Fall back – how many hours?

When we fall back an hour in winter time we’re supposed to gain an hour. In my recent experience I’m not sure if I gained an hour – or lost many!

So now we’re back to GMT – we’ve snapped back to the right time according to our celestial tilt. Personally, I think it feels good! Adding an hour in summer doesn’t make sense so now we’re back to a welcome normal. This clock change, the paradoxical subtracting of an hour to give us an hour extra in bed in the morning is the ‘good one’!

But here’s how I wasted it.

Most of us wake up on a Sunday mroning with nothing much to do and as our feet swing out of the bed and hit the floor, as the fog of the night’s sleep lifts and as the sense of time ahead of us solidifies we start to think about how we’d like to spend it.

Often those Sunday plans have already been made, and often they rotate around easy and non-urgent activites. Activites which for the most part wouldn’t suffer if we turned up at the wrong time – which is why we do this twice annual clock changing activity at 2 am on a Sunday morning. Late enough on a Saturday evening not to make any difference, and early enough on a Sunday to…likewise make no difference.

But Sundays are those days when time means little and the whole of it can be spent without looking – let alone adjusting – our clocks, and I’m sure it’s not unknown to many of us for having turned up at work an hour out.

To ensure this doesn’t happen I tend to change my clocks on a Saturday evening – early enough that I’m still awake enough to have my faculties working with me, and late enough that it doesn’t interfere with any time dependent events.

So last Saturday night this is what I did. Each year changing the clocks takes less time as an increasing number of my devices do this automatically, so actually when I say “this is what I did” I pretty much mean “I spent a few seconds changing the hour hand on the clock in the lounge.” And having completed the last of my chores for the day I settled behind the screen and binged on Netflix.

Before I knew it I’d reached my bedtime and the lounge clock confirmed it. I’d had my extra hour early and I hadn’t even noticed!

That night my daughters were having trouble. They were both ill and needed parental attention. And the parents needed sleep – but it wasn’t to come until the very early hours. I don’t know how it happened, but my wife was able to wake up the following morning a couple of ours later, happy as a bird and with a spring in her step.

I, on the other hand, was a sleep deprived miserable wretch. And being the shining angel that she is, my wife let me have a lie-in whilst she sorted out the girls who had somehow recovered and were equally cheerful (as their mother) and were springing around the house.

So I slept.

Long and deep, and let the neurons cease fire and recharge in my pounding head. And eventually I woke and made my way downstairs. And as three pairs of hands, feet arms and legs managed to draw me out of the land of nod and into crazy town, I glanced at the clock on the lounge wall. A quarter to eleven.

To be clear: this is the lounge clock which had already been set back an hour.

A quarter to eleven! For a father of 2 young daughters that’s an incredibly long lie-in!

My wife catches my eye on the clock. “Don’t worry”, she says, “It’s really quarter to twelve” …

Paul

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Arrival to The Story of Your Life

Watching Arrival reminded me of The Story of Your Life (Ted Chiang) which I read whilst Arrival was being made. Then I read it again. There’s something a little circular going on…

Arrival

Thumbing through the DVD collection at the local library I stumbled on Arrival, described on the back cover as a scifi thriller.

Arrival DVD

I didn’t understand the rest of the description as it was in Dutch, but “sci-fi” was enough to get it from the library shelf and into my DVD player.

It’s a slow moving movie, but it wasn’t long until the story line started to seem a bit familiar. It turns out that Arrival was based on a short story I’d read previously.

Dutch description of Arrival

The Story of Your Life (Ted Chiang)

“Here, read this, it’s not quite time travel but I think you’ll like it.”

I was passed The Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang.

It’s a long short story, or a short novella, about a linguist who has contact with aliens who have arrived on Earth. Who they are and what they want is unknown, and it’s Louise Banks’ task to find out.

But first she needs a line of communication with them. I was pleased that the Hollywood arrogance of teaching everyone (including extra-terrestrial Aliens) the English language was cast aside, and the focus moved more onto learning the language(s) of the visitors.

Actually I mentioned this in my recent review of Patterns on Pages (CR Downing) – that linguistics can effect culture – as well as the way of thinking. And this is the key to the plot – and where the “…not quite time travel” element comes into play.

Compare and Contrast

Of course there are always some differences between plot lines when printed on 2D paper or projected onto the silver screen, but generally speaking I think the movie remained pretty faithful to the original written word. (Perhaps this is obvious because I recognised the book from the movie!) It makes it all the more impressive then, that Arrival plays more with the idea of time travel without screwing up the original plot!

That said, there’s more specific detail given in The Story of Your Life regarding the complexities of time. For example, there’s a description of a “Book of Ages” which contains every detail of the future. If it’s read then our future is known and pre-determined. This opens the question of free will – are we actually able to choose to live out a different path than what’s already been written?

