Ever awakened from a trance that seemed three and a half days long but by the clock was only 90 seconds? Had a "senior moment" and not been a senior? Felt the day was only 22 hours long and you had much more to do? Or the day seemed like it was 32 hours long? You may have experienced a temporal vortex--an eddy in the stream of time. Time happens, of course.
Now suppose you could predict when those would happen and could prepare for them, even exploit the extra moments of time? Suppose you could do more, like...take an hour from Earth time and indulge your perverse indulgences for 135 days in an alternate timestream. That would be great, huh? But how does that work?
There are two major ways of thinking about time and time travel:
1) time is linear, or
2) time is cyclical.
Stories use either a man-made machine to travel or our hero/heroine finds a natural phenomena, like a wormhole, to travel through. Personally, I find it bordering on implausible to create a machine to bend time so I've chosen to use the natural phenomena method. In the linear structure, time goes on and on like a speeding rocket and you can't jump around so much as try to outrace it to go to the future or slow down and hop aboard if visiting the past. In the cyclical model you can jump from loop to loop going to the future or the past. I tend to believe the linear model, especially for use in my novels, although the cyclical model may work best if you are using a machine.
I have read countless time travel stories. (I could count them, actually, if I could remember all of them, but that is another issue.) H. G. Wells may be considered the father of time travel stories, yet even the Epic of Gilgamesh has some time-bending aspects. One of the best stories I've ever read was in an anthology of sci-fi stories and involved a guy going back to the time of the dinosaurs and encountering a hunting party of aliens; he falls in love with the princess, of course and chooses to stay there. (Can't recall the title or author at this moment--it was in an anthology edited by Robert Silverberg in the 70s; I'll get back to you with it.) Another of my favorites is Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man, a novella in which a Biblical scholar goes back to check on Jesus and through serendipity becomes the person crucified on the Cross. That's an example of cyclical time: the guy from the future goes back to the past and becomes the reason the guy from the future goes back to the past--got it? Wanting to get out of our present structure where we are slaves to time is a major theme in fiction--and the work place.
Or, there is still another view of time, which may prove more accurate:
THE DREAM LAND Book II "Dreams of Future's Past" is about Time. (Book I was about Space; Book III will be about the end of Time and Space.) And, as I learned from Roger Zelazny (especially in the Amber Chronicles), characters often like to sit around discussing profound ideas. I borrowed that concept in this excerpt about time travel:
“What’s all this talk about time travel?” Jason exclaimed, bits of zurrek falling from his greasy lips. “There’s no such thing. I can’t lose weight that way, and you sure can’t change history by going back and doing something different. If you could, everybody’d be doing it.”
Jason swallowed, washed it down with a swig of gor.“Time is linear—it goes in a straight line—and even if you do a loop-de-loop and go back to the past, it’s still the same straight line, like a tape or ribbon that you have merely twisted around your finger. It’s straight but you’ve bent it. That’s all. You can’t cross over from one part of the ribbon to the next part of the ribbon. It doesn’t work.”
Jason paused to take another mouthful of the zurrek, so succulent when it was grilled the way they did it in Aivana. When he was satisfied, he picked up the conversation as though he had not just put away another plate of the big four-legged bird.
“Everyone’s fate is just that: Fate. I don’t mean that our destiny is pre-arranged...mmm, like a page in some cosmic calendar. I mean, it just happens that way. Nothing can change it. If you change your routine at random so you’re out shopping when an airplane crashes into your house, when you otherwise would be napping on the living room sofa, then that’s what happens. It wasn’t planned by any God of Fate, and it wasn’t anything that you specifically did that made it happen or not happen. It just is. The changes you make are your fate. Changing your fate is part of your fate. It’s just some mind game. It’s the stuff of movies.”
Being the Mexas, he could indulge his host’s wild ravings, but this was different. Jason was on to something. Besides, Jason was more than his host; indeed, being Tammy’s husband now, the palace belonged as much to him as it did to her. More importantly, he wanted his childhood friend’s advice. And assurance. So he put on his salesman’s face and began selling him an idea.
“So all of these events that just happen.... Are they so predetermined that part of the predetermination is we don’t think about them being events that are predetermined?”
He waited for his colleague to reply, but Jason was still contemplating the words, or the next dessert.
