I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while: The Time Traveler’s Almanac, except to be honest, short stories don’t hold the same appeal to me as books. So forgive me if I update this continuously (at least until I finish the book), but as of right now, I think I’ve got the basics.
As I’ve mentioned before, if there’s one thing that every person wants in their life, it’s control. We all pine to control our own destines, if only for the reason that we don’t know what will happen next. There’s simply too many variables to consider. And this is the reason why I believe time travel is such a pined-for element. It’s impossible. It’s more fantasy than science fiction as Rian Johnson likes to write, which is why there’s so many theories on how it works. How it could work. Because without the science behind it, how many possible explanations are there? SPOILERS ALERT!
1. TIME IS RIGID
In Geoffrey A. Landis’ “Ripples in the Dirac Sea” the main character lives in the past, constantly changing and experiencing a myriad of different lives, unwilling to live in the present because the present means his death. And yet, no matter how many different iterations he lives, he learns one thing: You can never change the future, perhaps because your fate is already decided.
Perhaps the most unrealistic (and most depressing) approach, this belief shows readers that we have no control over our destiny because our fate has already been decided. My least favorite, it seems to make no sense. It’s like driving to California and finding out when you get there that you’ve been in NYC the whole time.
TIMELOOP. In Michael Swanwick’s “Triceratops Summer” Imagine triceratops invading your neighborhood kind of like that one pack of deer that like to feed on your flower beds, and you’ll have this story. What I think is interesting about this story is that while the story occurs in linear fashion, because time is rigid and cannot stand to be interrupted, even by wandering dinosaurs, everything that has come to pass will eventually reset. And no one will remember a thing.
In “Needle in a Timestack” Silverberg writes of two men, Hambleton and Mikkelsen, who have both fallen in love with the same woman: Janine. Only Hambleton had divorced Janine, and Mikkelsen is currently married to her, going on around ten years. And while having another man in love with your wife wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, in this story, it is, especially when you can time travel just as easily as flying to Houston.
So far this story is my favorite. I love how time flows in a linear fashion, how what you do in the past affects the present, and how no matter what, fate finds a way.
TIME AS A CHAIN. “Think of it as taking a link from a chain and inserting it earlier in the chain” (140). That’s how Ernest explains it to Ernie when he describes how his suit works, why they can put on the suit and live in a moment while everyone else lives frozen in time. What the two of them don’t expect are the consequences. This story is good cause it’s different, because it explores big themes like right and wrong or cause and effect. I love how it plays with the concept of ‘living on borrowed time.’
Other stories to note: “How the Future Got Better” by Eric Schaller, “A Sound of of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury
In Black Courch’s Dark Matter the main character Jason is disappointed with his life. Sure he loves his wife and his son, but what if he had followed his dreams? Became something else other than a physics professor? And so follows the plot of Dark Matter, exploring every what-if scenario in the form of another alternate universe. This book’s strength was its excess of worlds, and while it’s fun to imagine the number of sheer possibilities, this structure hits me as an impossible thing. Time would not seem to follow the structure of a tree diagram. Wouldn’t it prefer more normal shapes?
The best example of time as another dimension would be Interstellar, the movie. Here pilot Cooper falls through a black hole, only to be rescued by another sentient species, where they visualize time as another dimension, if only so that Cooper can comprehend it. And this is the same moment when he manipulates time in order to save those still on a dying Earth.
To me, this seems the most realistic. Because we can’t comprehend the other elements of time, instead simplifying it to past, present, and future, where really we only experience the present, I think time is best portrayed as another dimension, one we can’t see.
So if time-travel hasn’t been proven, then why are we so desperate to know how it works or what will it do? For simplicity’s sake, Rian Johnson phrases it best: “How much of our lives do we live in the past or future, looking forward or looking back, whether regretting or pining or fearing?” (XII)
VanderMeer, Ann and Jeff, editors. The Time Traveler’s Almanac. Tor Books, 2013. Print.