It’s an interesting point. In a Greek tragedy, so Ted Chiang continues to write, there’s no freedom of will – and events will conspire to force us to live out what has already been written. I think this makes sense because it’s similar to the “past is fixed” argument. Recall that the Book of Ages will have been written in the (or “a”?) future, so today’s events are effectively those in the (unchangeable) past.

Arrival Alien Language - a circle
Image credit (and header): www.wired.com/2016/11/arrivals-designers-crafted-mesmerizing-alien-alphabet/

Arrival was released towards the end of last year which means that in all likelihood I was reading The Story of Your Life around the same time. And oddly enough, after watching Arrival I was motivated to reread the novel. It seemed familiar. Deja ‘Read’. It seems circular. It’s almost as if…no. Or could it?

Perhaps next time I’ll have an easier time making sense of the DVD back cover. I already seem to have advance knowledge of what it will be about…!

Paul

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Review: Patterns on Pages (CR Downing)

Patterns on Pages: Secrets of the Sequenced Symbols is a beautifully written full length novel following in the HOT L series by CR Downing with time travel integrated throughout.

Patterns on Pages: Secrets of the Sequenced Symbols follows in the footsteps of C. R. Downing’s Traveler’s HOT L series.

Patterns on Pages: Secrets of the Sequenced Symbols by CR Downing

Despite its consistency with the HOT L establishment for time travelers and the characters (namely Eternity, Chronos, Tempus and Epoch) in the first two volumes, it is a distinct piece of work since like Reverse Image: A Timeless Tale (Volume 3) it’s a full length novel rather than a series of inter-related tales.

I welcomed this as it gave me time to really get stuck into it!

You may recall from (or choose to (re)read) my review of Traveler’s HOT L (Volume 1) on Time Travel Nexus that my main misgiving was that several of the tales didn’t necessarily need time travel, or even covered genres which I wouldn’t normally have chosen to read.

Patterns on Pages is quite the opposite! It’s time travel through and through (although I should correct the term “time travel” and instead use “travel along the time fabric”) and it certainly sits comfortably enough within the scifi genre to capture and hold my interest all the way along the journey!

A cracking start!

Patterns on Pages starts with an almighty bang. Or to be more exact, a crack – the Earth shatters! Now what can possibly happen next?! I’m hooked!

Premise

After “The Day the Earth Shattered” the human population is in decline, although it doesn’t seem to know it. Amongst the debris humans struggle to survive. Technology and progress have taken a backward step.

It’s not like they’re able to help themselves – without the power of literacy, for example, books are viewed as a fuel source rather than a source of information and education. At best books are holders of “patterns on pages”. (This is somewhat ironic given that I had some formatting troubles with early versions of the manuscript on my ereader! 😉 )

With no means (or desire) for the ability to use products from the past – let alone fix broken items or develop new ones, human kind is in a mess. And then there’s the death rate which is starting to overtake the birth rate. Human kind is set for extinction.

The question of using (burning) books for short term benefit (keeping warm) instead of longer term survival (education) reminded me a little of the desire to choose plants over people in the movie Silent Running. An arguably agreeable attitude when you’re faced with villagers with pitchforks and scepticism when it comes to learning about the value of books. People can be too stupid to know how stupid their stupidity is.

Thankfully there are two characters, Marin and Lincoln, who are more open – and curious – about books. They’re able to wade through an old library and access some talking books (which reminded me of the 2002 movie remake of The Time Machine with Guy Pearce) running on electricity still generated from old solar panels.

The plan is to send Marin and Lincoln back in time so that they can see first hand how things used to be, and how literacy can be key to saving the human race – and then come back to their own time to share their knowledge and show their community that there’s a better and sustainable way to live.

Writing Style

Patterns on Pages has an original and brilliant angle when it comes to putting people from different times and cultures together. It’s executed perfectly and written with an incredible insight into human behaviour and society.

I was immediately taken with how a global catastrophe has a personal impact. I remember my aunt many years ago explaining that we can identify with the sorrow of an individual in, for example, a fatal car crash. But scaling that up to 200 passengers on a plummeting aircraft is much more difficult because our minds are less equipped to deal with that enormous amount of tragedy. It’s a fair point, and a little ashamedly I feel more sympathy for my daughter when she’s fallen and grazed her knee than hearing about a car crash on the motorway.

How author C.R. Downing (Chuck) manages to stir feelings of personal empathy within a worldwide event I’ve no idea, but it works! One Earth is kept separate from the impact that it has on many people. Be warned – it’s a powerful and emotional start!

There’s a similar display of personal versus many when Lincoln and Marin discover that tens of books have been burned. This is serious because it represents the loss of a lot of useful information which would help to not only improve the quality of life, but ultimately preserve the human race. Lincoln’s reaction is that instead of passing Marin a personal letter today as planned, he’d be better off giving it to her tomorrow when she’s not feeling so emotional. He’s not selfish; he’s bringing large problems to a personal impact level.

