Review: Thanksgiving Eve by Jay Brandon

Thanksgiving Eve fails as a time travel novel but other aspects of this novel make it a compelling tale of how a father tries to improve relations with his family.

The Premise

A lot of time travel novels ask the question how would you relive part of your life again? Thanksgiving Eve by Jay Brandon recounts the story of Ray who dies on Christmas Eve and gets to relive the 5 days leading up to his death. At first – and then earlier portions of his life.

Thanksgiving Eve by Jay Brandon

During these relived periods Ray tries to improve relationships with his family members. This is clearly reminiscent of some aspects of A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens) around Christmas eve.

So I’ll call this out now: Thanksgiving Eve? What’s wrong with Christmas?

Writing style

Jay’s writing is extremely polished which is hardly surprising when we see how much training he’s had! Right from the outset, for example, Jay hones right in on the dark mood and thoughts of the unfairness of life; thoughts which I’m sure many people have but don’t outwardly express because of social norm.

On a similar footing there are astute observations in many aspects of life which range from parenting to how we answer a phone. In some ways this is a pitfall of Thanksgiving Eve because a quarter of the way through the novel there was no clear story line and I was still reading about mundane events in life like going shopping or eating round the table.

Indeed, some might argue that there is no story line; even by the end of the novel I’m not sure what the thread is – and I’m not convinced that the main character would know either.

On the flip side, this highlights the strength of Thanksgiving Eve in that it complelled me to read on despite the lack of a clear story line!

Time travel

One of my pet peeves in time travel novels is the length of time that it takes a character to realise that he’s travelled in time. It seems that in Thanksgiving Eve we have the complete opposite where Ray barely bats an eyelid when he finds himself back 5 days in time as if time travel is an every day experience. Or is that Groundhog day?! 😉

Actually Ray’s transition into the past was so smooth that I wondered whether there was any time travel at all and that Ray was seeing portions of his life flash before his eyes prior to death; perhaps something similar to The I Inside movie.

That said Ray doesn’t know why he’s gone back in time, but after a couple of trips he seems to see the benefit in having a better relationship with his family and somehow decides that this is why he’s being offered a second chance to make amends.

There’s a clear similarity with other novels such as Ken Grimwood’s Replay, or (the much better) Buckyball by Fabien Roy. In these two novels the time travel element is not necessarily well understood by the characters, but it is fully utilised and incorporated within the plots of the respective novels. I didn’t get the same feeling with Thanksgiving Eve.

In fact I can almost see a reworking in the manuscript where the idea of time travel has been added as an after-thought. Was this a ‘regular’ drama novel where nothing much happens, so sliced into segments and rearranged under the name of time travel to make it more interesting? I wouldn’t be surprised.

It’s clear to any time travel enthusiast that Thanksgiving Eve has only a very weak sniff of time travel. When my wife makes juice from concentrate she makes it so weak that the resulting beverage is terrible. It would be better to simply have water. And I think it’s the same here – it would have much better to leave out the weak time travel instead of adding a couple of drops of it into a watery novel.

This is especially true because there is potential for much more than what’s included. For example, Ray goes further back in time for each of his successive revisits to his own life. This means that we never find out whether his actions hold any consequences for the future. So what’s the point? The obvious twist to the Grandfather paradox (i.e. will any of his (re)actions in the past affect his own existence to the point that his death won’t occur and hence he won’t be able to go back in time and make those changes…) was totally side-stepped.

It was never completely clear regarding the amount of free will that Ray had when he went back in time. His appearance was commensurate with the period he was in (friends and family didn’t realise he was a time traveller); he seemed able to instantly recall events leading up to where he was, but he was able to do things differently. Could he though? When he really wanted to do something different he was drunk so couldn’t control his body. Another side-step.

Just as Buckyball introduces some time travel vocabulary, Ray’s relived days are vaguely referred to as “Dayovers”. But surely if Ray (or the author) is naming these experiences then it should be more prominent?

Other aspects of the Dayovers had some interesting aspects – Ray’s neighbour, Kevin, gets pulled back in time each time Ray goes back. Again, this reminded me of Buckyball which involved a group of inter-related time travellers. The first time that it was mentioned that Kevin was going back in time too it seemed out of place and I took it whimsically. Then later it became clearer when Kevin confronts Ray about it directly. But nothing came of it. Similarly there’s the beggar. Corny and cheesy to have such a character play a potentially important / revealing role, but again, nothing comes of it.

It’s hugely frustrating that the time travel seems to be part of something bigger than something which just affects Ray but pretty much gets ignored.

Closing thoughts, open questions

Undoubtedly there are open questions. One argument is that Ray doesn’t understand what happened, so why should we? At the same time we’re a curious species – we ask questions and we want answers. But none came. And the fish taco at the end? Definitely a ball was dropped here 🙁

Rating * *

This is a time travel blog, and as a time travel novel Thanksgiving Eve falls short, hence 2 stars. But where the time travel side of things is lacking, the other side of the novel – Ray’s life and his relationships – is very well written; a compelling tale of how a father tries to improve relations with his family which I found to be a very enjoyable read!

Paul

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Review: The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett

The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett is a fun and fast-paced read which has a time travel component that involves a biological and technological component.

Review: The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett

My Our Approach

The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett

I was very interested when I received a request to read and review The Guttersnipes. It’s aimed at children so I had big plans to read this to my 7 year old daughter. I’m sick to death of Roald Dahl with his “Charlie and the Chocolate factory” and the “BFG”. Read: Big Freakin’ Grammar problems, more like – made up words and disordered sentences. In a galaxy far far away, maybe Yoda learnt his English from reading a few Roald Dahl novels.

I wasn’t up for reading this nonsense to my daughter in Holland, where English is a second language for her. So a happy cue to The Guttersnipes where Scott uses English words with the right spelling and in the right order. What a relief!

To balance first impressions up a bit, I should mention that at first I didn’t like the title – though this is out of my own ignorance because I was afraid it was a made up word. Not something nonsensical like Dahl’s snozcumbers etc., but more along the lines of Stephen Kings “Langoliers” (a novella in “Four Past Midnight” – which incidentally has a time related theme).

By the time page 70 came around I learned that a “guttersnipe” is actually a noun and means something! OK, so I learn something, and where younger readers learn this word early in their life, I’m learning it now at the ripe old age of 45. This old dog is learning new tricks! (Well,words!)

Our My Approach

Two things happened when we started reading this. The first is that time dilated to the point that the further we progressed, the slower it took. Mass increases as we approach the speed of light; estimation of time required to complete this novel increases exponentially with the time we spent reading together. Two pages took two weeks. No, don’t ask how, because I don’t know.

So with this in mind the “we” became “I” and I read the remaining pages on my own – but admittedly still from from the perspective of a (slightly over-) protective father (albeit with the caveat that if you’ve seen the movie “Finding Nemo”, Nemo’s neurotic father actually had a good point.)

Children or teenager?
“Children’s / Teenage” on back cover

I think the “Children’s / Teenage” ‘rating’ here is confusing. I’d come in at the children angle. I don’t think it would be fair to call a teenager a child in this sense, but I do think it would be unfair to let a child (here I’m talking about my 7 year old – though this is subjective to any child) near this novel. There are some pretty gruesome parts – plucking eyes out, pulling teeth out (not in a dentist – as a means of roughing a child up), boys being paralysed from being kicked by horses…

I’m glad I stopped with my daughter when I did – this is an education that think she can wait with. But yeah, every child (and parent) is different, so ultimately this decision will be up to you.

On the educational note, The Guttersnipes does have a few snippets of relevant and contextual information. It’s not as full on as Making it Home and Stumbling on a Tale by Suzanne Roche, though at times I wondered whether the background research had got a little over enthusiastic!

The characters

The main character is Charlie. Thankfully Charlie has no chocolate factory, but what he does have is a pet dinosaur. Specifically, Trike – a dwarf triceratops. The story behind how Charlie finds Trike is “…really long” and I wonder if there’s a novel in the making here!

Triceratops toothbrush
My youngest daughter’s toothbrush – with a triceratops!

Trike is a silent but important part of The Guttersnipes because essentially he’s the trigger for Charlie and his friend Arty to go back in time. But Trike doesn’t really get much of a mention, and certainly the relationship that Charlie has with him is barely touched so personally I didn’t empathise with the mission to rescue the poor dwarf triceratops.

The beginning of the the novel shows Charlie to be a crap friend to Arty who seems to bend over backwards to help Charlie. I think Arty is the unsung hero of this novel. He suffers the most, receives minimal support but does what he can to help Charlie and Trike.

I don’t really know who Charlie is. Indeed, at times he almost becomes a minor character in comparison to many other stronger characters which Scott has written into the novel. The blurb states that Charlie is “…more than six feet tall” and “…allergic to almost everything” though neither of these ‘attributes’ come into play. Conversely it’s Arty who seems to have a history behind him. He’s the guy who I’m rooting to get back home!

Writing style

The Guttersnipes is most definitely a very fun read! It’s fast paced with interesting characters and cross links between them and it’s easy to see how this will appeal to the YA audience. That said, whether it was the writing style or the historical setting, I was reminded at times of the more adult level The Anubis Gates (Tim Powers) and The Map of Time (Felix J. Palma), two novels which I also thought were very good!

There’s only one thing which wound me up about The Guttersnipes, and that was the overuse of a couple of phrases – Charlie repeatedly “Chomped down on his bottom lip”, and other characters “gimped off”. Perhaps it’s not that bad, but you know how it is once you notice something…

The time travel element

The time travel mechanism is black box – albeit with a purple beam which takes Charlie and Arty back to New York city in 1865.

I was interested to note that the trip back in time also involved a change in location – Charlie and Arty were no longer in the same location as the house in which they’d left. Because there’s no repeated time travel I wasn’t able to see whether this was a specific feature of this method.

Towards the end of the novel Charlie and Arty meet another time traveller who reveals something more about the time travel ‘process’ – the body of the time traveller reconstitutes itself to adapt to the new time to which it’s transported. This can only be done once – so after 7 days the time traveller is stuck in his new temporal destination (because presumably that’s how long reconstitution takes).

I think there’s something missing here, because if a return time travel trip is possible within 7 days then it’s possible with a partially reconstituted body. On day 7 the body reconstruction reaches 100% and time travel at that point becomes impossible. I struggle to accept that a biological mechanism / limitation would have such a clear threshold.

Still. I welcome biological aspects of time travel (I suspect that this is how it’s going to be done if time travel ever becomes a reality) so I was very happy to read this, especially as it worked in combination with a more traditional technological transportation mechanism –
though painted black with purple light! 😉

Rating * * * *

The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett is a fun and fast-paced read! Whilst the main character (and his pet triceratops) is weak, a raft of other well developed characters and multiple plot lines more than compensate.

I’d caution parents of younger and / or sensitive children as there are some gruesome sections which may be unsuitable.

Paul

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Portugal – land of time travel?

Reverse archaeology where we’ve dug up a piece of ceramic from the Portuguese future?

I’ve noticed on several occasions that Holland has a bizarre relation with time. It’s featured in one of the first time travel pieces of fiction, there are the time travel trains, and don’t forget the extra day in June.

Now it seems that Portugal is putting in a bid to be the land of time travel. Here’s a discovery I found: one of my baking dishes…

Made in Portugal 18944
MADE IN PORTUGAL 18944

In case you missed it, here’s a zoom:

In case you missed it: MADE IN PORTUGAL 18944
In case you missed it: MADE IN PORTUGAL 18944

It seems to me like this is reverse archaeology where we’ve dug up a piece of ceramic from the future!

Paul

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Review: Beyond the Elastic Limit (Howard Loring)

Beyond the Elastic Limit (Howard Loring) is fantastic time travel nuts and bolts stuff with a time travel methodology built around an interesting model of time!

Beyond the Elastic Limit had me confused and impressed at the same time. I suppose this is suitably paradoxical given the nature of time travel!

Beyond the Elastic Limit (Howard Loring)

The novel is centred around a solid model of time; something happens to disrupt it and characters scuttle about to make amends.

The details of this latter aspect are largely given in conversation and need a lot of attention – by the time I got to page 200 I realised that I had a good handle on the time travel element but not the plot or the character stuff around it!

Writing style

I found it difficult to keep track of the plot – though I hastily add that I don’t think this is due to bad writing. (And at the risk of sounding conceited I’m going to point the blame away from myself as a dumbo reader too). It seemed that during the week that I was reading Beyond the Elastic Limit all external factors contributing to a displeasurable reading experience came into play.

My commuter train, home of my reading pleasure, was plagued by noisy school kids. Dodgy formatting from PDF to ePub format meant that my ereader had a nasty time, and a nosey cold (probably caught from one of those pesky school kids) had me reaching for my tissue every 20 seconds to avoid dripping on said ereader and creating an electrical shortcut 🙁 .

About three quarters of the way through I thought to be fair I should go back and start again in a more healthy and child free environment. But I ended up skim reading out of familiarity, so I jumped back forwards (I think I’m allowed to say that…) to where I was before.

So to reiterate here: the writing is good quality!

One aspect I particularly like is Howard’s eye to detail when it comes to body language. I think many of us have probably heard of the idea where body language accounts for 55% of all communication. It turns out that this is slightly misleading but the point remains that it’s hugely important – not just in communication, but also in providing insights into thoughts, feelings, mood and atmosphere. It’s done superbly!

Time travel

Beyond the Elastic Limit is in some ways an elegant version of Time’s Eye by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter. In this latter novel there are segments of non-sequential time which for some reason are now adjacent to each other. It’s pretty much a writer’s playground where they ask “wouldn’t it be fun if we could write about astronauts meeting Genghis Khan”, and other such scenarios. It’s a transparent set up which goes nowhere. Slowly.

Howard’s offering is much better! There’s brilliant imagery of throwing rocks into the river of time to create splashes and drops which explains how time blows up (and comes back together). And there’s a reason why different segments of time have come apart in the first place, and why they are now stitched together in the way that they are with all its ramifications – including cultural – that go with it.

There’s also time travel technology that’s been built on the model of time as a function of the harmonic frequency that a particle resonates or vibrates. The “Fistula” is a hole in time through which the past can be seen, and is held in check by the “Containment”. Basically, there’s a two part time machine, of sorts.

It’s fantastic time travel nuts and bolts stuff!

Rating * * * *

I wish could keep the time travel element and throw out the complex character development and relationships etc. from the novel. Come to think of it, I wish I could throw out those school kids from the train.

Perhaps it’s a sign in itself that it only took a bunch of school kids to set me off my reading rails, though that said, the time travel component was easily uptaken! If anything, I’d like to leave a highly negative review for the school teachers and parents of the little s**ts hopes of our future on my train.

Howard Loring’s next novel in the series is Piercing the Elastic Limit, and there’s also Tales of the Elastic Limit which “…can be read backwards as well as forwards”. Stand by for an interview with Howard – I’ll keep you posted!

Paul

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Summer time in Spring

Spring seems to be a forgotten season. It’s more of a stepping stone to summer; a time of change. Is that why we turn to summer time in Spring?

Summer time in Spring

So Spring officially started on Monday 20 March 2017 at 11:28. Last year Nature marked this event with a total solar eclipse. And Nature marked that event with full blown cloud cover. (*Growl*)

Naturally the onset of Spring means that 6 days later we enter the misnomer known as summer time (summer being another 3 months away).

