Posted in fantasy, random thoughts, science fiction, science fiction, writing

The Casual Time Traveler

Time travel.

Who hasn’t thought about what they’d do if they had the chance to go back in time and change something? Maybe you’d find a way to prevent an evil dictator from being born (Hitler, Castro, Pol Pot), stop John Wilkes Booth from assassinating Lincoln, save the Romanovs from being murdered.

The problem is you could never understand the full implications of what such a move would be. How would it affect your own family if world events had worked out differently? Maybe your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t have married the man she did, if your would-be great-great-grandfather hadn’t died in a war.

Say that in going back in time and meddling with things, your beloved’s great-great-grandmother’s village was invaded by the armies of Arachnovakia, and your beloved somehow ends up being born to an Arachnovakian couple. Arachnovakia worships spiders, and you hate spiders. Rumor has it they were themselves descended from spiders. Word on the street is they have spiders nesting in their hair. Heck, their hair is made of spider webs. Maybe wheels are considered evil in Arachnovakia just to top it all off (’cause they roll over and crush spiders). Consequently this person never even learned to ride a bike. They don’t have cars or even horse drawn wagons in Arachnovakia. He or she would have had a vastly different experience growing up, and would not be the person you knew. (I really think I’m going to have to write more about Arachnovakia. Why do I keep hearing Groucho Marx in my head?)

It’s that mystical convergence of energy at the right time, the right place, with the right lighting, or topic of conversation. If it’s someone you’ve known for awhile, you may suddenly ‘see them in a new light.’ It also depends on the state of mind of the persons involved at the crucial moment. If your significant other had been blond, or a foot taller or shorter, how might that have affected your perception of him/her? Would you have even approached them for a date, much less married that person? Who we are is a delicate balance of our inner nature and the environment that produced us.

There was an episode of Voyager where an alien race was instantly forgotten after they left the presence of any other (they gave off some sort of pheromone or something that prevented the brains of other species from retaining the memory of them). Chakotay (Robert Beltran) had fallen in love with a woman (played by Virginia Madsen) from this race, but when she was forced to return to her planet he instantly forgot her. When they ‘met’ a second time  as she tried to get Voyager to take her with them,  the sparks didn’t fly for him. She was still in love with him, but that magical moment didn’t come again for Chakotay. Who we’re attracted to has a lot to do with our own mental state when we meet that person. Maybe she caught him on a bad day when he was missing his Maquis buddies. It’s possible that had she been allowed to stay on the ship Chakotay’s feelings towards her would have sparked again in time. This is why fix-ups and blind dates rarely succeed. You can’t engineer this many variables to coincide favorably for two parties at the same time. Either it will work or it won’t, and there really is no way to know.

So back to our time travel and unintended consequences. Your Arachnovakian sweetie is still a lovely person, except they’re also a different sex this time. Whichever gender you identify with and are attracted to, if your love was the wrong sex for you to be attracted to, it would not be the same. Most people are not bisexual. If you are, well, lucky you. This might not be a problem for you. But the essence of the person you love would have been irrevocably altered. And that could be a problem for anyone.

Anyway, the point I am trying very inarticulately to make is that human attraction is a mysterious, unpredictable phenomenon.

Best to stay home, and leave the time travel to the professionals.


Ok, maybe not those guys.

Posted in science fiction, writing

If you could time travel, where/when would you go?

This is always an interesting idea for me to ponder. As a writer, the ramifications of being able to visit an historical setting or event are mind-boggling. You could really find out what Jane Austen ate and Charles Dickens knew. So just for fun, let’s say time travel becomes possible, somehow. (I’m not going to get into the physics of whether or not it’s possible, that would spoil the game.) Where and when would you go? And why? Would you go to the court of Napoleon and Josephine, find out what the heck Marie Antionette meant by “Let them eat cake”? How about ancient Egypt? Find out how the pyramids were built? Walk with the dinosaurs? Would you go for the sake of scholarly research, or a pet passion? Yeah, sure, Woodstock might be fun, but there are too many other things I have real questions about. As difficult as it was to narrow down, here are my current top five picks for when and where I’d go, if I could:

  1. Continental Congress, Philadelphia, 1776. I have always had a fascination with the incredible, and to my mind, nearly improbable confluence of the intellect that took place here, those who brought about the American Revolution: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Hancock and all the other delegates of the original colonies. I don’t think their like has been seen since.
  2. Stonehenge (2400 BC, give or take). I would love to know how and why this megalithic monument came to be, moreso than nearly any other. I nearly said Newgrange in Ireland (3000 BC) but there’s something more baffling about Stonehenge. It’s purpose is still unknown, whereas Newgrange is pretty surely a burial mound.
  3. 30 CE Palestine. As an avowed agnostic, part-time atheist, I feel it’s almost a duty to find out (if it were possible) the real truth behind the myths of Jesus. I’m open to finding out I’m dead wrong, too. I just would want to know definitely, one way or the other.
  4. 10,000 CE, anywhere. The scientist in me wants to know what the future will be like: Will we colonize space? Will we cure cancer? Will there be another Mozartian genius? If there is, I want ALL his records.
  5. 100,000 CE. Will the human race even still exist? What will they look like? Will they look on us the way we regard Cro-Magnon Man, or Neanderthal? Will we have abandoned earth?

Of course, all these choices are subject to change without notice. Tomorrow I might decide tea with Jane Austen is vastly more important.