I should clarify again that Lincoln and Marin are residents in our future, and part of a relatively simplistic culture. I recently watched the movie Arrival based on the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang (stand by for a post on that…). The point is made that linguistics can effect culture – and vice versa. And we see that here with Lincoln and Marin who clearly have a different way of speaking English to each other than people of our time. I was very interested to see that after their education and residency in the past [culture] Lincoln and Marin’s speech changed.

One of my pet peeves is when authors spell out accents. It’s the exception to the “show not tell” rule; I’d rather be told someone has an accent, and let my brain make the sound when I read. Having phonetic spelling is patronising and barely different to reading a book with pictures. All that said, phonetic spelling is used here in a couple of instances where it comes over as a powerful literary device used to show the diversity of humans and how accents are perceived by Lincoln and Marin. Brilliantly done!

Lincoln and Marin aren’t the only characters. There’s also Rulora. I’m not sure what she was, but she came over as some form of AI, for example, by providing her location co-ordinates with her name, or by prefixing her sentences with qualifiers such as “question”, “statement”, “observation” , etc..

Lincoln and Marin’s teachers, Courtney and Dawn, fairly quickly become people in their own right as opposed to background and secondary characters used only to bounce around dialogue and ideas. They have a crucial role to play in the plot line, and subsequently each have depth without cluttering up the novel.

My own experience of teachers is generally pretty bad. Naturally I’ve had some very good ones, but (maybe this is my pessimistic outlook) I tend to remember most clearly the cretinous nightmarey ones I suffered under who were not only a disgrace to teaching but to the human race.

When I read how Courtney and Dawn felt about teaching Lincoln and Marin and the techniques they used I was really impressed. Perhaps this should have come as no surprise given that Chuck (actually here I shall refer to him in full as Dr Downing) has received several awards for teaching including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. It’s wonderful how he’s able to bring his personal experiences into his writing!

On a similar note I was very happy to read about Lincoln and Marin’s introduction to Christianity. The subject is touched on very delicately which is all it needed to be acknowledged (its omission would have been a statement in itself…). Actually, for those interested, Chuck is working on a piece in Biblical fiction titled Who Leads the Shepherd).

There’s one final thing I want to mention about the writing style and that’s the thankful avoidance of blabbing on about historical crap. There’s a section where we’re taken back to 1816. Naturally there are some observations about the people and culture there, but it’s not full on, doesn’t go on for pages on end, and it’s not used as evidence that an author has carried out loads of research and finds it compulsory to bore us to tears with.

Like the religious segment, the 19th century view is treated softly and succinctly. (Phew!)

I think it’s clear that I’m very impressed with the quality of writing (and content) in Patterns on Pages! For the sake of balance, I do have only one very small negative comment: temperatures are given not in degrees Celsius / Centigrade but in fahrenheit – a measurement scale which doesn’t speak to me as a scientist.

Of course this is very subjective, but I’ll point out this – the fahrenheit scale was crafted with the aim of body temperature being set at 100 degrees fahrenheit. And they got it wrong (98.6)! (Certainly some of my school teachers made my blood run cold. Maybe Rulora has a body temperature of 100?

The Time Fabric

The Day the Earth Shattered caused a huge loss of human life. This means that the Fabric of Time was damaged and became unstable because it’s made from the summation of single life threads of sentient beings.

Epoch, Tempus and Pater become involved though I sense a little chicken-and-egg regarding their motivation. Is it to prevent the extinction of the human race; so that humans can occupy a longer length of Earth’s existence and get closer to their potential? Or it is that more human population threads are needed to support the failing fabric of time?

Moving from the the more ubiquitous time fabric to a more a local scale, we read that the Earthquake realigned the location of the HOT L establishment. (HOT L is the Harmonic Overlapping Time Location.) It’s another example of Chuck’s handle on scales of impact whilst keeping realism in check.

The HOT L series makes a point of neither approving or using the term “time travel” but travelling along the time fabric. This is a very physical approach, and could perhaps be seen as a move towards linking time and space – and back to time; time travelling walking along the fabric of time to 1816 took an hour! 😉 The idea of a physical approach to time travel is also enhanced when the travelers are advised to tread on each other’s footprints on the fabric to minimise damage to it. Love it!

I suspect that my electirical skills aren’t up to scratch, but something did strike me about the actual workings of the HOT L. The strength of current (voltage) harmonizes the vibrations of a person’s DNA to that of the HOT L. I’m not sure about this on two counts. Isn’t the strength of current the Ampere and not the Volt (potential difference – the amount of ‘push’)? And wouldn’t a change in frequency be required for harmonization?

Ending

There are several moments in the novel where it could have ended, or worse painfully peeled off to make a (perceived) marketable addition to a series. Thankfully this isn’t the case here and Patterns on Pages carries on taking us with it to a suitable conclusion (without it being long and drawn out!)

Rating * * * * *

Patterns on Pages is an easy full 5 stars! The time travel mechanism is well thought out and applied consistently throughout the novel. I really liked the story line which has an original approach on putting people from different times and cultures together – enhanced with a two-step learning process – from ‘older’ more advanced people to ‘younger’ less advanced – and back again.