I’ve commented before about the misuse of the extra hour we gain as we enter Winter time (in Autumn), so now that we’ve learned our lesson we get to give the hour back and get out of bed an hour earlier. On a Sunday, the day of rest.

I think we’ve messed up again…

Spring – what’s the point?

What's the point of Spring?
What’s the point of Spring? Image credit: Gilbert Tremblay.

But that’s summer time, and I want to get back to Spring. It seems to be a bit of a forgotten season and I think it’s because it’s a sort of stepping stone into the warmth and brightness of Summer.

I postulate that Spring isn’t really a season in itself. It’s fake and superficial. The sun shines, but it doesn’t really warm things up. It still hangs low in the sky and gets in our eyes. The wind is cold, and morning frost is always possible. It’s the worst possible combination of all kinds of weather.

Protecting against Summer
Protecting against Summer. Sitting in the shade with sunglasses. Image credit: Sanja Gjenero.

Maybe we should be pleased; in summer the sun comes out and we do everything we can to avoid its benefits. We sit in the shade under trees, wear shorts and T-shirts to cool down, smear sun-cream on our skin to avoid its contact and wear sunglasses so we don’t see its lighting effect.

Spring does all that work for us, so we should be happy – and I suppose most of us are. But I think our cause for happiness is false. I think we like Spring for another reason.

A time of change

Spring marks a change from the dreary whiteness of winter. Daffodils and crocuses are sprouting, injecting welcome colour and scent into a new temporal landscape. Birds are returning from the south to build their homes in trees from which green leaves are budding. Cheerful tweeting fills the air.

It’s not just different – it’s change. Is this what spring is then – not a season in itself but a change?

Now this makes more sense. In Spring (and Autumn) we’re at the vernal (autumnal) equinox – when the sun is over the equator. In other words, the sun is passing from the southern hemisphere to the northern. From negative to positive latitudes. A change.

In terms of the sine wave which models these kinds of latitudinal changes, we’re now at the point of maximum gradient.

Maximum change in Spring
The day numbers, along the x-axis, commence with 1 on 21st March (the vernal equinox) and continue to 365 when the next vernal equinox is reached. Image credit: Astronavigationdemystified.com.

We notice this by how much lighter it gets in the evening by larger increments of time at the equinoxes; take a look at the sunset times – they get later with each successive day by greatest amounts around now.

Spring – the journey

I’ve often noted in my reviews of time travel novels that they may take on either a journey or a destination approach. I think it’s fairly clear that if Spring were a time travel novel, it would be more about the journey – how we progress from the cold and bleakness of Winter to the warmth and life of Summer – than about the jumping lambs and daffodils made out of egg cartons by kids.

Clock change – Spring forward

For now, it’s nearly time to change the clocks. It’s the ‘easy one’ – putting the hour forward. Most digital clocks don’t allow going an hour back, so we end up putting the hour forward by 23. It sums up time travel – easier to go forwards in time than back. Still. In human terms it’s the difficult one as we get up an hour earlier.

I read a facebook post earlier today. (OK, obviously it was earlier…) It mentioned that it’s ironic that parents lying in for half an hour tomorrow are still getting up half an hour early!

I’m going to ease myself in slowly, and start changing my clocks now on Saturday night. I’ve already done the clock setting on my thermostat so that the heating will come on at the right time in Summer…

Ah yes. It’s still Spring so maybe that’s not as daft as it sounds! 😉

Paul

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Eternalism, time dilation and the land of nod

Eternalism is where all moments in time co-exist. Can dreaming give us a clue as to how we can train our brain to access the past or future as well as experience the present?

Eternalism

There’s an idea called eternalism which is where all moments in time co-exist. There’s no past, present or future – just time, and different segments of that time can be experienced by calling on it (though on a practical footing, I’m not sure how…)

This idea came to mind a few days ago when I was watching a video clip on youtube. Being an English gentleman I naturally wanted to be sipping a cup of tea during my viewing pleasure so I clicked pause and put the kettle on. Whilst I was waiting for it to boil I took a moment to look out of the lounge window.

There’s something in the air

The sun was shining, sending forth its electromagnetic radiation of multiple frequencies. Despite this, my neighbour had smoke chugging out of his chimney from his wood fire. A couple of planes were scratching contrails across the sky. So much for the visible – I knew that the pilots would be in radio contact with air control. A gaggle of schoolgirls were texting on their data connected smartphones as they walked by. I could see the TV was on in the house over the road (the one with the satellite dish), and cars zipped by with open windows, music from the radio streaming outside.

I couldn’t help wonder about all stuff in the air. Some things we put there for our convenience (thought sometimes it’s inconvenient for others…) It’s all there for our taking. Like my own WiFi connection which I was planning on reconnecting to in a few moments. At my convenience.

Sadly I’m no technical buff, but I find technology immensely interesting. Whilst I can use WiFi and understand its basic principles, I don’t actually know how it really works – how does information get carried along a wave?

And how can a video be on pause on WiFi? Is the electromagnetic wave also on pause? Does it now stand stationary, or temporarily reduce it’s frequency from a number of gigahertz to zero, awaiting for my beck and call? Is my paused 40 minute video stored somewhere along a wave of a fixed length to hold the length of the film clip? What if I move my phone around in my lounge, would it encounter a different part of the em wave and I’d be watching a different part of the movie?

And this is just my paused video! What about all of the videos? Or the other information out there on the web? Other media, sound files, web pages, all kinds of things, all co-existing somewhere out there waiting for me to access them at any time I like. Things off the web even. Pick up a phone and you can start talking to anyone about anything you like. They’re all waiting for your call…

Frasier Crane - I'm listening!
Frasier Crane – I’m listening! (Image source: http://utbblogs.com/your-apps-are-listening/)

Is all of this information out there floating around waiting for me to access it?

Accessing time

Is this like eternalism, that all time is out there, waiting for us to access it? Can we choose which bit we’d like to access? Any moment, and we call it the present?

I suspect that in my WiFi reality, I’d request certain information, and that part wings it way over to me along optical fibers and WiFi airways. Much like when someone asks me to remember a specific moment and we can choose to ‘relive’ a certain part of our history.

I can’t remember which famous person said it, but someone had problems remembering his future, and I must admit that I suffer the same problem. (Notice the irony that I also can’t remember bits of the past too…). But I think dreaming comes quite close – we dream of brighter futures, for instance.

The land of nod

Those of us who remember our dreams often find that they are complete stories.

A colleague once told me that this is because our brains aren’t capable of producing a movie-like plot each and every night in real-time; when we dream we actually dream in snippets and our brains are clever enough to interpolate through the gaps (much like it’s able to recreate sight in our blind spot) to produce a seemingly continuous dream.

In this way, dreams might appear to span several days or even longer – a ‘dream feature’ alluded to in the movie “Inception” where time passes faster in dreams than in the real waking life.

In other words, when our brain joins the dots its net effect is to stretch out time.

The idea of stretching time isn’t so far-fetched – I expect that most of us have heard of time dilation, and further, I expect that we’ve all hit the snooze button on the alarm clock and been surprised at how quickly it goes off again. I know this: I never have enough time in bed!

If interpolation can stretch time can we somehow get to extrapolate it so that we can get into the future?

You are feeling sleepy…

Hypnotism - an alternative path to the land of nod
Hypnotism – an alternative path to the land of nod. Image source: www.guideopedia.com

Under hypnosis (a dodgy form of suggested dreaming) a person can allegedly transfer their point of view from one point in space to another, or to more accurately recall certain moments in their visible history. Once we find the temporal analogue to this then perhaps we can say that we’ve cracked eternalism.

Perhaps we’re already closer than we thought. “In 1996 a National Institutes of Health panel judged that hypnosis might help alleviate pain from cancer and other chronic conditions.” 😉 (emphasis added, source.)

Hmm, I think I’ll sleep on this…

Paul

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Review: Trespass by Mikey Campling

Mikey Campling’s “Trespass” has a “Darkeningstone” which affects people across the ages. The novel is very well written and builds layers of intrigue regarding the stone and its properties, but ultimately I couldn’t tell where the novel was heading.

It turns out that Trespass by Mikey Campling isn’t a time travel novel in itself, but rather operates across times thanks to the “Darkeningstone”.

By the end of the 260 pages we still know pretty much next to nothing about this stone and its powers, but there are a few hints through the novel that it may in some way transport characters or spirits across the ages. Trespass is the first in “The Darkeningstone” series, the second is “Outcast” and released only last summer. Book 3 is “Scaderstone Pit”, not yet released.

Trespass (Mikey Campling)

Trespass is set across three times; 3500 BC, 1939 and 2010. Each time has its unique set of characters, and I was very impressed with how the writing style remained unique in each period.

It kicks off in 2010 with Jake, a teenager who discovers the Darkeningstone in a disused quarry. It’s written in the first person and a very YA style complete with melodrama and Jake’s illogical way of thinking and drawing conclusions.

A chapter later we’re zoomed back to 3500 BC where the Darkeningstone is ‘created’ and where there’s mysticism with Burlic and Tellan. Trespass flits back and forth between these two times (actually, between each chapter) until about half way through when we visit quarry workers Vincent and Bob in 1939 who also stumble on the Darkeningstone in the quarry. Again, the writing relating to this time period is very different from the first two.

At first I was quite irritated with the flitting between the times. There are 74 chapters and between each of them we change time. Each chapter isn’t long enough to get really stuck in; the imagery hasn’t had time to come to life and empathy with characters hasn’t set in yet and then – SWOOSH! we’re whisked away to somewhere else.

After a while though I seemed to do a complete 180 on this! After all, it’s equally annoying to be stuck into a section and feel with characters and then – SWOOSH! get whisked away! Perhaps it’s that it took me a few chapter / character / time period changes before I grew accustomed to the rapid changes!

The downside though, was that I found each chapter ended with a strong prod to continue reading to see what happens. What did happen was another chapter in another time period to another group of characters before going full circle and picking things up where it left off. But because the chapter endings weren’t quite of cliff hanger material, new chapters started with a bit of a let down in comparison to what we may have been looking forward to reading.

However, I think the writing itself is very well done. Often, for example, a YA style of writing grates on my nerves because characters like Jake (or Sean in the Time Will Tell Series by Les Lynam) really rile me up. But that said, Mikey Campling writes with power in this arena. (This is especially impressive when you consider than within Trespass he writes in three very different styles…).

For example. The house I grew up in backed onto a thin strip of forest. It could have been nice but it wasn’t because behind it was a council estate. 1980’s Gorse Ride, I spit on you with contempt. It was rife with chavs and miscreants who dumped all kinds of crap into the woods. Later, the woods were knocked down so that old people’s houses were built on it. I remember feeling sorry for these old folks as they had no buffer between them and the gates of hell…until one crazy old man squirted water over the fence and at my mother who was gardening. I stopped feeling sorry for them then. But I remember my feelings of dread about those woods, but at the same time they had a certain enchanting mystery – a glimpse into how life was on the other side of humanity.

Mikey brought these feeling from 40 years ago right back with Jake’s feelings about being the the quarry and the “Brewer Boys” – presumably descendants from the Mr Brewer, the bullish quarry foreman from 1939.

Similarly, Mikey’s writing in the other two ages was just as powerful for me.

Despite excellent writing I thought the pacing was slow. There’s a build up of suspense where certain layers are added, but looking back…what actually did happen? When I look at the events, not much other than some scrabbling around in a quarry actually happened. And when things did start to happen, – SWOOSH! Stop, break, and another chapter.

Coupled with this is the direction of the plot. Everything leads to the Darkeningstone, but we never really find out anything about it. It affects people’s lives (mentioned in passing) but what more? In this sense it reminded me of The Mirror (Marlys Millhiser) which similarly had a lot of mystery surrounding it but we never find out anything concrete.

(Talking of comparisons to other works, I don’t think anyone will miss the similarity between a mysterious dark slab of stone in Trespass and the obelisk / conclusion in Arthur C. Clarke’s “Space Odyssey 2001”.)

The ending

The termination of Trespass is the downfall of this novel. After investing my time with 260 odd pages I wanted more more of a conclusion than Trespass offers. What it does, is just stops. *Growl*. At best, it stops in a similar semi-cliffhanger type of way that all of the previous chapters have concluded, but nothing deeper. A huge disappointment given the excellent writing beforehand.

Actually, the surprise in the ending is what happens after the ending; an Afterword with explanatory notes. I made a point not to read this until I’d drafted out this review, but when I did I was surprised.

I’m guessing that other readers have had similar thoughts about how Trespass ends because there’s a section in the Afterword explaining it, that it’s neither a cliff hanger nor (as I had suspected), a marketing technique – a lure to get us to read Book 2 to find out what happened next.

I think Mikey is right on both counts. I agree that this is no cliff hanger because it’s no more cliff like than the endings of previous chapters. And as a marketing technique it fails (for me) because I’m not tempted to read subsequent books for fear of a similar ending.

Mikey is also right in his third point which is that if there’s any disappointment it’s because we want to know what happens next. Yes, I’m bitterly disappointed, and yes I want to know what happens next! It’s what kept me turning the 260 pages. But the finish won’t make me turn any more.

The argument is given that the conclusion makes us think about what happens next. (Personally, I was caught somewhere between thinking Space Odyssey and “What the Hell?”). I appreciate books which make me think, but in this case I’m pretty much being left to think up an entire novel in order to close it.

Summary

All in all I enjoyed reading Trespass! It has a good writing style and I was really drawn in, but for me the end is its downfall. It really frustrates me because it makes me feel that I’ve wasted my time with a novel which doesn’t take me anywhere.

Paul

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Star ratings:
| 5* Excellent! | 4* Good | 3* OK | 2* Not good | 1* Crud |

Up and coming on time2timetravel

A quick overview of the things in store on time2timetravel – coming to a future near you!

I thought I’d do an “up and coming” kind of a post so you know what to expect in the not-too-distant future!

Author interview

Nathan Van Coops
Nathan Van Coops

After my recent review of The Day After Never author Nathan Van Coops has indicated that he’d like an author interview. I’ve got some good questions lined up for him so I’m looking forward to seeing his responses! I’ve read all 3 of his books in the “Time Like These” series. He incorporates some brilliant sci fi ideas, and his time travel methodology is superb. It’s laid out best in Book 2 (The Chronothon) which shows some real application of time travel; Book 3 is – well, Read my review! 😉

Nathan’s just finished a draft of his fourth novel, so in times like these he’s due for some busy times with edits and other authory things. We’ll just need to be patient for his answers…

Guest post

Last month I was very happy to receive a guest post from author Roy Huff about Time Travel Tropes. And now I’m also very excited about another upcoming guest post, this time from Gregory Taylor.

Time & Tied by Gregory Taylor

Greg has a degree in maths with a major in computer science and a minor in music, and whilst we’re still in discussion regarding the nature of his post, it’s looking like it may be a look into time travel concepts.

Greg has a huge interest in time travel and has has a serial story (“Time and Tied”) where teenagers discover a time machine. Whilst we’re waiting for his article, why not take a look at his website or facebook page which explains more about it.

(Aside: Let’s connect!)

I’m always happy to connect with other time travel enthusiasts, so if you’d like to write a guest post for time2timetravel then please do drop me a line as I’d love to hear from you! Likewise, if there’s a feature that you’d like to see then please let me know!

Book reviews

The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to read The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett to my eldest daughter. The Guttersnipes involves a stolen dinosaur and a time trek to 1850’s New York. My daughter’s first question, before we even opened the pages, was “Why didn’t the dinosaur just use his horns to stop being kidnapped?”.

