This month is Historical Fiction month. As the resident Science Fiction nut, my mind(naturally) thought of Time Travel! Of course the snag here is that most Time Travel stories are not actually Historical Fiction. Time travel focuses on speculations, on the laws and physics and consequences of travelling through time. Pedantically speaking, these stories are truly Science Fiction. But let’s not pigeon hole! Hybridity in genre is more and more commonplace so open your minds and take in some Historical Time Travelling!
As much as I love and am fascinated by History I just can’t seem to chew on a straight Historical work – they are typically quite dense and, to be honest, just too darn realistic for me. I want a fiction wrapped up in the truths, some mystery to rope me in; and, if I’m going to be honest, I feel like I learn more when there is fiction involved in retellings or speculations of History. Instead of spending pages and pages describing schematics or listing names of important people, authors can highlight only the interesting facts and times. The beauty of Time Travel in particular is that these interesting points in History are seen through a set of eyes comparable to my own. Now, I’ll grant you that there is less actual factual (hehehe) information in Historical Fiction but, in the good ones anyway, the authors have done the work for me. Through their own research and plotting authors have combed through History to find interesting tidbits that they can wrap into the scheme and plot of their story, they know what the feel and look of the time periods and people are and they describe it in 21st century terms!
This fascination with travelling through time is not limited to the modern art forms – there are stories upon stories in the folk tales of cultures around the world that depict some form of time travel, usually by mystical or supernatural means. There is the story of Mahabharata from India, which I think is truly time travel. But other myths toy with the idea of reversing what has already happened, of travelling to the ends of the earth to change the past and the future – playing with godlike powers for control over the timeline. For me, thought, it all began with stories like Robert Zemeckis’ classic Back to the Future and James Cameron’s Terminator that helped inspire my love for science fiction. Within these timeless (hohoho) classics lay the “altering the future by altering the past” trope – which is just so much fun and doesn’t ever seem to lose it’s spark for me, probably because there is so much History out there to change! Of course, I cringe every time I see an “Under the Sea Dance” but I honestly love it. I kind of love all the tropes:
Despite the overdone-ness of the tropes there’s just something so wondrous and intriguing about a good time travel yarn. I think perhaps it’s that time travel comes with it’s own built in plot – I mean conflict, strangers thrown together, rules of the world. This is not to say that they author’s job is easy, they still have to research and they still have to create the rules of their time travel. But, time travel is such an easy story to slip into, and this ease is something that other stories seem to have to work just a little bit harder for.
Funny video that incorporates as many tropes of time travel as it can: http://www.themarysue.com/present-tense-short-film/
Despite time travel being overrun with tropes and clichés, I think that it is in for a revival. Technology is every changing and theories and mechanical iterations of time dilation are becomming more and more sophisticated. Perhaps it will never be possible, but it’s just so fun to think of it as plausible (and to pick up a little History on the way). I have read quite a few time travel ARCs recently. Shifting from the dystopic speculating horrendous futures where hope rests on the young towards finding ways to alter the past before humans can destroy the world – well, doesn’t it just sound like a natural shift?
The ever-flowing nature of time remains a captivating source of inspiration to me. What is it about the endless march of time that fascinates? Is it because the reigns of its passage seem so far of out of reach? Perhaps, it’s that underlying fear of death that so many of us carry around in our day to day. After all, what is death if not an end to our own subjective voyage through time? One thing’s for sure, I think that time travel is the next “fire” and these time travel stories are futuristic prometheus tales. As long as the speculation about time travel’s possibility is out there, humans will probably never stop grasping for the reigns. For now, be happy that it’s only in the stories we tell.