“Look at what happens to people in the world. Things like earthquakes, and that airplane crashing into my house—do they just happen, as you say, or are they actually accidents? That’s what the word means: it’s something that happens without anyone expecting it. We say ‘it’s just an accident,’ right? Well, suppose that someone somewhere in some distant time zone has done something by design or by accident which causes that airplane to dive into my house. There’s no reason—no logical reason why that airplane should crash, or that it should crash into my house instead of an empty field. And there’s no particular reason that I should decide that particular morning to alter my routine and go out shopping instead of taking my nap. It’s an accident, like you say. It’s not planned, it’s an accident. That is why we call them ‘accidents.’“
Jason was nodding, either understanding or simply to acknowledge he was listening, since his mouth was full of the next course, something creamy, peach-colored.
“You see,” the Mexas continued, finished with his meal, “accidents are caused by something unexpected, unplanned. They just happen, as you say. But they must have some cause and the only such thing that can be a cause is some action by another thing or person. Every action has an opposite, equal reaction, they say. You’ve studied that a little, haven’t you?”
Jason wiped the dupoi from his lips, nodding his head.
“Doesn’t matter,” the Mexas continued. “You understand, right? What about in time? If it were possible, then one mere extra blink of my eye sometime in the past may catch someone’s attention, and taking their attention away for one extra millisecond may cause them to not hear what their friend was saying, such as, ‘Watch out for that airplane about to crash on us!’ You see, anything could be an instigator of some reaction that assumes itself in another time as what we call an accident.”
Jason cleared his pallet with a ghot wafer and motioned for the servants to remove the dishes he had emptied. He belched loudly, not an Aivana custom but one of his own. A nearby maiden brought a cloth to wipe his crumb-spotted face, like a mother and her dirty little boy. Once cleaned, he returned to their discussion:
“You’re saying that every time someone has an accident it’s actually someone’s responsibility in some past time?”
“No, there’s no responsibility,” the Mexas replied. “I’m saying there are no accidents. Things just happen, as you say. Those are your words. By design or accident these things happen. But something still causes them to happen. Now, suppose that if someone who knew something bad was going to happen had the power—and by ‘power’ I mean they had the knowledge and ability as well as the will or desire to assert themselves against whatever inconvenience might be involved to perform the act, not ‘power’ like with magic—if someone had the power to do something that would result in that future bad thing not happening and went ahead and did it...? That person would be a hero. I mean, if he prevented the bad event, right? He’d be a hero.”
Jason thought for a moment, let out gas, grinned.
“So you want to be a hero? Is that it?” Jason asked. “I thought you did that already. Why do you want to be a hero again?”
“Not me. I’ve had enough of that. Too many close calls at hero-dom. Accidents are what I’m talking about. And the power to change them. It’s not some theoretical debate. It’s real.”
“You are talking some theoretical debate—because it can’t be done.”
A maiden brought a new bottle of something, and Jason grabbed it to scan the dark blue liquid inside.
“It’s wishful thinking, like prayers or flipping a coin into a fountain,” said Jason. “The power of will cannot change the straight line of fate—and I use the word ‘fate’ loosely for your benefit; be aware—” he popped the cap on the bottle, spilling some of its contents over the fine saffron robe that stretched over his belly—“be aware that I’m not attaching it to any mystic or religious ritual or dogma. By ‘fate’ I mean ‘whatever happens to us now, whatever will happen to us in the future, or whatever has already happened to us in the past’...regardless of how or why it happens.”
He poured the drink into the silver chalice of the Mexas, then filled his own vessel: the old white ceramic mug made in Taiwan, inscribed with ‘World’s Greatest Grease Monkey’ that he had rescued from the garage where he once worked.
“All right,” he grunted. “Does that satisfy you for now?”
They raised their drinks and clinked them, but only Jason sampled it.
The Mexas sighed, set his drink down on the table. “Here all theory ends and reality begins.”
Jason finished the mug, reached for the bottle. “What are you talking about?”
“It can be done.”Jason took up his full mug in both hands. “Only in your dreams.”
Note: Mexas is the Ghoupallean word for 'king' though it comprises a different way of thinking about royal duties than merely being born to them. One is usually appointed Mexas because of administrative prowess.
P.S. Still another schematic of the nature of time and how we specks of universal dust dare think of it, pesky as we are:
If you need to catch up with THE DREAM LAND Book I "Long Distance Voyager" you can get it here. Book III "Diaspora" is almost finished and should be available by the end of 2013.
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