She’s not really old enough to be in the YA target audience so it took us 20 minutes to do just 2 pages a couple of nights ago. She asks a lot of questions, but I take that as a good sign! The problem though, isn’t the continual question asking (or my (in)ability to answer them). It’s that last night she asked for more crap from Roald Dahl’s “The BFG” – the irritatingly linguistically and grammatically challenged big friendly giant.

By necessity I translate from arguably the original Yoda-speak to English. And get rid of all these nonsense made up words that Dahl loves to inject into his stories. (There are enough of those in Dutch! 😉 ) I’m sick of it, and I want to get back to The Guttersnipes which (admittedly after only 2 pages…) has a smooth and gentle writing style!

Trespass by Mikey Campling

At my own reading pace I’m halfway through Mikey Campling’s Tresspass. Now this is turning out to be an interesting one! I’m not sure if time travel is yet to make a distinct ‘appearance’ but there are lots of linkages across time, and besides…I’m enjoying it!

Stand by for my review, and like Scott, Mikey has also indicated that he’d be interested in an interview! 🙂

A riddle to close

Last night I watched the Hobbit (Part 1) which I suppose is loosely based on the book of the same name by J. R. R. Tolkien. In the movie Gollum poses a riddle to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. If Bilbo cannot solve the riddle then Gollum stands to win the coveted prize of eating Bilbo. I have no such prize to offer you, but can you solve Gollum’s riddle?

This thing all things devours;
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats mountain down.

Paul

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Review: The Day After Never (Nathan Van Coops)

Reading The Day After Never (by Nathan Van Coops) is like folding raspberry jam through ice cream. Parts seem immiscible at first, but by the end of the novel you realise that it comes together to make it a really cool novel!

The Series

The Day After Never is Nathan Van Coops’ third novel, following In Times Like These and The Chronothon.

The Day After Never (Nathan Van Coops) book cover
The Day After Never (Nathan Van Coops) book cover

I read these novels in all the wrong order (Book 2, Book 1 then Book 3) and I’m happy to confirm Nathan’s statements at the start of each novel that whilst they’re connected they can be read independently from each other.

When I read The Chronothon I was able to pick up easily the brilliantly thought out time travel methodology. Coming to The Day After Never with over 2 years between reads was a little more difficult for the first few chapters, and I’m going to blame that on my ageing and failing memory, but indeed, the gravitite particles, chronometers, anchor points, etc…ah yes, it’s all coming back now like an old friend! 🙂

What about the rest of it?

Writing style

The story telling style, like with Books 1 and 2 is first person (so like The Time Machine) but the elegant twist is that it’s done in the present tense. I like this – it makes me feel that I’m right by Ben (the main protagonist) and seeing events through his eyes ‘live’.

Well, I say “first person” and I say “live”, but these are debatable terms…

The Day After Never is effectively told from 2 points of view but from the same person (Ben) who’s in two differing states of ‘being’. There’s the Ben in the “Neverwhere” (where time doesn’t exist) and the Ben in real life. The lines cross at times with varying amounts of interaction (actually reference is made to this in The Chronothon) but they’re not quite interlaced and woven together as a single fine fabric as much as an itchy woolly jumper covers a T-shirt.

Many novels drop into the time travel genre simply because certain aspects of it are told from the point of view from a character from another time period. We get this In Times Like These, The Chronothon and here in The Day After Never because they’re told in first person through Ben’s eyes, but the series sits more firmly within the time travel genre because we have a good solid dose of time travel with methodology and paradoxes. Where The Chronothon gives us a good set of time travel nuts and bots and different time periods, The Day After Never gives us an additional insight into differing times through Tucket.

Tucket’s from the future and finds it exciting to be in the present. He displays high levels of enthusiasm and exuberance and coupled with his taste in clothing it’s a joy to read about him! The icing on the Tucket cake is his thoughts and opinions about modern day culture which give us a nice glimpse into the future. In my humble opinion, Tucket is the star of the show, and in a sense, the unsung hero. Keep an eye on Tucket, everyone!

And of course there’s Benjamin Travers. Ben to his friends. Sometimes even “Dip Shit Ben” to those same friends…

Ben

I’ll come right out with it. Despite being a real fan of Ben in The Chronothon, my feelings about him have completely changed in in The Day After Never. He’s turned into a complete @rse; he certainly seems to be different from how I remember him.

As far as I can tell, The Day After Never picks up 2 weeks since the end of The Chronothon so I don’t really expect him to change in this time. But he has. He’s less of a nice guy and more selfish and less patient with others. Oddly I was reminded of my teenage years. When my mates got girlfriends they became @rses. (You know that song “When a man loves a woman // turn his back on his best friend”) and then be best buddies again when things went tits up. Is Ben like this, turning into a jerk now that he’s got the girl?

This might be the clue. The Ben who’s with Mym now is not the Ben who did stuff in the chronothon. Is this why he’s different? Is he miserable, or feeling undeserving to get the girl?

As it is, Ben’s friends don’t seem to notice the change in him. You know the popular guy in the bar with all the friends and who has it all? He wins competitions and has an intelligent and beautiful girlfriend. The one who gets on with everyone – except you? Meet Ben.

He’s not the positive and optimistic Ben of The Chronothon. He moans about cat videos on the internet; when he’s asked about new technology we read:

“I just stare back at him. “Has it got googly-moogly what now?” ”

He’s incredibly impatient with Tucket and he barely opens up to Mym. I’m very hard pressed to accept that this is the same Ben. This character mutilation is made all the worse when we find out that there are many versions of him; we’ve even got a “Dip Shit Ben” and a “Crazy Benny” (though admittedly these are Bens from alternate time lines).

Thankfully, by the time the plot gets going and Ben is thrust into action, he reverts back to his usual good natured self. Maybe he’s just the kind of guy who does best under pressure.

The Neverwhere

Along-side the Ben in real life, we have the Ben in the Neverwhere. The Neverwhere is a place outside of time and where at best there’s a tenuous connection with the real world.

In a sense it’s some sort of Matrix analogue – it’s too difficult for the mind to see so the mind hangs onto its memories. Once the mind has a better perspective then the Neverwhere can be seen for what it really is. Nathan has clearly spent a tremendous amount of time in constructing the Neverwhere and the physics / philosophies that lie within it. Indeed, Ben needs time to learn how it works (for example how to move from time to time or moving through memories) as well as coming to terms with being there in the first place.

It’s this learning curve which is the making and downfall of the Neverwhere. At first the Neverwhere was interesting in comparison to a slow start with ‘real’ Ben because we’re also learning how things work. When things with real Ben pick up, the Neverwhere continues slow and steady. Ben’s actions are primarily driven by his questions, but essentially there’s so much introspection that at times it got monotonous. In comparison with the real version of events this made the Neverwhere a dull hiatus to plough through.

Then again, I suppose that’s the thing with Neverwhere.

The plot

I was well over 100 pages in and the plot still wasn’t clear to me. (It reminded me of In Times Like These which for the first 7 chapters were so incredibly slow I gave up. Luckily I was persuaded to push through, and indeed things picked up to make a pretty decent novel out of the remaining chapters.) Ben in Neverwhere was there but didn’t know why, how, or what to do, and irritating Ben in reality was squawking about after an attack at one of Dr Quickly’s labs and they’re off to see what happened. Perhaps as in real life, once something happened to Ben’s girlfriend then things started moving.

And this is when the groundwork laid out in the early chapters pays off. Ben is back to being Ben, we see more time travel jumps, and there’s tension in the plot which keeps us turning those pages. I’ve already mentioned Tucket through whom we get some ideas about the future, but written within the story are some more brilliant sci fi ideas.

My favourite is metaspace – a virtual reality overlay accessed in real time which opens up a whole new world. Nathan doesn’t leave it there – he incorporates technology required to support and be supported by metaspace and training programs. Space elevators, underwater complexes, synths (synthetic humans), the novel is rife with juicy ideas! I really enjoyed a section of the novel set in Nyongo in 2165 where we see a social structure working around and against the cultural and technological norms of the time.

Where The Chronothon had Ben playing some clever time travel tricks, The Day After Never doesn’t lend itself easily to Ben’s aptitude in this arena. But we do see some clever time loops being integrated into the plot where I think many other authors would have been more cautious and shied away.

Nathan clearly has an army of movies and novels in his arsenal, and we see references and influences of these in his writing. Subjectively I didn’t care for some of them, but for many I did. There’s a brilliant quote about a place which was “…more Star Wars than Star Trek”! 🙂

Every Rose has its Thorn

Despite my earlier comments about a slow start in reality and Ben being a pillock, I have no general overall problem – these points are more than made up with subsequent pacing, other characters (and change of character). But I do have a couple of negative thoughts about The Day After Never.

The first is the rock bottom basic story line which is basically a Harry Potter-ish rehash. And like many of J. K. Rowling’s ideas, this one can be found in countless other novels and movies as well. It’s just not very original, and given the volume and depth of Nathan’s sci fi ideas it’s a huge disappointment.

The saving grace is that it’s buried deep within a multitude of sub plots and secondary story lines so in practical terms it doesn’t really matter.

My second point is similarly small, though perhaps with greater ramifications. There’s an attempt to explain a Biblical occurrence using time travellers. To be clear, I’m not getting all grumpy because I’m a Christian and don’t like this sort of thing (actually the opposite – I like questioning stuff!) My gripe is again the lack of originality. Wiggling in religious reminded me of The Accidental Time Machine (Joe Haldeman) who also crow-barred in an unnecessary religious angle.

I suppose I should just be thankful that there wasn’t a crass attempt at solving the JFK assassination. And anyway, to be fair, a page or so later and the incident was gone.

In closing

This is best summed up as H O L L Y W O O D. It’s got more cheese than a Dutch street market, and is as predictable as the knowledge that the vendor is going to do his best to overcharge you – and make you feel good about it. And as a father of two little girls I was dismayed beyond belief with how things stood between Mym and her father at the end. But I suppose it works.

Thankfully there are two saving graces. The first is something that we should expect from the moderator of the Goodreads time travel group – the closing of multiple loose ends and avoidance of paradoxes. In some cases I didn’t even realise that there were any loose ends! I think this is simple author downright honesty. Seemingly meaningless actions in Book 1 are revisited, and it’s expertly done! I’m sure some other authors would simply let these things fly.

And finally, the closing scene between Ben and Mym. Sheer beauty! Ben is back to being the Ben from the chronothon times, and the way that these characters interact is crafted masterfully. For me, this is almost the crux of a blimming good time travel novel – hints of methodology, possibility, destiny and mystery. It’s all there in the last few pages, and brings the novel to a beautiful conclusion.

Rating * * * * *

On a time travel footing, The Day After Never gets the full 5 stars. It continues with a solid and consistent time travel methodology and pays great attention to paradoxes. I really like the time loops, and the fantastic feast of futuristic features more than makes up for the slow start and an irritating (at first) main character.

More please Nathan!

Paul

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Author Interview: Les Lynam (Time Will Tell)

In this author interview Les Lynam tells us how he reacts when his mother in law sums up his first time travel novel as “weird”. I didn’t think so – what did Les make of it?

Les Lynam’s offering to the world of time travel is his “Time Will Tell” series. Comprising …Before You Leap, Saves Nine and In One Basket this series is written for the YA audience but has plenty of sci fi (and time travel) packed in for the fully fledged adult!

Les Lynam
Les Lynam

Les once mentioned to me in an email that he was “…old enough to be the main character’s grandfather”. This might be true; he didn’t say anything about being a 5 times great grandfather! 😉

Interview with Les Lynam (Time Will Tell)

Les, many thanks for giving us your time!

…Before You Leap, Saves Nine and In One Basket are titled with expressions, as well as your joint venture with Tim Hemlin and Chess Desalls (“A Friend in Need”). What made you think of titling your novels in this way?

Book cover for Before you Leap by Les Lynam
…Before You Leap

Les: When I initially started writing this series, the first title that came to me was A Stitch in Time. This came from my overall imagining of time as a giant tapestry that needed a little ‘repair’, thus the stitching. I discovered there were already several books titled A Stitch in Time and I wanted to be a bit more unique.

Saves Nine by Les Lynam
…Saves Nine

That prompted Saves Nine, which I decided was probably beyond cryptic to most readers. I hoped that by tossing in the ellipses it would prompt the reader to supply the missing part. I’m still not sure whether many are putting it together. The other titles are also well-worn adages, (Look)…Before You Leap, and (Don’t put all your eggs)…In One Basket.

In One Basket by Les Lynam
…In One Basket

I’m currently working on book four of the series, tentatively entitled …Just Before the Dawn. Each of the missing parts of the phrase has something to do with the story plot of that book. I think I was hoping for more of a ‘I see what you did there’ reaction than what I appear to be getting. Perhaps the phrases aren’t as well-worn and widely known as I had anticipated.

The Time Will Tell Series is written for Young Adults, yet has a feast of sci fi ideas, of which time travel is just one. And within the realm of time travel, many complicated aspects are dealt with. Why did you choose to write for the YA audience in a genre which is more usually associated with adult readers? Would you change anything if you were to write this series for adults instead of for YAs?

Les: As I began this journey to redefine myself as a writer, I think the best advice I got was to write the book that I wanted to read, so I don’t know if it is accurate to say I “chose to write for the YA audience”. That may also be the thing that trips me up the most in the area of trying to market these books. Personally, I’ve never liked anyone’s attempt to pigeonhole me (as a person) and I think that carries over to my writing. I suppose because my stories are suitable for the younger reader and feature teenaged characters, that plops it into the YA category, but I think I’ve found more readers who are well above their teens who enjoy my style. I’m not sure what changes would be required to consider these novels as adult reads. Violence? Gratuitous sex? Swearing? Since I don’t particularly enjoy reading stories that feature those things, I don’t think I could effectively write them. Two of my favorite 20th Century authors are Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein. They both wrote sci-fi considered to be separated into either juvenile or adult categories. I’ve read nearly all of Heinlein’s works and I don’t see that any of his adult works are inappropriate for the younger set. His juvenile works are perhaps a bit more simplistic, but enjoyable reads for the adult. I guess I’m not very good at drawing a line and sorting ideas as either juvenile or adult.

The two main characters in the Time Will Tell series are Sean and Alex. I must admit that I didn’t like Sean as a person; I found him whiny and irritating. For me, Alex (and his other personas) is the real star of the show! Did you have any ideas about the readership that Alex would appeal to whilst you were writing?

Les: That has possibly been one of my biggest surprises. I didn’t think Alex would be anyone’s favorite character. I was afraid his instant access to information would make him seem like an annoying know-it-all. I also thought his overly complex (and wordy) language might be off-putting. I pictured him as being read more like Star Trek’s Vulcans (Spock, Tuvak) or android (Data), but I’m getting comments back that compare him to Sheldon Cooper. It’s fascinating how different people have different perspectives.

Sean often asks pointed questions to Alex who seemingly ducks the question by offering a different or unexpected solution. Jane also noticed this and asked Alex whether everyone from the 23rd Century avoids questions or whether it’s just him. Was this a deliberate approach to keep us in Sean’s confusion, or are there deeper level answers in your world building?