There’s currently a KindleScout campaign on Amazon where you can nominate Patterns on Pages. I’ve already nominated this wondeful novel – you can do the same too! (Nominations close at midnight at 12AM EDT Sept 10.)

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

Paul

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Star ratings:

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

A Single Life (a short time travel animation)

“A Single Life” is a short animation where time is bi-directional on a single time-line. “You might think your life is never ending” – but only for as long as the duration of your life.

The Netherlands does it again!

I’ve written several times about how the Netherlands is making its stamp when it comes to things time travel. An appearance in one of the first time travel novels, the time travelling train, the temporally challenged table cloth and months to name but a few instances.

And now Joris from the “Job, Joris & Marieke” animation studio in Utrecht (the Netherlands! 😉 ) has alerted me to a brilliant time travel animation: A Single Life.

I could mention that A Single Life was nominated for the 87th Academy Awards® in 2015 for best animated short film and that it’s been awarded with 40 prizes. But pictures paint a thousand words. Come to think of it, a movie trumps the lot – so here it is!

Groove-y eh! 😉

A Single Life operates on a beautifully simple idea; that time follows a single time line but that it’s bi-directional. A straight-forward (and backward! 😉 ) idea, but one which got me thinking about a few issues.

Dead end

If the vinyl record (or “single”) plays the soundtrack to your life, maybe there’s an underlying story. A book of life, maybe. And as many authors are aware, there’s a beginning a middle and an end. Time travel is allowed only during this person’s life. The middle. Obviously there’s interesting stuff going on here!

A Single Life - as a baby

But time travel to before or after isn’t possible; it’s a hard stop. A point of singularity beyond which you can’t say “actually I zoomed on a bit too fast there, I think I’ll go back and not die/not be unborn” because there is no “go back” when you’re on a point. The line has literally ended; time travel in “A Single Life” isn’t possible beyond the point of death, or birth.

A smooth progression?

So time is progressive within boundaries – but it can also jump.

A Single Life - with a record player

I love the idea that the needle follows a scratch in the record and causes a time hiatus, a moment where two discontinuous points in time are adjacent to each other (an idea played with (rather badly) in Time’s Eye by Stephen Baxter and Arthur C. Clarke).

(Come to think of it, this seems to be a little similar to the idea of wormholes in space which connect two otherwise separate locations).

Time for progress?

Music enthusiasts would have us believe that the analogue sound quality of a record player is superior to the digital formats from CDs and MP3 players.

A Single Life - vinyl single

I’m not one to judge sound quality – or in this parallel, the quality of a person’s life, but it would be interesting to consider different kinds of music players as a time travel machine.

How would a time travelling CD track play out? The laser reads digital points located at specific locations on the disk, so in theory, with programming this could give us the same result as a needle following a groove (or scratch). We know this because we can easily skip from track to track, for example. This wouldn’t be so simple with an audio cassette when it comes to time jumping. I’m guessing an MP3 player would act similarly to the CD player – although perhaps we’d be open to effects due to corrupted files. Anything can happen with viruses

The personal touch

That’s the time travel machine – this one needs an operator / operatee…

One of the things which first struck me whilst watching this animation is that the hand was always able to remain on the record whilst the surroundings were changing in response to a change in time. It brought to mind my earlier thoughts about the time in a time machine (see my comments in my review of “Piercing the Elastic Limit“).

Naturally, the hand is connected to the rest of the body, so in which case I’m interested in what happens to the person during time travel.

Whilst biological changes are evident (she gets older / younger), her mental state is not so clear. She can remember that she needs to keep her hand on the record, for instance, but is there a more general preservation of memory? What’s the difference between living life (or a part of it) the first time round and say the fifth time? In the latter case, the memory of how to ‘play’ the record makes sense, but are there life experiences to recall? I’d guess not, but it seems inconsistent.

Several novels and movies have dealt with this issue. Memories are clearly kept in Groundhog Day allowing Phil Connors to cumulatively educate himself. And in the movie Click (where a remote control allows fast forwarding through life) Michael Newman’s mind goes into zombie mode whilst his body plays out the actions without a real mental presence. And of course I should mention Buckyball by Fabien Roy where a particular musical track brought about time travel and replays (memory preserved).

The cast of "A Single Life"
The cast of “A Single Life”

Whether memories are preserved during replays or not, or whether it’s a good idea to go forwards past seemingly dull moments in life, I think the take home message of the animation is clear:

We have one single life – live it! 🙂

Paul

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Author Interview: Howard Loring (Elastic Limit)

In this author interview we find out more about Howard Loring – creator of Epic Fables and Tales of Elastic Limits.

