My Problem With Time Travel Stories: A Confession

One of my least favorite “sub-genres” of science fiction is the time travel story.  I’ve read many, and most bother me because the inherent paradoxes they create just make my brain hurt.  That’s not to say time travel stories can’t be done well.  Connie Willis has written at least two novels—Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dogthat use time travel as their central speculative element.  Both are very good.  In fact, I count To Say Nothing of the Dog as one of all-time favorites, and I routinely recommend it to people, right after uttering the words: “While I usually hate time travel stories…”  I find that Ms. Willis’ work tends to be among the exceptions, however, and I usually groan when I get the part in the story where the time machine is revealed in all its sordid grandeur.

I generally don’t like to talk about stories in progress (except to my wife who, having little other choice, tolerates it), but having now established my loathing for time machines, I have a confession to make.  After promising I would never write a time travel story, I have in fact started writing one.  I feel like I’ve just stood up at a twelve-step meeting and admitted my dirty secret.  I’m not exactly sure what’s compelled me to take on this unsavory task, but obviously I think I have a story idea—sans “I’m-my-own-grandfather” paradoxes—that I think is strong and compelling.  Hopefully it will play out that way.  Otherwise I may be looking for a way to go back in time and shoot myself before I could publish this post.

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About D. Thomas Minton

Writer of speculative fiction
This entry was posted in Inspiration, Science Fiction, Writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to My Problem With Time Travel Stories: A Confession

  1. Colum Paget says:

    As always, I’m here to tell you that:

    1) If you can’t write time-travel, then you can’t write faster-than-light space travel either (not that I recall you ever doing this) as, under our current understanding of physics FTL == Time Travel (I would explain why but… uh… I’m pressed for time, you know?).

    2) The challenge in spec-fic, I’ve always felt, is not to write things that are utterly believable, but to write the unbelievable and make it believable. It’s almost a type of stage-magic.

    3) Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

    4) “I usually groan when I get the part inthe story where the time machine is revealed in all its sordid grandeur.”

    BUT SORDID GRANDEUR SOUNDS GOOD!

    5) “Otherwise I maybe looking for a way to go back in time and shoot myself before I could publish this post.”

    If you ever do find a way to do this, please contact me, as I have a business proposition for you.

    Colum

    • Good point on FTL. I don’t tend to write FTL stories either (unless it’s that unmentioned thing in the dark corner), but I am fascinated by near-light speed travel, which has the same effect of time dilation as FTL, just not as severe. That’s time travel in a sense, but it’s generally played out as going forward, although I guess there are solutions where you might could go backwards. I don’t know much about that—maybe I should ask my father-in-law who literally wrote a text book on that kind of stuff.

  2. Pingback: Grooving to Symphonic Science | D. Thomas Minton

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