Les: The biggest struggle Alex has with the 20th Century is with everyone openly expressing emotions. At the hint of any question that even remotely probes his emotional side, he’s going to deflect it. He accepts that the logical and scientific basis of his 23rd Century life is the way humans should behave, but has his own personal struggles. Immersion into the barbaric 20th Century culture makes it that much more difficult for him to deny his own feelings. He’s also trained as a chrono-historian and has been warned of the dangers of revealing the future to anyone in the past, so that’s another area he will deflect when questioned. This side of him breaks down more quickly than the logic vs. emotion side.

I was really impressed that Alex doesn’t use technology when there are simple solutions instead. This seems to go against the current norm where people use technology for the most simple of tasks (e.g. using a calculator instead of employing mental arithmetic; using a messaging app to talk to your friend sitting next to you on the train, etc.). Do you think Alex’s approach to problem solving might prevail in the future?

Les: I don’t know. I suspect my answer is also going to be swayed by a series I’m currently reading. It’s the Free Trader series by Craig Martelle. To quickly sum up, the story takes place on Cygnus VII in a post-apocalyptic world in 400-year recovery from a war that the ancient Earth colonists waged against opposing idealists who’d settled in various parts of the world. All humans were nearly destroyed, but the survivors were forced to survive in primitive conditions. I would equate the level of civilization to be similar to 19th-century American frontier. The protagonist discovers a hidden bunker of ‘old tech’ and tries to make sense of it all. As he becomes more familiar with it, he begins to fear that adopting ‘old tech’ in his current world might again lead to war.

But that aside doesn’t really answer your question (other than possibly setting my frame of mind). I always loved gadgets in sci-fi and am sometimes amazed at how many of them came into being in my own lifetime. The flip-phone was certainly an amazing realization of the 60’s Star Trek communicators (which now seem quaint by the smartphone standard). Alexa and Siri certainly seem to be on track with the voice activated computer on the Enterprise (even have a more ‘human’ voice than what Majel Barrett supplied). I think your question might be hinting at the idea of whether we use new tech because it is a better way to perform a certain task, or just because it’s a ‘cool’ way to perform a task.

If I could take a moment to focus just on telecommunication. I discovered while reading books written in the early 20th Century that people would use the telephone to call someone to schedule an appointment to talk (face to face) and not use it to simply hold that conversation. In my own childhood (in the 50s and 60s) my aunt lived in Arizona and a telephone call to her brother in Iowa (my dad) was a monumental occasion. Well into my adulthood, non-local calling (long distance) was billed separately and quite the expense. In 2017 if your phone plan doesn’t include free international calling, you can always get around it with Skype. The first mobile phones were expensive and about the shape and weight of a brick, now they are pocket-sized (although there seems to be some trend to have larger and larger screens). Millenials seem to eschew vocal conversations, which I find baffling, as inflections of a person’s voice is a considerable layer of communication that goes missing. But I guess that’s what emojis are for. I think I’ll quit here before I sound too curmudgeonly, but the point is: as the technology evolves, the layers that are useful remain and the fluff layers that are ‘cool’ drop away.

Alex recognises David Bowie as a genius composer from a retrospective viewpoint. How would Alex react if he experienced one of his live performances, and then later to be present in January 2016 amongst the news surrounding Bowie’s death?

Les: I don’t think he really has a reaction. ALL of the people alive in 2016 are dust in the 23rd century, so all events are historic. Though he struggles with his emotional side (keeping it in check, as he was raised to believe was the correct response to emotions), I don’t think he would have an appreciable reaction to Bowie’s death. Neither do I think he would attend a live performance unless he had set it up as an historical study of some type.

The first law of time travel in the Time Will Tell series is not to change history. Sean and Alex struggle – and come to terms – with this in different ways. How easy would it be for you to break this law?

Les: As someone who’s been fascinated by the idea of time-travel (for close to a half-century now) I think that for me, personally, to be willing to change the past would be more on the personal level and I’d be unlikely to change anything major. One of my older sisters died at the age of 28. I think if I had an opportunity to change that, I wouldn’t have to think about it. It would be done. Growing up during the cold war era (when I was certain the world would go up in a nuclear fireball at any moment), I think I’d totally shy away from any changes that could have any impact on a large scale. Would I warn JFK not to go to Dallas, or at least to ride in a covered vehicle. No. The times were too skittish. The world may have been a better place with him spending 8 years in the White House, or he could have somehow brought about a situation that led to mankind’s destruction. Too risky. Not going to touch it.

Going back another generation. Surely removing Hitler from the world before he came to power (or in the early days) would be a good idea. No. I’d stay away from that one, too. Hitler made stupid emotional decisions about bombing Great Brittain that a more clever strategist may have not made. And then there’s always the possibility that with no Hitler, Joseph Stalin would have conquered Europe. Nope. I wouldn’t change any major events.

Nanites are a brilliant implementation of technology into the biological realm. Would you take an injection of nanites if they were available?

Les: If we’re talking about the level that we see used in my stories, probably. Certainly the diagnostics and simple repairs would be the main drawing point. The caveat, of course, is wrapped in privacy issues. Who has access? My doctor? Does he share it with anyone? Is it hackable? What can we do to keep the government out of it? I think we are entering an era where the idea of an individual living a ‘private’ life is going to be constantly challenged.

Sean is credited with a good imagination because he’s into scifi. I noticed many references in the Time Will Tell series to various scifi novels and movies. Are you an older version of Sean (and in which case, I apologise to your younger self for calling him whiny and irritating!) – is this a good reflection on yourself?

Les: I think all of my characters show at least SOME facet of my own life. Although I say they are ‘imagined’ characters, I’m sure my subconscious builds them from myself as well as people that I’ve known throughout the years as well as fictional characters that I’ve enjoyed either in books or TV or movies. I think the most positive aspect that Sean reflects from me is problem-solving. When presented with a challenge, his brain naturally looks for avenues to a solution. Was I whiney and irritating as a teen? I don’t know. Maybe we should ask my older sister (she’ll probably read this, once it’s published).

Paul: Note to Les’ sister: Feel free to share that in the comments! 😉

I’ve seen that you frequently ask your Facebook fans for their opinion on book covers, blurbs, etc.. To what extent do you take their comments on board and incorporate them into your work?

Les: Putting anything out there for public scrutiny is always a risk. On the positive side, I’ve gotten some very helpful feedback, but I’ve also found some comments to be (to me) totally disconnected from what I’m trying to say. My undergraduate degree was in mass-communications, but the world has morphed mightily since then. The return channel of communication is hugely broader than anything envisioned back in the day. I think I’ve finally learned that the best response to a ‘you suck and you’re an idiot’ comment is to recognize the level of intellect it takes to make such remarks and stay away from engaging as if they were an intelligent being. Facebook would be a much quieter place if more people learned that. Specifically with the covers, I think a lot of what I implemented in changes depended on how well I knew the person commenting and how well I thought that person understood the concept of what I was trying to convey. Ultimately, there are aspects of multiple suggestions that are opposed to each other. At some point, I have to pick sides when the proposals are incompatible with each other. Overall, I think it’s been a helpful experience.

I noticed that you mentioned that your mother-in-law described your first novel as “weird”. How did you react?

weird science
weird science

Les: That one was easy to shrug off. I knew she mainly read (voraciously) Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Debbie Macomber, Daniel Steel, etc. I suspect that the Venn diagram of Romance Readers (red) and Sci-Fi readers (blue) would have a tiny section of overlap (purple). And really, ‘weird’ has been a Sci-Fi word for a long time.

How did you react when you found out that Marilyn Monroe and Elvis had been spotted with your novels?

Marilyn reads Les Lynam's Time Will Tell series!

Elvis - time till tell, baby!

Les: Naturally it made me curious. I had to do an extensive search to try to piece together how a book published in the 21st Century made an appearance with Elvis (circa 1950s). It must be that Elvis either IS or KNEW a time-traveler. It was kind of him to pass it around, I thought. I wonder what kind of deal Nixon tried to pull when he gave the book back to Elvis.

You can follow Les on his website, Facebook page and Twitter (@LesLynamSFAuth).

Review: Before you Leap by Les Lynam

Review of …Saves Nine and …In One Basket

https://www.time2timetravel.com/review-saves-nine-in-one-basket-les-lynam/

Paul

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Time Travel Tropes

Ever wondered how a time travel author writes a trope satisfying novel and deals with those pesky time travel paradoxes? Author Roy Huff explains!

I hope it’s clear that time2timetravel is all about time and time travel, but what’s not so clear is whether time travel is possible. There’s a lot of research into it, and an immense amount of discussion, but one thing is for sure: time travel is real enough in the sense that it exists in the imagination – and therefore work – of many authors who use time travel in one form or another across many disciplines.

Whether someone travels across time to find the love of their life, or they find themselves in another era with another culture or viewpoint, or that we enter into the realm of the nuts and bolts of just how characters can time travel anyway, authors have found a multitude of ways and settings to bring time travel to us and bring it, in a sense, closer to reality.

And this is why I’m always very happy to read time travel novels, and especially to be in contact with authors who charge themselves with this delivery of time travel technology. In the few author interviews I’ve done here and on Time Travel Nexus I’ve been been very lucky to have had behind the scenes glimpses of what it’s like to craft a time travel novel.

Author Roy Huff
Author Roy Huff

Personally, one feature which sets time travel apart from many other interesting areas in science fiction are the time travel paradoxes, and indeed, these can pose many problems for time travel authors.

So I’m really excited to present this article by author Roy Huff (pictured left) who shares his views on just how to deal with those pesky time travel paradoxes when using time travel in a fiction novel.

Time Travel Tropes

(by Roy Huff)

How to handle the paradox? A great question. A trope satisfying yet unique perspective on time travel doesn’t have to vex science fiction writers (or readers). I love all aspects of time travel, and I do enjoy a good paradox now and again, but I’ve come up with a way to work completely around it.

How to handle the paradox?

Most people might think time travel is impossible because of the paradox. And while I’ve seen certain books, like Split Second, allow for limited paradoxes, I don’t think they exist. I think it’s the trope itself that keeps authors including them in stories.

My two time travel projects are a book and a time travel blog. The book avoids the paradox by co-opting M-theory and the concept of the branching universe. I won’t go too in-depth with my plot other than to say it’s a unique perspective, which I haven’t seen done before. I combine several tropes I know readers are dying to read in a way that loosely follows science.

My Time Travel Diaries project is completely different. I write a daily journal from the perspective of Bobbie Raiser, a researcher from the near future who meets himself and has to journey back to the past.

It’s an interesting pantser style project that hasn’t been fully fleshed out, and I’m writing as I go. I’ll most likely introduce the possibility of a paradox but may co-opt the branching universe theory as well. I’ll have to see where the story takes me.

I don’t think it’s necessary to always explicitly state the mechanism for time travel or even address the idea of the paradox, but there are certain theories that could be conducive to one, such as retrocausality. While I’ll employ M-theory and exotic wormholes to allow for splitting timelines, fiction allows me to play God. And I have to admit, I have fun doing it.

As for the business of writing, I’ve struggled with transforming my method from marathon writer to daily writer. That’s born out of necessity as a teacher. It’s easy to pound out fourteen-hour forty-page days during my long vacations, but life gets in the way if you’re not inspired or have other pressing concerns. For that reason, I’ve added forty-minute writing sprints in the morning before work that let’s me put down around 1,000 words.

I am more of a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants) than a plotter, but I’m trying to be more deliberate in my plotting. The reason is I want to write faster. I currently pen around six pages an hour on average, but that’s when I have somewhere to go. I don’t need too much detail, but a basic outline is helpful. The other reason is that I want to give the reader what they want and work on character development.

I’ve recently taken up several personal habits to force myself to write daily and do other tasks earlier in the day. I’ve built a routine and anchored my habits around those routines so the writing, marketing, and other necessary tasks are completed instinctively.

I recommend Mini Habits by Stephen Guise and the Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. I’ve also given up radio during my commute in favor of podcasts (I love EOFire by John Lee Dumas) and audiobooks. I’ve developed a daily fiction reading habit, and I read articles and books on improving my writing every single day.

Next, I plan on increasing my involvement in science fiction and writer forums to interact more with readers and fellow lovers of science fiction and fantasy.

To aspiring writers, I recommend any of Chris Fox’s books like 5,000 Words Per Hour and Write to Market. I would also suggest reaching out to other authors in your niche with specific questions and advice on how to become a better writer, marketer, and for basic mentoring.

Thank you for having me, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on Time Travel Diaries. I’m most active on Twitter (@evervillefans) but you can also find me on Goodreads and Facebook. For those interested, I’m offering an exclusive gift, the first five journal entries to the Time Travel Diaries as well as a $250 Amazon Gift card promotion on my website.

Roy Huff, MS, MAEd

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Strapped For Time

It seems to me that we’re obsessed with time enough as it is, and by putting on watches we’re strapping ourselves to time even more literally! We want more degrees of temporal freedom – but there’s a paradox…

As time travel fans we often feel the need to understand the nature of time so that we can have an idea of how we can travel through it. Or scramble out of the River of Time and splash back into it at another time / location. Or some other way of bypassing time’s normal flow or passage.

However, the precise nature of time seems to elude us. Qualitatively, it’s unclear, but in some ways time travel is more concerned with its quantitative nature – how much of it there is. Indeed, it seems a logical prerequisite that in order to verify time travel we need a means of its measurement.

But why the clock?

Are we as time travel enthusiasts different from others when we obsess about one of the 4 dimensions? I don’t think so, especially when we consider that often we look more at the measurement of time rather than at time itself – how many time travel sites and authors use the image of a clock as an icon (ahem…look at the favicon of this site! 😉 )

Other sites obsess over other dimensions and units of measure: health and fitness, weight loss (mass). Holidays and travel (temperature, distance), 18+ sites (size, proportions, not just linear, but their differentials (curves…)).

Of course – I’d argue that the dimension of time trumps the lot – it’s intrinsic to our state of being; when we talk about the meaning of life (love) we talk (and sing) about our hearts beating as one. Our heart defines our natural rhythm, “the old ticker”.

An obsession with clocks and watches

It seems to me that we’re obsessed with time enough as it is. From the moment the alarm clock goes off in the morning to when our body clocks alert us through some biological means that we’re tired and that we’ve had enough awake time, we depend on time.

By putting on watches we’re strapping ourselves to time. We catch the commuter train at a specific time (allegedly – bar delays and cancellations) to take us to work which begins (note: not ends…) at a set time. Meetings are scheduled to start at a set time – and we righteously become aggrieved when those meetings demand more time from us than originally allocated.

Everything is run by time. Einstein is quoted as saying that “the only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once”. Makes sense.

One handed watch
Would it make a difference if it was 3:41 or 3:42? Image courtesy: https://www.slow-watches.com/

I have a friend who showed me a watch he’d received as a gift from his wife – a special watch which at first I thought was faulty because it only had one hand! It turns out that’s its special feature!

Having only an hour hand means that he’s not tied to time – always watching the minutes and seconds and using them to dictate his life. He’s got a greater degree of freedom by vanquishing such precision – more room, more time for movement. He knows it’s around 2 pm, or somewhere between 2 and 3 pm.

Whilst such a watch won’t help me catch my train (though I suspect I’m sure that many train drivers use such a watch) I love the idea! Not being tied to time, not literally strapping ourselves to it and enjoying a certain kind of freedom! Surely it’s a better way to truly live in the present and to seize the day!