Howard Loring (AKA “TimeJumperA1) is the author of the “Epic Fables” Beyond the Elastic Limit and Piercing the Elastic Limit, as well as “Tales of the Elastic Limit”. In this author interview we find out a little more about the man behind these books…

Howard Loring, Epic Fables of The Elastic Limit

Douglas Adams’ Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy famously proposed an answer but the question wasn’t well-framed. Henry Kissinger asked whether anyone had any questions for his answers.

Seemingly questions are less important than answers, though the Old Man in Howard Loring’s Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable would disagree. He was keen for his visitors to frame the ‘proper question’ and by doing so their brainwaves could be aligned in a certain way.

On one hand I feel I under pressure to ask Howard the ‘right’ questions. But if that’s the case then what will that be doing to my brain? On the other hand, Howard may already have the answers but needs the questions to present them. And in this case then this makes the task of me asking my questions a mere action of duty and fulfilment of destiny.

But only if Howard’s answer to my first question is positive. So let’s see…

Do you have any answers for my questions?

Howard: Certainly, fire away

Why are you so interested in Time?

Howard: Time defines us; it frames out reality and permeates our entire existence. So what’s not to love?

And you write books on the elusive Elastic Limit of Time; what is that exactly?

Howard: Actually it’s two things; in my Epic Fables the phrase Elastic Limit is Jargon, the term used to describe the concept that one must understand and implement in order to manipulate and maneuver within any given Timestream, but it’s also a Metaphor for the individual human imagination, so each title really has a double meaning: the novel BEYOND the ELASTIC LIMIT propels you Beyond your imagination, and the novel PIERCING the ELASTIC LIMIT blows your imagination away, while TALES of the ELASTIC LIMIT contains twelve short stories intended to feed your imagination.

That’s the one that can be read backwards?

Howard: Well, it can be read in three ways, actually: At random for each chapter is just a story about Time, or the chapters can be read in sequence for the History of Humanity but, as Time is linear, it’s the same thing from either direction, so the chapters can also be read in descending order for the story of how Human History came about. And I think that’s a nice twist on the genre.

I also see that you’ve subtitled each of your Time Travel works Epic Fables. Why, what are Epic Fables?

Howard: Well, Literature has jargon also, terms used within the discipline that have a specific meaning; for example, a Novel is not a Short Story, etc., but then again, each of these can be presented as either a Fable or an Epic, and my books are both.

How so?

Howard: Fables are usually simple stories with a moral or a moral lesson, and my books while being layered and interwoven are all simply written, and Epics hold a universal appeal, with a narrative to which anyone can relate.

So what makes your books Epic?

Howard: As I said, they are universal, or rather deal with universal human concepts: in Epics the plot is in reality secondary, it’s the changes the characters go through that’s important, so it’s not a ‘what they did’ story but rather ‘who they became’ because of what they did. This makes them relatable, for most everyone can empathize given most at some time have lost in love, been disappointed by life, hated their job, boss, co-worker, neighbor or even family, and the very same emotions and conflicts such circumstances engender have been felt to some extent by all of us. After all, universal concepts, by definition, are held by everyone.

Your books often contain real History. Is this important to you?

Howard: Write what you know, yes? And the great thing is that many people who don’t as a rule read History love the historic nature of my Epic Fables, and are surprised by it, some blown away by it, for it’s not just boring dates or overblown explanations but real life people and situations, and this fact intrigues them, a good thing, I think.

shakespeare
The Noble Watchman?

Shakespeare famously questioned the fragrance of a rose if it were otherwise named. You place a lot of importance on the names of your characters in your first novel “Beyond the Elastic Limit” which are descriptive and interestingly, vary in time. Google tells me that “Howard” means “Noble watchman”. Is this a reference for your affinity with time, or something else?

Howard: Duh? It’s my name, but I will gladly take the inference, thanks.

You mention in “Piercing the Elastic Limit” that music communicates more deeply and less ambiguously than speech. What would be the backing soundtrack to your novels?

Howard: Ha, I’ll leave that to the movie producer, but my books do cover how language has meaning through symbols, and in order to communicate this meaning a consensus must be reached or understanding is impossible. Music, on the other hand, is a direct connection needing no consensus, and it can touch you in ways that may never be understood: Music can make you happy or sad, create feelings of joy or sorrow, and such examples are endless, so yes, music is internal and personal and, I think that’s why it touches us as deeply as it does.

Your novels can be read independently and in any order. Did you write them / parts of them in the order that they’re printed? Is there a preferred reading order?

Howard: As each Timeline is in itself a Current Reality, I had no wish to write sequels, so yes, each book is independent in that it needs no backstory, and therefore you can read them in any order. However, I did wish them to relate and even explain each other, and for this reason how exactly they do so depends on the sequence in which they are read, another interesting twist, I believe.

Is there a difference between time jumpers (as in your novels) and time travellers?

Howard: All of the books explain that the original purpose of the machine was benign, simply to view other eras and not to physically Time Travel, as that wasn’t its intended function. Given the operator ‘jumped’ between different Timeframes to view and study them, the term was apt, and so yes, in my scheme, once the existing machine and software were altered to permit this ability, Time Travelers and Time Jumpers are indeed the same.

