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Time. Usually that's enough said. Everybody follows it--grammatically, time happens before we react to it. Many people curse it. Some love it. Only the truly narcissistic among us worship it. Time is measured in the accumulation of gray hairs or loss of hairs--such miniscule items representing such a mighty entity! Time is measured in wrinkles formed and anti-wrinkle cream purchased. Time is measured by sunrises and sunsets, as the Fiddler on the Roof so blithely intoned. Time is the one constant in a swirling fiction plot.
The Dream Land trilogy has some time-shifting aspects to it. It did not start out that way. Yet our hero, Sebastian Talbot (a.k.a. Set-d'Elous) and his long-lost love, Gina (a.k.a. Queen Jinetta of Fenula) find themselves in different time periods with each adventure. In the second volume, the time traveling goes viral, as they say. Wanting to prevent a war that has already happened, Sebastian/Set returns deliberately at an earlier time--intending merely to spend more years with the love of his life, his Ghoupalle wife Zaura-Matousz, but serendipitously encounters the evil Empress Basura-Kanoun in her innocent youth. The opportunity presents itself and he acts.
In many time-stream tales, the repercussions of "changing history" are profound. The same is true in The Dream Land. At first, everything seems strangely serene, apparently unchanged. Only gradually do the changes present themselves, multiplying and rising to a horrific crescendo that causes our hero to realize that the changes are worse than the original. There are a few twists in time shifting: e.g., can someone who fought in the war still remember it after history was changed to prevent the war? These events lead our hero/anti-hero to send a team of time-shifting mercenaries to undo what he has done, with mixed results.
In The Dream Land trilogy, the time travel is accomplished by entering/reentering different tangents (interdimensional doorways), each leading to not only different physical locations but also different "time zones." Marvelous machines are not needed for the transformation. The same conundrums exist, however, regardless of the vehicle.
Time shifting in fiction is necessarily complicated--more so in reality. Even the Author is sometimes confused. Writers typically (or so I've heard) write out far more information than gets into the book. The author needs to understand deeper layers, perpendicular story lines, and unconscious motivations in order to create a compelling, plausible story. That does not mean the reader needs to see all of the bars and braces beneath the facade, of course. The same with time.
The Author of The Dream Land trilogy tries desperately to cheat. He has created a detailed timeline across several papers--with many cross-outs and arrows indicating changes in that timeline. Going through the manuscript as editor, the time shifting becomes even more problematic: the Author wishes readers to be able to follow the story yet does not want to hit readers over the head with a calendar on every page. Appropriate time cues are thus given in characters' dialog, the expository passages, and, if absolutely impossible to avoid, as numerals denoting years.
And so it goes. I am continually engaged in the counting and recounting of years in the manuscripts. The only thing more tricky, more disconcerting, more potentially dangerous, I suspect, would be duplicating the actual time shifting that these fictional characters do so easily!
May time be ever on your side!
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