And when the day’s over? We turn to bed and sleep; our minds are untangled from time and we enter a place – the land of nod – where as the movie “Inception” reminds us, time flows at a different rate, or indeed, exhibits an entirely different behaviour than in our normal waking hours.

The paradox

Seems to be a paradox that we wish to free ourselves of time in some way, and perhaps this is one of the key drivers for a desire to time travel. Yet at the same time, in order to time travel we need to be keenly aware of time…

Paul

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Time’s Arrow

“The Arrow Paradox” and “Time’s Arrow” work in space and time respectively and each have limitations. Can they be reconciled to allow time travel?

Seen the movie?

When I watched “Clock Anti-clock” by Deepak Sharma (Paragravity Films) it made me think about an altered state of physics.

Just last week I stumbled upon a description of the “Arrow Paradox” (sometimes called “Fletcher’s Paradox”) which is a much more succinct way of putting what I think I was trying to get over!

In my earlier post there was a snapshot of a plane in flight. A photo, or snap shot, is independent of time because time is essentially reduced to zero duration. I made the point that physics must be behaving differently if there’s no time; the plane which we see in the photo is stationary in the air. Velocity is a function of time (and there’s no time in a snap shot), and with no speed there can be no lift.

Plane doesn't fall
Plane remains in air with no lift

With no lift the plane must fall (OK, admittedly this would be a velocity, or a reaction to the force of gravity (acceleration – another function of time)), but we don’t see that happening (or expect it). We assume that the plane will continue to carry on its original flight path.

Now read the theory

The Arrow paradox follows a similar argument, using an arrow in flight as an example, and ultimately concludes that motion is impossible. It’s a clever argument – but flawed because we know that motion through space is possible.

Mix and retreat

You’ve probably seen the link coming a mile off – The Arrow of Time and the Arrow Paradox.

The Arrow of Time is a basic model of time which says that time can ‘move’ only in one direction. There’s a brilliant video describing it here:

But does having a limitation on (the direction of) motion sound familiar? 😉

I’ve noticed that many authors play the H.G.Wells ‘trick’ and twist the space and time dimensions around when it comes to conjuring up a method for time travel. And I must admit that I have also played around with a few ideas in the past wondering that if space and time can be considered equal in terms of dimension then by space’s analogy we can think up some interesting temporal counterparts.

But I was interested to read a statement by Arthur Stanley Eddington (this is the astronomer who came up with the concept of Time’s Arrow):

“I shall use the phrase ‘time’s arrow’ to express this one-way property of time which has no analogue in space.” – Arthur Stanley Eddington

What does this mean for us then? That time is bound to a single direction whereas this isn’t true in space? I suppose this is nothing new – it’s our base position because it fits in with our everyday experience in life. We can walk to the bar, have a drink, and walk back home again. But we can’t go back in time and wish we hadn’t got into that bar fight.

Maybe the clue isn’t in the direction of travel within a dimension, but in exploring the number of dimensions. Space has 3 (“length”, “width” and “height” – which I’ll label here as “X”,”Y” and “Z” respectively) and Time has one (“time” – let’s call it “T”.)

Even if we move along only the X axis in space, we know that movement along Y and Z is also possible. These are at right angles to X and effectively constitute a move into imaginary space. And if that’s possible then moving in a negative direction is child’s play.

With time it’s different. Having only one temporal dimension means that we’re restricted to movement only within that dimension along that one axis (and apparently, only along one direction).

Given that string theory is able to come up with as many as 26 dimensions this seems a little unfair! How come time only has one?

According to superstringtheory.com time was introduced by Einstein as a dimension “…to describe an event in spacetime” – in other words, so that things can move (in space) and happen at a given time. Or in Einstein’s own words (possibly…) “…the reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”

Of course, I’m not one to argue with Einstein (because that would require a working time machine… 😉 ) but I’d like to question his empirical approach where he’s constructed a set of parameters which describe what we have. Is there space (or time, *giggle*) to keep searching within string theory to find another temporal dimension?

Being at the back of the list, number 27, I expect it’s going to be tricky one to find. But that’s the thing when it comes to finding the secret of time travel, isn’t it? 😉

A (Re)call to View

Time’s Arrow dictates that we cannot go backwards in time the same way that we can in space. This of course assumes that we can go backwards in space – though I’m sure that physics would take a funny turn…

Meanwhile, here’s the link to “Clock Anti-Clock”. If you recall, I mentioned this movie at the start of this post. Memory? Isn’t that the only way we can currently go back in time? 😉 (see header image!)

Enjoy! 🙂

Paul

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Review: Saves Nine and In One Basket by Les Lynam

These second and third instalments in the Time Will Tell series are a pretty decent novel version of the situation played out in the Back to the Future movie where a teenager battles for his own existence. Some parts are slow, but prepare yourself for some fantastic time travel features!

Review: Saves Nine and In One Basket by Les Lynam

This review is for …Saves Nine and …In One Basket by Les Lynam, Books 2 and 3 respectively in the Time Will Tell series for young adults.

Saves Nine by Les Lynam
…Saves Nine

The first book, “…Before You Leap” introduces us to Sean Kelly and his five times great grandson, Alex. These latter additions to the series are effectively a single story in 2 novel-length parts.

I should mention that I read these latter books back-to-back, though after a four book break from the first.

In One Basket by Les Lynam
…In One Basket

What strikes me with these latter novels is that although they are separate from Book 1, they are integrated well. Additional books in a series often start with a clear link to later sections of earlier books to remind readers that they’re reading something in a series. …Saves Nine refers to events in …Before You Leap which happen well within the novel. It gives me the impression that Les has things mapped out over the series from the outset rather than trying to cash in or extend on a successful first novel.

(I’m assuming it’s successful – it should be!)

Storm in a Teacup

Storm in a teacup
Image credit: www.wantafunfair.com

Plots or novels are often referred to as taking a reader on a roller coaster. I’d describe my journey with …Saves Nine and …In One Basket as more of an eccentric spin in the tea cups; stationary for one instant, and then flung in high velocity in the next, to come screeching back to a halt again a split second later.

In short – the pacing is all over the place, made worse with long chapters with divisions and breaks in strange places. Sometimes it’s a feature of the writing style – time outs with diary entries, conversations with Steffi etc., and other times it’s more integral to the plot.

To be fair, many of the slow parts are necessary. For example, a long dragged out conversation over breakfast lasts for several pages, but it is during this conversation that we learn about the trust that one character has with another. Other events bring realism into the novel or show us more of the time and culture.

But other parts I’m not sure. Sean buys some soap in a local shop. Yes, soap is necessary, but I don’t think the pages of details were. In this way I was reminded of some Stephen King novels (I know I’m going to get slated here…) which are cumbersome and slow because they’re written for the screen; these things last only a moment on set, but cost several minutes to read through.

So that’s the slow parts. Now the other bits are really exciting! And of course I’m talking about time travel – though take note: The Time Will Tell series isn’t just about time travel; the time travel element is one of the many science fiction ideas which comes with Alex from the future and which is exposed through Sean’s curiosity.

As you’d expect, these follow on novels bring in new and additional ideas – refilling water canisters, or new features of the “STE” such as the preservation of internal inertia (cf one of Arthur C. Clarke’s Odyssey sequels) for example. I can’t remember what “STE” stands for, proving Sean’s point made in …Before You Leap that it should be given a more catchy name (“Steffi”) to make it more memorable. In fact this latter point is important – …Saves Nine and …In One Basket maintain consistency throughout.

I particularly like how Steffi undergoes a change, showing that things change for Alex as well as those in the past who he’s visited. There’s an interesting ‘relationship’ between Alex and Steffi where at times it seems that the role of (wo)man and machine have reversed!

Time travel component

Naturally I’d like to focus in a bit more on the time travel component, especially as this is a key area of strength within the novels.

“Steffi” is the time machine – actually, much more than that. Time travel is just one of its features (and I use the term “it” with caution 😉 ). The mechanics were essentially given in Book 1 and aren’t revisited here, but we do see much more application of time travel. Drying shoes by leaving them out in the sun for 2 days but picking them up moments later, or returning after a long stint on a time travel journey to moments afterwards in a conversation, etc. It reminded me of Ben in The Chronothon (Nathan Van Coops) and how he was able to have a flexible approach when it came to time travel.

I’d suggest that dexterity is a prerequisite for time travel – not just knowing how to do it, or even being able to do it, but being able to ‘play’ with it!

The idiom that a tool is only as good as its user carries on when we see how Sean and Alex not only react differently when time travelling, but how they experience time within Steffi. The result is a strange cross between horrific and amazing – another stark caution when we play around with nature’s laws of time!

(You might be interested in this post: Watch the time machine which discusses what may go on inside a time machine! 😉 )

Things really step up a notch in the second half of …Saves Nine when some of the deeper realms of time travel paradoxes are explored. The explanation of a change in time being like a stone getting chucked into the River of Time and causing ripples into the future comes back here, this time commenting that the ripples, whilst having having insignificant effect on most people, have a huge significance for Sean.

The predicament that he finds himself in is somewhat predictable, but he gets to observe some brilliant family dynamics. Alex has a good solution to find a method in finding out what happened (again, obvious) and the plot takes off!

Sean, as in …Before You Leap continues to be incredibly annoying, but he does pose a few thoughts regarding the nature of time, time travel and multiple versions of self; if a character dies but is brought back to life during a revisit to the past, did that character really die, or is there a new time line?

It’s fascinating stuff, and I really have the feeling that …Saves Nine and …In One Basket address the issues associated with time travel in a much more mature manner than in the first book.

General points

I was expecting more from …Saves Nine when it came to Sean and his younger version of Dad meeting and interacting. After all, it was the purpose of the visit. How did Sean feel about it? Did he see himself in his father? In hindsight, my expectations were probably more from Sean than from the novel, and maybe it was my own adult view to find this aspect interesting (how would my daughters react to seeing me in my youth?). Of course Sean disappoints, and Alex notes the same; Sean is more interested in chasing girls than finding out more about his dad.

Despite my own desires regarding content not matching the target audience’s, I do feel that I ‘won’ in other areas. I really liked it how some plots of some movies are referred to, but without spelling out which movie. This credits the reader with some intelligence (this is where I feel a little smug!) – and lets the ignorant off the hook. To be honest, the chances are that I’ve missed other references but I don’t realise it!

Talking of education…with parts of the novel being rooted in the past there’s some educational merit; Alex’s explanations to an ignorant Sean provide a nice way for 1969 to be put into historical perspective. The section which stood out most to me was Alex’s description of why people stood against the hippy movement (and why it existed) pointing out that people now (so 1995) were more tolerant of differing views than back in 1969. He also pointed out the cyclical nature of fashion. I couldn’t help but bring my mind back to thecurrent stupidity in the UK in the racist aftermath of Brexit.

To be fair to Sean – he gets his chance to educate Alex too, for example, on the idioms on the English language, or on living life with feelings and less logic. In my review of …Before You Leap I commented on Alex’s similarity with The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon. In these later books, especially recalling the Alex-Steffi paradigm, I’m reminded this time of the ‘good terminator’ when the kid in Terminator 2 is teaching him how to say “Hasta la vista, Baby” etc..

Rating * * * *

Ultimately, these second and third novels in the Time Will Tell series are a pretty decent novel version of the situation played out in the Back to the Future movie where a teenager battles for his own existence.

However, giving this a star rating is inaccurate because …Saves Nine and …In One Basket highlight particularly well how insane it is to sum up a whole novel with a rating system which uses only a single value; it’s the same principle when you stick your feet in the freezer and your head in the oven and on average your body is at a comfortable temperature: the 4 stars is a cross between a mediocre 3* and a sizzling 5*

Don’t throw out the wheat with the chaff!

It’s the slow sections which for me bring the novels into the mediocre realm in places – ploughing through the word count until the scene setting, character building, historical background or whatever has been laid out. But then comes the juicy stuff, and it mustn’t be missed! Glowing and sparkling with a host of time travel (and other scifi) ideas, all served up as a riveting 5 star gourmet menu for our reading pleasure! 🙂

I’ll shortly be interviewing Les and quizzing him about some aspects of his Time Will Tell series – stand by!

Update: As promised, here’s the link! 🙂

Author interview with Les

Paul

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Disclaimer: Les kindly sent me a free copy of “…Before you Leap” to read in exchange for honest review. This is it!

Star ratings:

| 5* Excellent! | 4* Good | 3* OK | 2* Not good | 1* Crud |

The New Year: Is it worth all the fuss?

The new year is a time which is traditionally celebrated by most people. But is it really worth all the fuss?

It may seem at first that this post is a bit late.

Apart from the fact that actually it is, by the time you reach the end of it I hope you may have changed your view…

The New Year: Is it worth all the fuss?

So here we are in 2017 – we’ve clocked up another year, another notch in the calendar’s bedpost.

Happy 2017 everyone! 🙂

Fuss over the new year
Happy new year! Image credit: http://diak.tk/new-year-celebrations/

My wishes for a joyful year ahead also go to the Chinese who will celebrate the beginning of their new year (of different duration) on 28 January thanks to a lunisolar calendar and to Muslims who use a lunar calendar system who celebrated their new year last September (and who count their years from 622 AD).

The point is this: the passing of another year is arbitrary. We celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries, time spent at work and so on, all of which are annual milestones in our lives (funny how we refer to a temporal landmark with a spatial one…).

These are important reminders for how we spend our time (and who with), and celebrated by those who are closest to us (and I include colleagues here who may be closer in the spatial sense for more of our time than in the personal and spiritual sense). Naturally, these anniversaries are spread throughout the year.

What makes the new (solar or lunar) year celebrations different from other annual celebrations is that the date is common between us – this date means the same to everyone. My birthday, for example, is likely to be different from yours and likely to hold no significance to you. But if we follow the same calendar then 1 January is equally important for both of us.

Actually…is this date really important? New years’ resolutions might suggest so – until we read the statistic that 25% of new year resolutions by Americans are doomed to failure after just the first week, rising to 36% by the end of January. Additional sources suggest this rises to as high as 80% by the second week of February – though I’d suggest it’s unwise to compare stats from differing sites using dissimilar statistical methods and samples.

Broken new years resolutions

The point is that no matter how significant the beginning a new calendar year seems, these high fallout rates suggest that after the party, back home from Christmas holidays and the return back to work and to ‘normal life’ everything is forgotten. January 1st may as well be any other day (or date).

A twist on eternalism:

I wish it could be Christmas every day!

No-one likes Monday mornings, and equally there seem to be few people up and about at 9 am on January 1st ‘enjoying’ the bliss of the new year that they’ve just been celebrating coming in.

What gets us into such a frenzy in the first place? The Christmas spirit? The holiday season? The new year’s eve party where someone asks us what our resolution is and we feel impelled to say something ‘worthy’?

Ultimately, I’d postulate that the start of a new year calendar year means very little in real terms.

Every day is the beginning of your next year. Let’s just celebrate this by celebrating today instead! 🙂

Paul

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Header image credit: http://www.newyear.quotesms.com/

The Paradox of the Winter Solstice and Daylight Saving Time

As we approach the winter solstice on 21 December 2016) a paradox looms ahead of us. And it’s in cahoots with the daylight saving time.

A few months ago we switched off Daylight Saving Time (“DST”) and re-entered the normal time pertaining to our timezone on planet Earth. In this article I commented how the adjustment of an hour actually exacerbates the (perceived) problem of darkness and uses up daylight hours in the summer.