I love your idea of two technologies which work together to allow time travel / jumping (the elastic limit and the time fistula). I was also impressed with how you involved some biological (non) effects where time jumpers didn’t age during a jump. Do you see technology or biology as being more dominant when it comes to time travel?

Howard: I simply wished to avoid the normal pitfalls of most Time Traveling tales i.e. Paradox and so forth, and as I write Fables, I do this employing a minimalist fashion, in very much a less is more approach. Most of the particulars are simply already in place, and so I needn’t spend time introducing or explaining them, which seems to work given the feedback I receive .

I read on your Facebook page that you have an interest in astronomy. Are you a planetary observer or do you prefer the deep sky objects?

Howard: I observe everything, but it takes different instruments to view both near and far, so I’ve many telescopes of various designs and sizes, some of which I’ve reconditioned (pictures on my Facebook Fan Page) and here’s also a video that shows a few of them, in fact I’ve many videos on YouTube dealing with the Elastic Limit of Time.

Water seems to feature prominently in both “Beyond the Elastic Limit” and “Piercing the Elastic Limit” – either as a resource or as a component in a meteorological event. Would you rather have a submarine, an aircraft or a spacecraft?

Howard: Well again, water is certainly a universal thing concerning the human life experience. As such it’s been used often in Myth, and from many cultures, as bread has been, and that’s why I also use them, as well as many other ubiquitous human connections. But to answer your question, I’d have to pick spacecraft, given my Time Machine would certainly qualify.

Yes, you always employ Myth; is there a particular reason for this?

Howard: Myth is a very ancient art form; it was honed through the ages long before written language, and for the most part it connects on a subconscious level, employing prototypes that are easily recognizable in a much broader sense. To this end, Myth can certainly be used to convey the backstory or move the action along. This literary device ensures a ‘page-turning’ read, and it’s also great fun to write.

When you’re sitting on a train trying to read, what’s your order of annoyance (most annoying => least annoying):
(a) a bunch of noisy school kids
(b) their teachers who don’t tell them to settle down and let people read in peace
(c) old ladies who put on too much perfume
(d) old men who nose whistle
(e) teenagers listening to loud music on head phones
(f) people who eat noisily / stinky food (without offering you any)
(g) realizing you’re not sitting on the train at all, but still in the platform waiting room because you were so engrossed in your book you didn’t notice the train arriving.

Howard: Well, sorry there; none of the above I’m afraid, given I no longer travel by such a conveyance: I instead use my imagination, which so far hasn’t broken down or run late, but who knows what the Future holds? Oh, wait: just read my books to find out.

Become a fan of Howard Loring!

You can follow Howard on his website, on Facebook and on Twitter (@TimeJumperA1). Howard’s novels are available on Amazon.

Reviews

Review: Beyond the Elastic Limit (Howard Loring)

Review: Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable (Howard Loring)

Paul

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Review: Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable (Howard Loring)

Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable (Howard Loring) is effectively a series of stories with a common thread and some common characters running through them. This novel is loaded with ideas to get the time travel enthusiast thinking!

Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable

Having gone Beyond the Elastic Limit author Howard Loring now helps us to pierce it in the second in the series: Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable.

Beginnings (or endings)

Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable

Piercing the Elastic Limit by Howard Loring is effectively a series of short stories – though “series” may not be the right word given that Howard’s true book of short stories,
Tales of the Elastic Limit, can be read in any order. It sounds like an interesting idea, though not a premise I’d feel like trying out given the annoyances of e-book formats!

(Actually on that note, take a look at this screen shot – the page numbers insert themselves into the text which can sometimes make for some funny reading! See this shot on page 73!)

Piercing the Formatting Limit
Piercing the Formatting Limit

The set up reminds me of the Cloud Atlas movie which spans across a number of time eras with different characters but who seem to follow a similar ‘template’ of existence (and acted by the same actors / actresses). This is achieved in the novel through common themes and characters – but crucially it’s the differences which are central to the plot, so keep an eye out!

The time travel element

I’m going to jump straight into the time travel element, and rather fittingly, mention that we have time jumpers in place of time travellers. This already begins to give us a clue about the nature of the movement through and within time in this novel.

Actually we’ve already been introduced to the model of time and the technology behind it in Beyond the Elastic Limit; the time line is projected into the past within the bounds of the elastic limit. This is similar to the River of Time. The “time fistula” is a separate technology which opens up a window to view the past – like placing a rock in a river and seeing how the water flows differently around it.

Crucially, the future cannot be viewed, and viewing the past doesn’t modify the time line itself (which reminds of me the Deja Vu movie where Denzel Washington peers into the past through discreet time windows).

The crux is what happens when the observation window turns into a door.

Various groups of characters have access to the appropriate technology – a machine which distorts time with an electromagnetic field. Some characters can only travel in time; others are able to hold and restrain time completely.

