It has been said that all writing is time travel. Even the coverage of last Friday’s football game is time travel in that it attempts to take the reader back to last Friday night. Whether we’re writing about past events or futuristic happenings, we’re trying to take the reader to a place and a time where they aren’t.
I know that’s not what people want to know about when they ask me questions of time travel. As an author of time travel novels (find them at www.garisonfitch.com) people want to know if I really think it’s possible for people to travel through time. “What about the physics?” Or, “Wouldn’t you need to exceed the speed of light, which science says is impossible?”
Those questions are interesting and I’ve waded through some scientific tomes on the subject (like Brian Greene’s “The Elegant Universe”) and have touched on them in my stories, but what fascinates me most of all—and what I’ve tried to write passionately enough about to excite my readers—is the human story of time travel. “If it’s possible, what would it do to ME?”
Because I am convinced that’s the real attraction of time travel. We are fascinated by the possibility of doing “big things” (said in a deep, James Earl Jones-ish voice) like going back to Dallas in ’63 and stopping Kennedy from being shot, or dropping in on the post-WWI talks and trying to keep Nazi Germany from rising, or all the way back to Ford’s Theater and saving the life of Abraham Lincoln. Or maybe we’d just like to travel back in time and see some great events—whether we affected them or not—like the birth of Jesus, or Bell’s first telephone call, or the Beatles’ last concert.
What really compels us about time travel, though we might not admit it, is the possibility that we could affect our own lives. From the simple things we’d like to do, such as go back to our sophomore year of high school and ask out the cheerleader (maybe she’d say no, but for twenty years now we’ve lamented our lack of nerve and wish we could have the moment to do over), to the somewhat larger things we’d like to change like the night we wrecked the car or said something that deeply wounded someone we really care about. Or perhaps we’ve even lost someone and we dream about going back in time and talking them into getting a heart exam, or giving up smoking, or not texting while they drive.
Time travel holds the possibility that everything could be different—by which we assume “better”. But time travel also holds the possibility that in trying to change something in the past for the better we could make things worse. That girl I’ve always rather wished I could have worked up the nerve to ask out? What if I had? What if she had said yes? What if dating her had somehow kept me from meeting my wife, and from having the children I have now? What if I save Uncle Randy’s life by getting him to stop drinking only to find that had he lived he would have become abusive? What if saving Lincoln somehow changes the direction of the United States into something we don’t want?
And what if someone were to travel through time in a world similar to ours, but just different enough, and do something that created the world you and I live in? What should he do? Should he try to live in the world he created? Should he try to return the world to “normal”? In trying to turn it back, what are the risks of creating something entirely different from either reality?
From an author’s standpoint, this may be the most attractive aspect of time travel of all: virtually endless possibilities. We tell the story, and hopefully, tell it well and the reader—for just a little while—is taken to another place and time.
So time travel really is for real after all.
Samuel Ben White
"What if history didn't happen that way ... the first time?"
Garison Fitch was a scientist and something of a celebrity in the Soviet Americas in the early 21st century until dropping off the map to pursue his theories in the remote La Plata Canyon. Living in a log home he built himself (which was too close to the Empire of Japan (30 miles to the west) and the Republic of Texas (15 miles to the south), Garison began to experiment with interdimensional travel.
An experiment with such travel surprised him when he landed him in 1744. There he discovered a primitive world of somewhat suspicious people, but a freedom he had never experienced before--which may have been most frightening of all. As he was trying to discover how to return to the future, he met and fell in love with Sarah, a beautiful young woman who is an outcast due to the fact that it was never known who her father was. They married and had three children and he decided to stay in the past and raise his children with the woman he loved.
When he tried to rid himself of his time machine by sending it into the future, however, it took him with it. Now, he finds himself back in the twenty-first century where a woman (Heather) he has never met claims to be his wife and the country he grew up in is gone, replaced by something called “The United States of America”. He quickly realizes that something he did in the past has changed the future but he doesn't know what until he stumbles across a strange item in Heather's purse.
Should he live in this new world, or try to travel once more through time and return the world to “normal”? As he becomes convinced he can’t return to Sarah, he’s not really sure if he can live in this new world he created, either.
Sam White is a minister, writer and cartoonist living in the Texas panhandle. He has published 15 novels (3 in paperback and on Kindle, plus twelve more in the Kindle-only format). His most successful books continue to be those which are focused on time travel, though his detective novels (featuring Bat Garrett--aka "The Nice Guy") are selling well. He is married, has two teenage boys, as well as a cat and a dog.
His comic strip "Tuttle's" is read by thousands every day in newspapers across Colorado and Texas, and on-line at tuttles.net. His on-line comic book "Burt & the I.L.S." is updated weekly and deals with time travel in ways his novels can't (because the comic book doesn't have to make sense). He also writes a blog concerning time travel, writing, Kindle and related topics, which can be found at garisonfitch.com .