As we approach the winter solstice (21 December 2016) I see the same thing happening again, but now on a natural footing.

Days get longer after the winter solstice.
Days get longer after the winter solstice.

After the winter solstice the days begin to get longer because the angle of the Earth’s axis of rotation with respect to the sun decreases (i.e. increasingly points towards it). The trouble is that Winter begins on the winter solstice, and as a meteorologist will tell you…this is when it gets cold.

(Note that I’m ignoring here the meteorological definition of Winter which is defined as starting from 1 December. I have no problem here; we ignore the weather forecast due to inaccuracies so I’m happy to do the same here with their unastronomical definition of the seasons! 😉 )

The bottom line is that this means we have increasingly longer days in which to be miserable about the cold weather.

At this point I should note that our friends the meteorologists will tell us that the reduced temperatures continue reducing after the winter solstice because of a thermal lag (“lag” here as in “behind”, not thermal lagging as in “padding around a hot water cylinder”). Lag doesn’t explain a reduction of temperature prior to the winter solstice!

So what is it with daylight saving time then? Should we use the model as a basis to implement a temperature saving time? Or do we use DST in an effort to emulate nature’s natural clock which appears to be playing a joke on us?

Paul

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The Disturbance of a Temporal Doppelganger

There were repercussions when I met my doppelganger in space; when I see temporal doppelgangers on the same day there’s a similar disturbance in the force…

Happy in the Past

I had a late and very enjoyable night last night and this morning I overslept. That meant two things – the first is that I’d miss my usual train. The second is that instead of tiptoeing out of the house to get my train whilst my little girls were still sleeping, they were now awake and asking what I was doing.

And what I was doing, was explaining to them that I wasn’t able to get my usual train, but one which leaves half an hour later. I could wait a few minutes extra at home instead of at the station, and “It’s handy isn’t it sweetie because I can give you a cuddle!”

You’ve guessed it – by the time I’d disentangled myself from a forest of arms and legs and questions ranging from “Why is the sea wet?” to “Why are two things sometimes different?” I’d missed yet another train.

The Present

So eventually I’m sitting on a train which is departing an hour later than the train I was originally aiming for.

OK, I’ll make the most out of a bad situation and seize the moment and catch up on some reading. I pull out Buckyball by Fabien Roy. Well, I say pull the book out, but I actually mean my phone. I’ve only a PDF copy and my ereader hasn’t arrived yet, so I’m stuck to reading it on a phone. It’s a brilliant read, but a terrible experience; one which is full of welcome distraction, and I look around the train carriage frequently.

Doppelganger!

I’ve written before about my doppelganger, but now I notice that I’m witness to a similar but slightly different phenomena. Sitting just opposite me is someone else’s doppelganger – but an earlier version of him!

He’s reading his newspaper with a fold-up bicycle by his feet (in rush hour – recall that this is Holland…) and appears to be a younger version of one of my colleagues by some 20 years. Darker hair, sitting more upright and wears thinner glasses. He looks healthier than the creature I see sitting crouched in the office.

They dress the same; smart shoes, jeans, shirt and a jumper, and the fellow on the train also has that certain air about him which says “This is how I do things; it’s how I want them done and it’s how I’ll always do them.”

And judging from the appearance of my older colleague, he’s right – at least for the coming 20 years or so.

My colleague is classic passive aggressive. With retentive tendencies. I see no wedding ring and I wonder if living alone boxes us in our lifestyle – certainly I’ve found that living with my wife and kids I’ve made a lot of compromises in how I do things.

Happy in the present

Happy in the present!
Dressing up with my daughters – this is not my usual look (honest!)

I wouldn’t have it any different. If I had my time again (like in Buckyball, Groundhog Day or Replay) I’d do it the same way to end up again where I am now. I don’t mean to be conceited by insinuating that my life is ‘perfect’ but rather to say that I’m very happy with it as it is now! 🙂

A couple of movies spring to mind where characters have a glimpse or experience of an alternate version of their life (“Sliding doors” 1998, with Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah; “The Family Man” 2000, with Tea Leoni and Nicholas Cage). Especially in the latter of these movies the question is raised about how would things be done to achieve certain changes in your life.

On a personal footing, the question I’d face following my own reinsertion back into the time steam would be whether I chose to live through the crap bits again to bring about the same knock on effects leading up to my present in the here (Holland) and now (on the train)?

Would I have missed last night to catch my train? Or given up my cuddles and precious moments with my daughters in the morning?

No, I don’t think so.

What will I do tonight / tomorrow morning?

I don’t know. But for now, looking at the temporally static doppelganger sitting opposite me on my late train, I realise that I’m happy with the consequences of my decisions that I’ve made in my life. I’ve made the best ones I knew how to at that time without any fore knowledge of the future. I mean, that’s all I can do, right?

Perhaps they’re not the right ones but they’ve brought me into a family and a home where I’m blissfully happy!

The disturbance in the (gravitational) force

I hardly ever talk to my colleague so I don’t know him very well. He’s not very approachable but I do hope that he’s equally as happy as I am in his own way.

And I’ll tell you know what’s odd. Today there was a lunch talk where an expert told us about the results of the discovery that gravity waves exist and can be measured. My colleague was there, and I ended up have a chat with him at the coffee machine afterwards. (And it turns out that he’s quite a nice chap!)

Whereas things happen when doppelgangers meet in space, I can’t help thinking that when I see the temporal doppelgangers on the same day, that there is undoubtedly a disturbance in the (gravitational) force…

Paul

Header image credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller (www.sciencenews.org)

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Time Waves and a Sound of Thunder

The movie of Ray Bradbury’s “The Sound of Thunder” uses time waves or ripples to perpetuate changes from the past into the present. But is it accurate? Should we wave goodbye to them?

People often ask whether we’re subject to changes in time that someone else has initiated but where we’re none the wiser. The idea of time ripples which propagate changes from the past into the future is one attempt which attempts to dispel this idea because when those ripples reach the present we notice the change.

I recently watched “The Sound of Thunder” – the movie version of Ray Bradbury’s short story of the same name. The long and short of it is that someone steps on and kills a butterfly in prehistoric times and comes back to the present to find that it’s been dramatically altered.

Sound of Thunder movie (2005)

An idea is presented in the movie where a change in the past causes ripples in time into the future – these are readjustments to climate, nature, evolution etc. and which of course cause a few problems for our beloved main characters.

Time behaving as a fluid, whether it be as the famous River of Time, or something more like a vast lake isn’t a new idea, but I thought that the idea of ramifications extending from past to present not as an instantaneous change but as a time varying progression to be an interesting one!

In the movie there isn’t just one time ripple, but a series of ripples. Each ripple lasts a few moments, and where in true Hollywood style we see a wall of blurry skyline hurtling (through space) towards the camera and bringing with it various changes. There’s a pause, and then the next ripple hits.

Of course in the movie, the final ripple is the one which will knock out the humans and is the clinch point of the movie – the nail-biter and the source of tension.

An interesting idea…but there’s a flaw.

Wave dispersion

Here’s the thing about the ripples. The first is fairly obvious and I’ve already mentioned it: the ripples are seen to move over space and not time. We see the wave moving (i.e. it has a speed – distance divided by time) so it’s moving within time, and not across it. But I’ll give over to this and put it down to Hollywood dumbing down and dramatics.

For me the main issue is the wave dispersion principle. Stand on the shore of a river and listen to the waves lapping the shore after a boat passes. At first the waves are large and slow, and as time goes on the waves become smaller, but quicker. The wave dispersion principle: that waves with smaller wavelengths and wave heights travel slower than larger waves.

Exactly the opposite happens with the time waves in this movie which get bigger and further apart…

Water waves and time waves

Is it fair to assume a direct similarity between time waves and water waves?

Time behaving as a river or some other mass collection of some sort of fluid is only a model or souped up ( 😉 ) analogy. It may seem to hold true in some areas more than in others (as is the case with many models) – but it does afford us the chance to explore some “what if” scenarios.

Peaks and troughs

Waves are most noticeable by their peaks – a fact given over even to the measurement of waves – the “significant wave height” for example, which is defined as the mean wave height of the highest third of the waves. We use the highest third because the human eye is predisposed to preferentially see these – just as it’s easier to see the peak of a wave than its trough. A fact attested to by the fact that we see the peaks of the time waves in the movie, and nothing else.

(Actually, there are energetic arguments too; that small changes in increasing wave height give large amount of additional energy – but the above point still holds!)

Time waves

The time wave, if really a wave, would consist of a peak (as seen in the movie) and a trough (which isn’t seen in the movie).

This got me thinking about another possible scenarios which could have played through – that readjustment might also happen in the troughs.

What would this mean?

Different parts of a wave move its medium in different directions. The peak moves forwards (e.g. a surfer on or just in front of the peak is pushed forwards by the water underneath his board). With the trough the reverse is true – there is movement backwards.

So in other words, if a temporal readjustment were to happen in the troughs, we’d regress into…actually, I don’t know what! (And given wave asymmetry, it’s also likely that we’d spend a longer period of time in readjustment in the trough…especially given the Hollywood induced longer wavelength!)

Wave orbital motion

Additionally, if we look more closely at the motion under a wave, fluid dynamics dictates that there is no net movement (aside from a little “Stoke’s Drift”); the forward motion at the peak is countered by the reverse motion in the trough. Actually there’s also equal and opposing vertical motion on the leading and trailing sides of the wave too.

time wave orbital motion
Image credit: http://wavestides.weebly.com/wave-motion.html

This makes sense – throw a pebble into a pond and the waves emanate from the epicenter – but all the water doesn’t move away from the location where the pebble landed; there’s no gaping hole left in the middle of the pond. (Although if you drop a meteorite in the middle of the Jurassic Period wiping out the dinosaurs, then certainly a crater is left…! 😉 )

time ripple
The idea of time ripples probably doesn’t work…

So no net motion means no net change – no readjustment. Time ripples used as a chronic temporal readjustment can’t work…

Closing

The idea then, that we’re made aware of changes in the past through some sort of chronic time ripple doesn’t seem to hold much weight. Or is there just nothing? No waves, ‘just’ the creation of a new time line? Or to extend the analogy, the creation of a new pond?

Who’s to know? This is always been the argument.

The time ripple idea often seems to assume a rapid change, but by the arguments given above it is also likely that we might be in a prolonged readjustment period. One which happens so slowly that it’s imperceptible. Maybe it happens so slowly that it actually happens in real time – in other words – we create our own future.

Now how awesome is that!

Paul

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Misuse of an hour

The daylight saving hour – do we use it wisely? I don’t think so, and in which case can we really be trusted with time travel?

I’m late with this post, but in a way it doesn’t matter because it’s not that I benefited from setting the cocks back one hour at the end of last month. 7 am became 6 am, so that meant a lie-in – right?

Not with 2 small daughters who haven’t yet synced their body clocks to our artificial clocks. And certainly not with 2 small daughters who are excited about going to the zoo!

I suppose I can hardly blame them – it’s now light again outside in the mornings, and it is this fact which made me question why we bother with this “daylight saving time” – surely it’s a case of daylight enhancement?

daylight saving clock

As we move through Autumn and towards the Winter solstice, the change in inclination of the Earth with respect to the sun means that darkness descends earlier each evening. Setting the clock an hour back speeds up this process; by putting the clock back an hour it’s now even darker at the same (clock) time. We exaggerate – not combat – the darkness.

The converse is true in Spring when putting the clock forward an hour adds to the lightening effect. It stays light for longer, and even more so once the clocks have advanced an hour. We’re not saving daylight, we’re actually using it up quicker.

Isn’t this misuse of that hour?

It seems to me that if we can’t properly deal with a single hour then it’s a good deal that we’re not yet able to time travel!

Misuse of an hour
Can we be trusted with time travel?

Paul

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Review: The Clock that went Backward by Edward Page Mitchell

The more I think about “The Clock that Went Backward” and the more times I reread it, the more frustrated I become with it. And yet at the same time – more impressed!

There’s something wrong with The Clock that Went Backward. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Clock That Went Backward
Image used with kind permission from Natalie Kay-Thatcher (2015).

Turn the clock back 135 years to 18 September 1881, and you’ll find the publication of one of the first time travel stories – The Clock that Went Backward by Edward Page Mitchell.

Wikipedia informs us that it has the first instance of a temporal paradox (reference: wikipedia) as well as reminding us of the fact that it was published before H. G. Well’s more famous The Time Machine (1895) and even before Well’s (some consider, prequel ) The Chronic Argonauts (1888).

Curious?

Synopsis

It seems bizarre to give a synposis of a short story, but here it is. And prepare yourself for a whanger of a spoiler: There’s a clock which goes backwards.

Two cousins are puzzled over a grandfather clock which belongs to their Dutch great Aunt Gertrude. It hasn’t worked since it was struck by lightning, and they are met with refusals when they offer to help with getting the clock fixed. One night they find Aunt Gertrude winding up the clock and note that it ran backwards. When it stops moving she falls to the floor and dies.

Later, when college professor Prof. van Stopp winds up the clock, time flows backwards until a ball of fire strikes the clock. The professor and the cousins find themselves in a critical period during Holland’s history in 1574; the siege of Leyden.

At this time, a breach has been made in the wall of Leyden and needs defending whilst most of the inhabitants count on good weather the following day to bring in ships with military help.

One of the cousins, Harry, saves the life of the mayor’s daughter; the other cousin returns back to his own time with Prof. van Stopp where the latter gives a lecture where he considers how the future affects the past.

Let down

On first reading I was so disappointed with The Clock that Went Backward that I had to read it again to see if I had missed anything.

I’m still not sure that I haven’t.

The title of course gives it away, so even before reading we know what’s going to happen. A clock is going to go backwards. There’s no sharing in the brothers’ mystery surrounding the clock.

And the clock’s strange behaviour causes something strange to happen – but what exactly?

No flow

The Clock that Went Backward is a short story so it needs to get the point across fairly quickly. But it doesn’t, and I blame this on the terrible way in which differing themes seem to have been crudely patched together like a dodgy cut and paste job. There’s no flow.

Each of the 5 chapters are almost stand-alone, and where one finishes on a building climax, the next drops us like sloppy jelly. For example, at the end of Chapter 3 the clock hands are spinning backwards, the house is shaking, there’s a ball of fire, dazzling light and…Chapter 4 goes straight on to describe the people of Leyden. It’s not a secondary plot line, there’s no continuity – just a jaw dropping hiatus.

So when the cousins find themselves back in 1574 we’re given a huge explanation over the siege of Leyden. Now, it’s true that I don’t like prolonged confusion of characters when they (unknowingly) travel in time, but here they just carry on and immediately start interacting with locals. It’s as if either they’re different people entirely, or that they’re the same people as in the previous chapter but are too thick to realise that things around them are different. Or that there’s a chapter missing. (Actually I checked: there isn’t).

At this stage then, there seems to be a loss of focus. What happened to the clock? Are we talking about time travel, or being in a new era with new problems?

Burgomaster van der Werf offers sword
Burgomaster van der Werf offers his sword to the people of Leiden, by Mattheus Ignatius van Bree. Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org.

Reasoning aside, we’re now in 1574 during a siege. Two events happen of note – the mayor who offers to sacrifice himself, and the battle / victory itself which hinges on a single person (as cousin Henry notes). There’s a lot of detail written in here; is this the author showcasing his research into real events during this time?

Perhaps I should be more lenient in my judgement of The Clock that Went Backward because after all, it is one of the early advocates of the time travel genre. And the time travel aspects which it incorporates are intriguing!