One particular feature I liked is that the time jumpers don’t age when they’re outside of their own natural timeline. (Their metabolism doesn’t react to their surrounding – you may recall that I rather like the crossover of time travel into biology – for example, watch the Echo Back – Time Travel Virus video and read my thoughts on biological time travel underneath).

It did get me thinking again about what time is it in a time machine anyway? When the whole time machine goes, say backwards in time, do the people inside still age as the internal time still goes forward? They can’t be ageing backwards because then they may regress to child-hood – even non-existence – if they’re traveling to a time before their birth. Or is time held constant? But if this is the case then there’s no event as all events need time?

Writing style

I really like how Howard’s writing style encapsulates many epochs. For example, there’s a description of a peice of music which has just been written; in the future this would be considered to be great, but that was decades away from now and today it wasn’t recognised.

And I must quote this:

“They’re in the past,” he said to reassure her. “Once it’s done it will already be over, and long ago…”

Actually, whilst I’m busy quoting I’m going to do another one – and probably use it at several more moments along the time line of my forthcoming life. It says much more elegantly than I can my disinterest in history and would rather set my eyes on the future:

“What he wanted was insight into the future. The long dead past,no matter how glorious,would do him no good.”

As I briefly mentioned earlier, similar characters help to tie all epochs together. In particular there’s the ageless “red haired girl” with her enchanting and all-knowing smile. Other than her hair there’s very little physical description of her – but her presence is powerful!

My only negative vibe from Piercing the Elastic Limit lies with the closing section where I became quite lost. Things seemed to be coming together but there was a lot of flitting about between different characters and I couldn’t make the connection. I didn’t understand the significance of a musician with a mangled hand and / or some children for example. Given the quality of the writing beforehand it’s more than likely that this is my own failing…

Paul

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Review: Time Split – Briggs (Patricia Smith)

Patricia’s powerful writing in “Time Split – Briggs” brings us multiple time lines thanks to a time machine / teleporter backed up with experimental development from the first novel (“Time Split”). Be prepared for some blood and gore with the evil Briggs!

Time Split Briggs is the second novel by Patricia Smith in her Time Split series. The first novel of the same name operates on a single time line. Now all that changes and the title really comes into play!

Briggs

Briggs himself is the ‘bad guy’ in the original novel – and I’m glad that he gets to have this sequel novel named after him.

Review of "Time Split Briggs" by Patricia Smith

Perhaps I shouldn’t feel like this, but when I watch the X-Men movies I feel sorry for the villain, Magneto. OK, he dumps Mystique quicker than a hot potato when she loses her mutancy, but other than that I think he has a fair view of the world – it’s against him, and ultimately he seeks protection for himself, and for his kind. I’ve forgotten which DVD it is, but one of them you get the option to choose your side – and yes, I chose Magneto’s.

It’s the same here. Bad guys aren’t always bad; they just have a slightly different view. Briggs wants to be someone in a messed up world rather than a nobody in a world where there’s no nuclear holocaust. Don’t we all want to be somebody?

Author Patricia Smith presents Briggs mostly as an antagonist to Jason and Sarah, but we also get an insight into his own character and motivation. We also get to see a slightly different side to him in his double from a different time line.

The bottom line is that he’s an evil character. A really horrible one. I’m reminded of one of Terry Pratchett’s phrases – that if you’re busy running away from something, then where you’re running to kind of takes care of itself. I think Jason and Sarah often operated under this regime, Sarah in particular, ensuring that their paths weren’t going to cross.

I think it was a wise decision.

Time travel

I loved the experimental introduction into how time travel was ‘discovered’ in Time Split. In Time Split – Briggs the methodology is given as a pre and the focus is more on the complexities of time travel, in particular, those which arise from introducing a new time line. (Incidentally, I thought this was a nice way to make a sequel!)

With multiple time lines there is the possibility for multiple versions of the same person. We see this with Briggs. And we also have characters performing actions across different time lines. This latter scenario plays out where Sarah keeps pointing out to Jason things that he (i.e. his double) has already done, or will do, in another time line. (Indeed, in this respect Sarah often seemed to be more of a main character than either Jason or Briggs).

Where we learn more about Briggs through his multiple ‘identities’, Jason learns more about himself through hearing about his.

Having said that the time travel methodology in Time Split – Briggs is a given, I did note a couple of oddities with the time travel machine.

The first is that a message is given that the rotation of Earth has been taken into consideration. At first glance this makes sense – but I’d have expected this to have been the default setting and that a warning message would be displayed if the user opted not to take the Earth’s rotation into account (when would that be?). And come to think of it, what about other astronomical rotations and movements?

Still, this is nit-picking the nits off a nit-picker on a picnic – although possibly annoying for the user. I remember making (paper) photocopies at the Plymouth University library (it was a long time ago…). The default paper setting was A3 which meant you paid 3 times as much as for regular A4. And of course the copy never came out nicely so it was unusable and needed to be made again – with the correct setting. It was a crafty way for the university to effectively extract 4 times as much cash from us hard-up students than I think they should have. It was an annoying setting.

