From the Archive: It's About Time
A post about my enduring love for time travel stories.
Originally written: April 26, 2015
When I was a kid, I remember being equal parts enthralled and terrified by the movie Flight of the Navigator. Maybe I was a bit too young to handle it, or maybe I was just a bit too imaginative, but that scene where the kid comes back to his house and they find out that he went missing years ago – and his little brother is now older than him – filled me with a fascinated horror.
For years after that, I had this weird fear that I would come back to my house one day to find a different family living there because many years had passed. (To be honest, I still think about this on occasion if I'm coming home at night to an empty flat – what if my key doesn't work because it's suddenly 2050 now or something? Aaagh!)
Flight of the Navigator, 1987
And yet, scary as it was, something about that film really resonated with me. It was almost certainly my earliest exposure to anything that could be classified as science fiction – which still remains my true love as far as any kind of fiction is concerned. It also introduced me to the idea of time travel.
On one level, it creeped me out so much sometimes that I couldn't sleep at night, but I didn't stop thinking about it either. Shortly after that, I read The Time Machine (an illustrated “children's” version, which for some reason decided to include absolutely nightmarish visuals of the Morlocks) and the trend continued. Read, get really creeped out, lose sleep, think about it some more, repeat. A Wrinkle in Time, A Handful of Time, The Juniper Game, The Starlight Crystal... My most memorable childhood reads all had something to do with the subject.
It was always about time. The mechanism by which it happened was different, but the core of the story was familiar: What if you could slip through time, either on purpose or without meaning to? What would you see? Could you learn something? Affect something? And what if something changed while you were there? What would that mean for the future? Could you get back?
Eventually, I started reading about some of the related theoretical science - FTL, wormholes, warp fields, parallel universes. It's a subject that raises a hell of a lot of questions, all of which have no concrete answers. This endless ambiguity is exactly what has made "messing with time" such a perfect backdrop for a lot of interesting (and very different) stories. Elements of mystery, horror, psychological thriller, fantasy and science fiction can all come together in one weird and complicated knot when it comes to messing with time.
Absolutely no one can know for sure what the consequences would be if anything were to travel backward in time. We don't even know if the physics of our universe would allow it – but the idea has continued to entrance and entertain us for centuries.
I've loved time travel stories just about as long as I can remember.
And – surprise, surprise – I write them now.