Time travel, whenever and wherever it crops up, has always bugged me. Maybe that’s the mathematician in me, wanting everything to be logical, when time travel just plain is NOT logical. At least, I have yet to see time travel implemented in a fairly decent manner.
So I started trying to come up with exactly why time travel stories always seem to suck, whether in sci-fi or in fantasy, in movies or in books… and I came up with a list of criteria time travel must, in my VERY SUBJECTIVE opinion, meet in order to “make sense”.
- There must be no return. If you go backwards in time, you have left the world from whence you traveled, and can never come back. You may be able to get back to a world very much like what which you just left (if you just traveled 1 second backwards in time, it would be just about the exact same), but it will not the the same world. That other world you have left; it continues to exist, but in a different universe from the one you are present in. By time traveling, you take your curent universe, trace it backwards however many years, and say, “what if a man, with this knowledge, these physical characteristics, etc, were to suddenly appear, out of nowhere, right here?”. There is no connection to the previous universe.
- Like I said above, traveling backwards is just making a what if. Traveling forwards in time is analogous to just waiting until the proper time, along the way having absolutely no effect on the world around you. These two criteria, I think, both eliminate the “time traveler’s paradox” and just make sense.
- The time travel must be supernatural. Not just superhuman – supernatural. It can come from God, from a demon, from a mysterious, unexplained force, whatever. But it can’t be explained. Why? Because, for one, to explain time travel makes it seem like anyone could do it, given the proper knowledge. For time travel to be interesting it must be limited. Otherwise, you get a bunch of different people creating a million different universes, all basically similar, but all completely unconnected. That’s just dumb. But if time travel does not stem from knowledge, but from a mysterious force like God, the time traveler is chosen. And THAT is interesting.
- This last one is not a requirement, but I think it makes it more interesting. The Time Traveler should be immortal. Why? Because if he is mortal, he can only travel to so many times and places, and once he gets accidentally killed, the story’s over. But if he’s immortal, he can see everything. The story is endless. Therein is the interest in time travel, I think.
I may add to or emend this list in the future. If I do, I’ll let you know.
By the way, I plan to, eventually, write a time travel novella. I have most of it planned out, but I haven’t yet put pen to paper. I should have tried to do it for NaNoWriMo, but I’m too busy this month. Maybe next year.