneyed. They are loads of fun and mentally stimulating.

This is a great time to wish the most famous of recent time travelers, par-excellence, BBC's Doctor Who, a happy 50th year anniversary (a little belated.) And bid a fond farewell to Matt Smith, the eleventh Doctor. [I didn't like his hair at first, but it sort of grew on me. I guess it grew on him, too.] Doctor #Twelve, the new doctor, looks like he's going to be an intellectual giant. I'm looking forward to seeing his premiere.

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