Time travel philosophy

As is fitting with the general writing style and theme flow of this story, time travel for the most part gets tacked on almost as an afterthought with random paragraphs wedged into the main text. But – they’re very interesting and open up the world of time travel philosophy!

This is made easier seeing as one of the characters, Professor van Stopp, is a professor of philosophy who poses many questions to the brothers.

For example, he asks why shouldn’t a clock go backwards, and goes on to ask why time itself shouldn’t also go backwards. My own question concerns that of the clock itself – is its backward movement symptomatic of time flowing backwards, or does time was flow backwards because of it?

The professor then goes on to suggest that the Earth’s rotation powers time because this is how the day is made (perhaps a precursor to Superman’s apparent ability to turn back time by causing the Earth to spin in the opposite direction?)

One of my favourite lines he gives is:

“Past, present, and future and future are woven together in one inextricable mesh.”

There are many more too, and really shouldn’t be missed!

A connection through time

The idea of bringing the past (or future) into experience as the present is brought here in its simplest form by linking the characters from one era to another. But there’s something not quite right.

It seems that – or we’re lead to believe that – some of the characters in 1574 are the same as some of those in the present; the story unravels to reveal that the heroic defender was the professor, but who was described as being the brother of the town’s mayor’s wife…and a clock maker – the same one who made the grandfather clock owned by Aunt Gertrude.

But it’s unclear, even perhaps inconsistent…

It doesn’t add up.

Professor van Stopp has “…a physical appearance similar to Aunt Gertrude”, and we’re strongly encouraged to consider that they are brother and sister. The prof points out a photo of the mayor who he considers could well be their father.

So do Gertude and van Stopp have a place in history?

Given the similarity of spelling of Gertude and Gertuyd, it seems that we’re being asked to consider that they are one and the same; a fact corroborated if we look at the dates given in Great Aunt Gertrude’s genealogy near the beginning of the novel (and drummed home to the cousins because it might be important).

Van Stopp owns one of the few houses which predates 1574 which already casts a loose net into history. Further, one of the cousins notes, when back in 1574, that the clock maker looks like van Stopp. The clock maker (note: also the maker of the clock that went backwards) is the husband of the mayor’s wife. Are van Stopp and the clock maker the same?

But here’s the problem. Is van Stopp the mayor’s brother-in-law (clock maker) – or his son (as derived from the photo)?

Likewise, is Gertrude the mayor’s daughter (Gertruyd / genealogy) or the mayor’s unnamed wife?

Gertuyd has a romantic interest with Henry (who remains behind in time). Assuming they stay together as a couple, there are more questions…

If Gertude is the mayor’s unnamed wife, then this makes Henry the Mayor (yikes – he married to his own daughter and present in time at 2 ages – sounds like something from Heinlein!). Actually, given the genealogy, he can’t be the father because Gertrude’s father was a Wiscasset shipper.

OK, so this points to Gertrude and Van Stopp not being brother and sister. Were they so in the present? There’s no mention of it.

In hindsight, the prof talking of a coincidence that the mayor looks like his father…if he was, he’d have known and not talked about it as a coincidence (or even pointed out the photo to the cousins.). This again, this is consistent with the idea that people are different in different times.

I can’t see how this hangs together…what have I misunderstood?

Open questions

There are other open questions:

  • Why does Aunt Gertrude die when the clock goes backward, but Prof van Stopp travels back in time (and back to the present again)?
  • Why were the cousins transported back in time only the second time that the clock went backwards, i.e. with the prof, and not with Gertrude?
  • Why didn’t Henry come back to the present?
  • If van Stopp is the clock maker, why didn’t he recognise the clock in the present time?
  • Summary

    The more I think about The Clock that Went Backward and the more times I reread it, the more frustrated I become with it. And yet at the same time – more impressed!

    The attention given over to the philosophical nature of time certainly places The Clock that went Backward firmly into the time travel genre and makes it worth a read to the time travel enthusiast. But I’d suggest that whilst philosophy demands open minds and thoughts, it should not be used as an excuse to not provide answers – and there are plenty of those in need in this short story.

    Indeed, I sense that many of the open questions have not been deliberately placed, but are there through inconsistency or even through error. They’re more “unanswered” than “open”.

    Despite multiple readings, I’ve still not come to understand the point of this short story. Is it the power of the clock, the siege of Leyden, the characters straddling time, or the philosophical nature of time?

    You can read it for yourself here (note: external content) – I’d be interested to know what you make of it!

    For the real version of events at the Siege of Leiden, why not take check out the webpage at Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden? Note that the museum itself it temporarily closed but will reopen in Spring 2019.

    Thanks again to Natalie Kay-Thatcher for the use of her image. Natalie’s work explores the merging of science and imagination with image-making and workshops; you can see more on her website.

    Paul

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    Author interview: Patricia Smith (Time Split)

    Patricia Smith is currently busy with her sequel to her time travel novel, Time Split. As well as time travel, Patricia’s written novels in other areas of science fiction – and the end of the world!

    Interview with Patricia Smith

    Author Patricia Smith
    Time Split author, Patricia Smith

    Science fiction author Patricia Smith is the author of Time Split – a short but concise time travel novel which works on a single time line. She’s also written other science fiction novels, all of which reflect her interest in some way – the end of the world…

    Time Split by Patricia Smith
    Time Split by Patricia Smith

    What I particularly like about Time Split is how real – or at least, plausible – the science and the process behind the science, is. Time Split also dives into not just the science side of science fiction, but also the human element, with particularly chilling detail given over to post nuclear fallout.

    Add to that Patricia’s unique way of presenting an alternative history when it comes to the “Let’s kill Hitler” line!

    Anyway. Here’s Patricia to tell us more about it – and more!

    I love how you describe experiments at the start of the novel – the set up, results, possible conclusions and testing new hypotheses. This injects science into the novel and makes this a ‘proper’ sci fi novel. What was your motivation to do it this way?

    Patricia: I want my stories to be based on actual science; they might be pushing the boundaries of science, but could still be possible. The reader has to understand what is going on. I did not want them to have to leave their beliefs at the door. I wanted them to have faith in the world I created. I feel it’s the only way to emotionally engage people.

    Often living matter is a problem in experimentation in science fiction, but in Jason’s teleportation experiments it brings about an interesting (and in our case desired) side effect – time travel! Is this evidence that space and time are intrinsically linked, or that in science anything can happen?

    Patricia: Electromagnetic fields would behave differently with inanimate and animated objects. An inanimate object can be encompassed by an electromagnetic field, but when a being produces its own electromagnetic field then it will influence the outcome of the field being project on to it, hence the introduction of living matter can have unforeseen circumstances.

    Directly tackling the grandfather paradox is a bold and courageous move in any time travel novel but I thought it was handled really well! Did you have any problems during the writing process in this respect?

    Patricia: I never really thought about it as being the Grandfather paradox, I just thought about it as time splitting at the point of the change and creating a new time stream from that point on. My writing process was I wanted to get from A-C and I had to make B believable to do so.

    I read that the RAF police chased you whilst you were carrying out some research for your novel. Did this experience dissuade you researching other areas of the novel – or did it give you a heightened sense of adventure?

    Tricia Smith

    Patricia: It gave me a fright. Having a vivid imagination everything gets blown out of all proportion, of course and I had visions of getting arrested, which I probably would have been. I could not have told them what I was doing. Can you imagine it, “Oh, yes, Officer. I’m just seeing if this base was destroyed in a nuclear blast, whether Alnwick would survive.” That would have gone down well. Sometimes my research requires me to check out different weapons on the internet. I get a little bit worried about that because you never know who’s watching what sites you’re browsing.

    I thought your description of nuclear fallout was brilliant and very emotive. How on Earth did you write that bit?

    Patricia: I grew up towards the back end of the Cold War and was very much aware of the tensions between Russia and America. There was a great deal of fear about the possibility of nuclear war and it was a subject I had a morbid fascination for. I knew a little bit about the horrors of nuclear war, but again research was the key and the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima provided a lot of the information I used in the book.

    If nuclear fallout isn’t bad enough you added more evil with the despicable Briggs! Are people inherently evil?

    Patricia: Is it nature or nuture? I think some people might be inherently evil, but then it could be circumstances that made them that way. If you take a wolf out of the pack and put it with deer, it won’t become deer, it will still be a wolf at the end of the day, but you might be able to train it to protect the deer and not to eat them. I think there are people you have learned to prey on other people and are ready to take advantage of bad situations, people like Briggs.

    I’ve read several time travel novels with a character named Jason. Can you share the time travel author beans on this. .. is it the “July August September October November” thing, or is it something completely different?

    Patricia: I named my character after my cousin Jason who had a difficult start in life. He managed to turn himself completely around and I was so proud of him I wanted to call my character Jason in his honour.

    You describe yourself as “absolutely nuts about astronomy and writing apocalyptic thrillers”. Do astrologers (not equal to astronomers) really have knowledge of the future and will they ever be able to predict the apocalypse? Or are they absolutely nuts?

    Patricia: Some people might believe that the planets and suns do influence their destiny. The constellations may have been used as a calendar so that people knew when to plant and gather their crops and they were always embroiled in mythology so it’s understandable that these beliefs evolved into the astrology of today. I suppose predicting the future is just another step on from there.

    In keeping with your astronomical interest you’ve written the “Distant Suns” series. Can you tell a little about this?

    Distant Suns by Patricia Smith

    Patricia: Distant Suns is based around the idea of ‘What if Jupiter became a sun.’ How would this affect our planet and could we survive? With global warming a hot topic, my thinking was how much extra would it take to tip the balance. Still, run away global warming was not the only worry and again I leaned on my interest in astronomy to come up with further problems, all of which are more than possible, including Jupiter becoming a sun.

    You’ve also travelled in the opposite direction along the z axis and written about 500 specialists living at the bottom of the sea. Naturally as an oceanographer I’m curious about this! Can you share anything about it?

    Islands- the Epidemic by Patricia Smith

    Patricia: One fifth of the planet is land so my thinking behind Islands was what if you could occupy the ocean instead of the land. Most of the ocean would be way too deep, of course, but still a lot of the coastal shelves would be shallow enough to allow light to penetrate enough to support cities. My vision was huge cities at the bottom of the ocean, freeing up the land for the growth of food and possibly for leisure.

    Your bio pic shows you standing in snow with no coat on. How do I explain that to my daughters?

    Patricia Smith in the snow
    Patricia Smith – braver than I!

    Patricia: Thermals! I had full length thermals underneath my pants and top. Also, I never understood what they meant by the dry cold air not being as cold as the damp cold air in the UK, until I experienced it. I was a little bit cool, but considering it was -15, I would have expected a lot worse. The dampness is the killer, that and the wind, which can make a massive difference, dry air or not.

    Apart from standing in snow, how do you spend your free time?

    Patricia: As you stated before, I love astronomy. I have my own telescope and I love nothing more than going out on a crystal clear night to look at the stars. It just blows me away to see the mountains on the moon, rings around Saturn, Orion’s star nursery, the clouds on Jupiter – breath taking! During the day I also like hill walking, mountain biking and on a more sedate note, getting together for lunch with my lovely friends.

    Follow Patricia Smith
    Patricia Smith

    Patricia is currently busy with a sequel for Time Split – for news on her progress you can follow Patricia on her website, Facebook page and Twitter (@ForTheLoveOfSF).

    Review: Time Split by Patricia Smith

    Paul

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    Author interview: CR Downing (Traveler’s HOT L)

    CR Downing (Chuck) has a brilliant time travel mechanism in “The Traveler’s HOT L” where personal time lines are described as threads which are woven together to form a fabric of time. In this interview Chuck gives us more insights into his reasoning.

    One of the great things about being a time travel fan is being asked to read time travel novels and to share my thoughts about them. One of the unexpected spin-offs from that is occasionally having contact with those authors and finding out more about their thoughts on time and time travel, and how they’ve been able to construct a novel around those thoughts.

    Until now I’ve been posting my time travel author interviews over on Time Travel Nexus. Time is nigh for a time travel author interview here on Time2timetravel!

    So let’s meet CR Downing (or “Chuck”) who is the creator behind Traveler’s HOT L (which I’ve reviewed on Time Travel Nexus).

    CR Downing ("Chuck")
    CR Downing (“Chuck”)

    Traveler’s HOT L is a collection of 8 independent short stories which share a common thread; an involvement with the Traveler’s HOT L – the “Harmonious Overlap of Time Location” and is the backbone of Chuck’s brilliant time travel mechanism.

    Traveler's HOT L
    Book cover for Traveler’s HOT L

    As well as a “teller of tales” Chuck is also a science teacher. Dr Downing (yes – there’s a PhD to his name!) has received several awards for his teaching – including the prestigious “Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching”. He’s also a frequent speaker at science conferences at the local, state and national levels.

    With such a solid (and active) footing in science, it’s hardly surprising that Chuck’s time travel method comes over so well in Traveler’s HOT L!

    Chuck – many thanks for giving us your time!

    I love the time travel mechanism behind the HOT L – the “Harmonious Overlap of Time Location”, and it’s explained really well in the first short story. Did you need to undertake any kind of research when exploring the ideas that you encompass here?

    Chuck: I didn’t do any “scientific” research. The mode of transport along the timeline is a combination of three ideas I’d used in stand-alone short stories over many years.

  • Traveler’s HOT L was originally the title of what expanded to become Caught in the Middle, the first story in this book. It had rippling walls and the electric shock. That story ended with the line, “But, it didn’t smell all that bad after all.”
  • The mist is from another story in the book, Michael Casey O’Brien.
  • The vibrating DNA and the requirement to only travel where some amount of common DNA exists were original in DNA Trek.
  • Merging the three variables provides a complex process that gives more credence to the need for the time synchronizers and the proprietors of the HOT L.

    My favourite story in the collection is “DNA” where time travel plays a leading role through the HOT L, but also with the life of the main character who’s seeking to discover / develop time travel. In comparison, the time travel aspect in some of the other short stories is not key. How did you go about assigning the degree of integration of time travel into your stories?

    Chuck: The three of the stories mentioned in my first answer could not exist without the time travel component, although the amount of time travel that is described in Michael Casey O’Brien is minimal. Battle for a Far Planet was the longest of the short stories massaged into this anthology. In the complete Battle story, finished in Traveler’s HOT L Vol. 2, time travel is integral to the resolution of the storyline. Million-Dollar Mistake originally ended with a “storm” sending the counterfeiters back in time as a form of unexpected justice. I added the time travel element to the other stories in what I felt was an adequate amount. I know you did not agree with my assessment in some cases, but the majority of those commenting on the book like how time travel is woven into different genres. Most notable are the non-scifi fans that liked the book because of the stories.

    One of my fears of time travel becoming a reality is that it would be misused, so I really like your custodians of time who ensure that things go smoothly, or at least take measures to correct mistakes. Do you have any reservations about time travel?

    Chuck: My main reservation is like yours—misuse of time travel for personal/political gain. To limit that, my rules in brief are:

    1. The time you are gone from “your time” is time you lose in your real-time life. For example, two weeks in the past or future costs you two weeks in the year you live in.
    2. No objects forward or backward along the timeline—one photograph is allowed. No advanced weapons, drugs, or devices arrive from the future. All influence in the new time by the traveler is personal.
    3. There are penalties for missing your return window. Long-term existence—from weeks to years—in the time traveled to is consequence for missing the harmonic overlap.

    I feel that the combination of those and the existence of the time synchronizers provides a reasonable safeguard.

    I read on your website that you’re a collector of science fiction anthologies. What is it about these that hold your captivation?

    Chuck: My first in-depth experience with science fiction was Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series. I next discovered anthologies of short stories: Nebula Awards, Nova, Orbit, Annual Best SciFi Stories, collections by theme, etc. The short stories intrigued me. They still do—I’m writing two as I answer these questions. Getting a point across through a satisfying plotline in a few hundred to a few thousand words is more difficult than writing longer pieces. I admire those authors honored by their inclusion in the anthologies.

    The short stories in Traveler’s HOT L cover many genres. You’ve also written full length novels in science fiction, murder mystery, Biblical fiction as well as non fiction titles. Do you set out to write in a particular genre, or do you tend to write and see what happens?

    Chuck: I always have an idea of the genre of the story before I complete more than a rough outline. The idea for the plot doesn’t always remain intact. When that happens, the genre might change. That doesn’t happen often.

    Right now, I have books in some stage of production in the following genres.

  • MysteryThe 5th Page, a Phil Mamba novel. This is out for prepublication review.
  • Science Fiction – working title is The Drunk Gene. The plot is based on genetic engineering in the early 1990’s.
  • Science FictionFreedom’s Just a Word is a short story to be submitted to magazines for publication.
  • Science FictionSecrets of the Sequenced Symbols is another Traveler’s HOT L story. In this case, the protagonists travel back to our present to learn the importance of the books they cannot read.
  • Science Fiction – working title is Interval. A rare recessive trait endows individuals with the ability to observe past events as though watching a video. Some might consider these observations to be digital time travel.
  • Biblical FictionWho Leads the Shepherd follows a shepherd’s life, including his search for the Messiah. The shepherd’s story begins outside Bethlehem as a boy on the night Jesus was born. It ends after he witnesses Christ’s crucifixion.
  • Real Life as Fiction – no working title yet. This will be a novella—a series of vignettes—about a grandpa on his deathbed and his wayward granddaughter as she travels to his hospital room.
  • As of this moment, none of the stories that are not already time-travel linked look like they will morph to include time travel.

    As a Christian, would you go back in time to see Jesus?

    Chuck: Interestingly, I’d never given much thought to that idea. “Let’s Go to Golgotha” by Brian Aldiss is a great short-short story involving time travel. If you haven’t read it, look it up online. Now, back to the answer to the question.

    Visiting Christ’s time with the knowledge of how His life ends would difficult for me. I’m not sure I’d want to experience any of that part of the story first-hand. I also suspect that what I heard might prove to be very convicting in a way beyond what even I can imagine.

    You’re justifiably a very proud grandfather. Have you taken any precautions to avoid becoming the leading role in a practical test of the grandfather paradox?

    Proud grandfather!
    Proud grandfather!

    I have not. In the current situation, the son providing half the DNA of my granddaughters is adopted, so the point is moot. Assuming my other son has children…

    Realistically, any change to the past has ramifications far beyond anything ever written. No one knows the total impact any life has on people and events. I doubt that even the most vivid imagination would fall far short of what impact a single life has on this world. Who knows the long-term impact of a kind word said to a student, an employee, or a stranger? Each of those contacts produces a unique set of ripples.

    What of events spawned by those contacts in the lives of those contacted? I don’t think there’s enough mathematics in the universe to track the path of the influence of even a single event of a single life through history.

    You’ve been a teacher for 39 years in high school and college / university. My view on teaching is that it would be one of the most frustrating jobs there is; a class mixed with kids who don’t want to learn with some who do want to learn but can’t, and hopefully at least a few who can take in what you teach. And yet you’ve achieved the “Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching”! How is this possible?!

    Chuck: An answer to this question must contain many layers.

  • Superficial Layer. I have an inherent ability to recognize when I’m losing an audience. Long ago, in my early teenage years, I developed techniques to “bring the audience back to me” when I was regaling cousins with Bill Cosby routines. I often refer to my 31 years of high school teaching as “being able to do five shows a day.” Bottom line here: I didn’t have a lot of trouble with classroom discipline.
  • Next layer in. I think I had excellent teachers throughout my schooling. I remember recording scripts for puppet shows and measuring wasted milk in 6th grade. I wrote short stories in 7th and 8th grade. I gave a speech as Fidel Castro—complete with fake beard—in 9th grade. As a senior in high school, one of my good friends and I did the last scene of Hamlet—just the two of use—swapping props as we changed roles.
  • Layer 3. My memories of school are those of challenging assignments and being expected to think through to a solution to a problem. I carried that into my teaching. I found out early in my career that most teachers didn’t teach the way I did. I was surprised. Many of my students remark about how grateful they are for making them figure things out. “I never had another class in high school or college where I had to think more than I did in your class,” is a not an uncommon remark.
  • The Core. I believe that students can do what they are asked to do if they are supported properly. By support, I’m not talking about leading questions or providing dozens of hints. There must be a balance of support and challenge. Lev Vygotsky named this the Zone of Proximal Development. It is the situation where students feel safe enough to risk thinking outside their comfort zones. I co-authored a very fine book for parents, teachers, and administrators Tune Up Your Teaching & Turn On Student Learning is a detailed look at what a classroom can be in terms of thinking and learning. The quote that follows ends the Preface.

    Betty Crocker ® is not the author of this book. It is not a recipe you can follow step by step and get a perfect award winning “cake” at the end. This is a map of the change process with “GPS coordinates” included. (p xvii)

    I believe that every teacher should make thinking—critically, creatively, coherently, and in community—the prime objective in his or her classroom.

  • Have you ever been told to “Stand in the corner until you learn to behave” by a teacher, but actually spent most of the time standing there plotting revenge (or writing graffiti on the wall)?

    Chuck: I was a model student. I remember being disciplined only twice in school. Neither was for an offense of consequence.

    What would you like the future to hold for you?

    Chuck:

  • I will develop a deeper love of my wife.
  • I would like to be more help to more people.
  • I would like to visit my grandchildren more and model for them what the life of a Christian is.
  • Oh, and, of course, in my “perfect future,” I’m also a best-selling author.
  • You can read more about Chuck and his novels on his website, and follow him on Twitter (@CRDowningAuthor) and on Facebook.

    Read my review of Travelers HOT L over on Time Tavel Nexus!

    Paul

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    Review: Hegira (Jim Cronin)

    “Hegira” is the first book in Jim Cronin’s “The Brin Archives” series and brings us a superb combination of world building, alien races and time travel. It’s well written, covers a phenomenal range of subject matter, and (importantly) deals with many aspects of time travel too!

    Hegira is the first book in The Brin Archives series by Jim Cronin and brings us a superb combination of world building, alien races and time travel.

    Brief synopsis

    Hegira by Jim Cronin

    Members of the Skae species find a derelict alien spacecraft with DNA samples onboard. From these samples two are able to be cloned, one of whom grows up to be Karm. Karm is trained by one of the Skae to go back in time to help save his species (the “Brin”) from extinction.

    The main thrust of the plot is what and how Karm orchestrates events and people in order to complete his mission.

    Naturally, nothing is easy…whilst he’s back on his home planet of Dyan’ta, Karm needs to deal with a monarch with cut throat political intentions and whose younger brother is the leader of an increasingly powerful and influential religious sect. Will power and greed cost the Brin their future?

    Not so final destination

    Hegira is mostly a destination based time travel novel and deals with how Karm acts to preserve the original time line. He doesn’t flit around from one time to another, or fiddle with the nuts and bolts of a time machine – but he is continuously aware of the impact of his actions of today on tomorrow.

    Admittedly my first thought after a couple of chapters in was “Ah – another pseudo time travel novel and not a ‘proper’ one with the time travelley bells, whistles and (un)murdered grampas 🙁 ” But like a blob of wet clay spinning on a potters’ wheel, Hegira morphs majestically into a juicy time travel novel with some serious clout!

    I shouldn’t knock the destination side of things. Going back in time and saving a species from extinction – now that should be pretty griping – right?

    (Right!)

    Despite my momentary misgivings about the nature of time travel in this novel, Hegira had me gripped from the outset!

    Time travel element

    Where Hegira‘s focus is on being in a new temporal destination, there is plenty for the die hard time travel enthusiast.

    What I particularly like is how the intricacies of time travel are addressed in a delicate undertone which sets this novel apart from many of the destination-based novels out there.

    The methodology is touched on only lightly (and actually comes in early in the novel) – but adopts an approach which probably could be justified in science.

    It’s explained to Karm (and therefore us) that cosmic strings can be used to travel in space. They can also be used to travel in time (hinting at space-time entanglement) though there is a measure of uncertainties involved. Closed time curves mean that trips in time are one way.

    The nature of events in time is also addressed, being described as like ripples on a pond. With Karm restricting his actions to the outer and therefore less important ripples, there is little danger in upsetting the future. At first I liked this idea. We commonly read of time being like a flowing river or setting up waves into the past or future. Ripples (actually a kind of wave) is another variation. The idea of small events being washed out and rendered insignificant in comparison with the main river of time flow is also commonplace, but putting the emphasis on naturally diminishing ripples I thought was good.

    But after a little thinking I wonder if it’s misplaced – wouldn’t the time traveller be the stone thrown into this pond of time, and therefore by design be right at the epicentre of temporal chaos? Or am I making the cardinal mistake of taking this analogy literally?

    Actually, on the subject of temporal disasters and upsetting the time line, author Jim Cronin has put a grand mechanism in place to avert it – keep an eye out!

    In time travel terms, Hegira is about predestination, or at least maintaining it. Then again, if destiny needs to be maintained, then it’s not destiny, is it…?.

    Originality

    Sit enough monkeys on enough typewriters for enough time, and eventually one of them will be reproducing the works of Shakespeare.

    The point of the above? That statistically speaking, anything that goes around will at some point come round again. And I think the same can be said of great ideas in science fiction.

    Reading Hegira brought to mind several ideas which I’ve read in other novels or seen in movies. To be clear – I’m not pointing a plagiaristic finger, but rather highlighting the fact that Hegira casts its net far and wide when it comes to encompassing genre, style and content.

    For example, reanimating / cloning alien DNA is not a new idea (e.g. Species film) but there’s a different spin on it in Hegira. Karm’s life on the planet Dyan’ta whispers d4 (Sherrie Cronin), and Contact (Carl Sagan), Timeshaft (Stewart Bint) and the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) will certainly be in the minds of those who have read them.

    The most obvious similarity to another work of fiction is the Skae’s use of Star Trek’s “Prime Directive”. And here it’s clear what I’m on about – although popularised by Star Trek, the prime directive is just a normal idea; it was around before Star Trek. The Prime Directive isn’t Star Trek’s.

    At its most basic, a parent who lets go of the hand of their child whilst they’re learning to walk (and letting them fall), employs the prime directive – watching, but with no interference. The professor watching over students having an increasingly heated discussion, and letting them carry on to see where it leads and what ideas will come out of it, employs the prime directive. It’s all around us.

    Author Jim Cronin takes the prime directive and applies an original twist to it. It goes one way; where the more advanced Skae don’t inform Karm of their technology, they can learn new cloning processes and techniques from the Brin – and apply this new knowledge. Brilliant!

    World building

    It’s clear that Jim is a master in finding new angles in existing ideas – as well as creating his own – but these need to find a place where they can find a home. Jim’s created a world and a universe in which these ideas can form and blossom.

    The Brin world of Dyan’ta is such a place. Naturally it has its own clock / calendar system (26 hours a day, 10 days a week – so we know that this is indeed an alien world). Vegetation has blue leaves (so no chlorophyll; no photosynthesis but some other form of bio energy extraction) and animals differ from those on Earth.

    World building also extends to financial, political and social angles. Don’t tell the kids, but there are Brinnish (Jim – is that a word?) swear words! There’s even a sport (“rings”). As in many other aspects, details don’t spoil the narrative – these things are just there and in place. Compare this to the nonsensical quidditch crap in Harry Potter where the rules don’t even make sense (everything done by the team counts for nothing if Potter gets a seeker ball or something).

    Time travel methodology aside, less is more! 😉

    Ah yes, and of course there’s technology; faster than light travel, for instance – and time travel! 🙂

    My only complaint is that I didn’t have a good handle on how the Brin species looked. I know they have feathers, talons and heels…but no wings?

    Writing style

    Overall I thought the writing style of Hegira is really well done! As I mentioned earlier I was immediately drawn into the characters and the plot which is very impressive considering that there’s a huge backdrop against which the novel is set.

    There’s a huge variety of aspects packed into this novel; everything has its (equal) place, and there’s no area which seems weak in comparison to others.

    The Brin world of Dyan’ta really comes to life; does it really exist?

    Rating * * * * *

    Hegira by Jim Cronin earns an easy 5 stars. It’s well written, covers a phenomenal range of subject matter, and (importantly) deals with many aspects of time travel too!

    Read my interview with author Jim Cronin over on Time Travel Nexus!

    Paul

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    The worst day of my life. Again please!

    It’s probably one of the most commonly asked questions in time travel – to what time and place would you like to travel?

    It’s probably one of the most commonly asked questions in time travel – to what time and place would you like to travel?

    I always thought I’d like to travel to the future. Things have already happened in the past, and I think (I’m still open to the idea) that the past cannot be changed. The dogs are sleeping – let them lie. So let’s get over whatever happened (or didn’t happen) and move on. Let’s take a peek at the future instead and see what’s in store! Surely that’s more exciting!

    But then the question was asked again over on the Goodreads time travel group, but this time posed with a slight difference; the trip is limited to travelling to the past – but you can travel there 3 times.

    Now that puts a different spin on things! Although I’ve already posted my answer on the forum, I wanted to (re)post it here because maybe it might give you a little insight into who I am.

    So here it is:

    When I’d like to go 3 times…and why

    I’d relive the worst day of my life 3 times over – the day when my youngest daughter fell off a climbing frame, hit her stomach on the way down and stopped breathing.

    Time both froze and zoomed by all too quickly.

    My worst day
    My worst day

    I was holding her, and watching all of her 3 years of life rush before my eyes as her little body went stiff and arched backwards, eyes rolling upwards and going white.

    My smart phone took too long to unfreeze, for me to find the phone symbol on my smart phone, to key in 999 and get connected, and to answer the preliminary questions before an ambulance was dispatched. Time crawled.

    At the same time, time was passing all too quickly – every second she wasn’t breathing was a second’s worth of oxygen that her brain wasn’t getting. A second closer to… I didn’t want to think about it, but I was.

    Thank God she miraculously started breathing again. (Apparently children “often” – the ambulance man told me – stop breathing as a panic reflex to trauma.) Onlookers said she drew breath again quickly, but for me it was an eternity. And thank God she came through fine and healthy.

    Could I have done anything differently? Avoided the accident, helped her more and more quickly? What did I learn during this ordeal that should it happen again I can help her more effectively?

    3 more trips back to those terrible moments would help. They’d get my hands shaking again as they did the first time around. My throat will go dry again as I panic, and my heart will beat like the clappers leaving me in near paralysis as I hyperventilate. An ironic p*ss take when my little girl is taking in no air.

    But I’ll learn, and I’ll do better. I’ll learn.

    I’ll learn.

    Maybe I can’t change what’s already happened in the past, but I’ll be able to change the future.

    Paul

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