Thankfully Jason and Sarah didn’t seem too perturbed by their machine’s settings!

I was also surprised that this rotation consideration message came before the length of stay had been input. Wouldn’t the consideration require the length of stay? Then again, time is irrelevant with a time machine! 😉

Going back to basics though, Sarah poses the question whether the teleporter time machine can differentiate between 2 bodies which are inside it. Recalling the effects seen in The Fly movie it’s a factor well worth considering. Jason figures that since he travelled without being fused with his clothes, then things should be OK.

Now I may be remembering this incorrectly, but wasn’t the difference between animate and inanimate objects the trigger for time travel instead of teleportation? In other words, I think the comparison that Jason makes between people and clothes is like comparing apples and oranges. Or at least, Adam and fig leaves…

Writing style

In keeping with the first novel, Patricia writes with a mighty pen. The horrors of nuclear fallout are vivid – both physically, and the emotional effects. You can’t help thinking “What the b***dy hell were people thinking when they set off those nuclear bombs?

There’s an interesting observation where WW2 was instrumental in advancing technology (much like the cold war), whereas with nuclear war sets things back. Radiation knows no borders – there are really no winners. Even the kids in the War Games movies knew that. (Then again, when you look at current British politics it doesn’t take long to realise that no-one’s thinking).

Perhaps in keeping with the insanity of humankind, there’s a fair amount of blood and gore. This is inflicted by Briggs (for example, twisting knives to release the vacuum, or catching blades on a piece of back-bone) and inflicted by the pricks who pressed the red button (nuclear blast / survival in post nuclear fallout).

Worrying as it is that Patricia has a startling knowledge of such things (and for clarity – this is not the reason why I’m saying I enjoyed her novel!) – I’m pleased that although subtle, Patricia’s passion for astronomy comes into play. Whereas many authors would cast a reference to the familiarity of the night sky by blurting some speel about the North Star (which is not particularly bright), Patricia mentions Spica and Arcturus – two different stars than the standard stars that your average author would pick. These are two bright stars, one of which can be quite low on the horizon – though now I come to think of it, it would be higher in the sky up near Newcastle (UK) where this novel is set.

(Actually, now I recall, Deb mentioned the constellations of Ursa Major and Orion in Dead Time. Whilst the latter is a well known constellation, it’s situated on the other side of the night sky to Ursa Major so these two in combination would give a good idea of how Earth’s celestial settings is.)

Closing

There is good and bad news when it comes to the ending – things seem to wrap up well (I won’t mention how or for whom! 😉 ) but the bad news is that this suggests that there won’t be a sequel.

I hope I’m wrong…

Paul

PS: Why not read my interview with Patricia?

Author interview: Patricia Smith (Time Split)

Link to my review of Time Split.

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Review: Lost Time and Dead Time (D. L. Orton)

“Dead Time” and “Lost Time” are different flavours to the dish that is served in Book 1, “Crossing in Time”. Beautifully written with parallel worlds, time travel and Deb’s usual dose of good quality humour!

Lost Time and Dead Time are Books 2 and 3 of DL Orton’s Between Two Evils series.

Lost Time by DL Orton

I’ve already read and reviewed the first book (Crossing in Time) which I thought had some “juicy time travel and gadgetry”

I’m going to review Books 2 and 3 together for 2 reasons – firstly that the first (i.e. second book in the series!) is short, and second, that when it stops the next book picks right up straight where it left off (so in this respect I’d suggest that you only read Lost Time if you have Dead Time ready and waiting for your reading pleasure straight afterwards).

Initial impressions

Lost Time is only 200 pages – much shorter than its predecessor which weighed in at 385 pages. This at first struck me as a good thing – first because I’ve got an ebook (never as good as paper!), but mostly because I was disappointed with the ‘padding’ in the second half of Book 1 and a shorter novel indicates a potential stripping of the fluff. (That said, I’d encourage you to read Deb’s response in the comments in the comments under the original review.)

Dead Time (DL Orton)

I finished my review of Crossing in Time with the comment that judging it was like judging a meal by the way the waitress walks when she brings you the starter. These latter two additions to the series are like the meal which is served on the table next to you in the same high quality restaurant!

Bang bang! Straight away we’re reminded that author D. L. Orton is well read in scifi with a couple of quotes and references to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Space Odyssey – and is able to bring it even when you have a naked man stuck up a tree!

There was also some talk about a shell. I recall a little about this from the previous book, but it was a while since I read it and I wasn’t fully up to speed. I felt that I needed to go back and check, but at the same time by not doing so I was able to share in Diego’s confusion. In fact at one point he even wonders whether his ‘previous’ life in another universe (from Crossing in Time) was a figment of his imagination; a feeling which I could identify with given how long ago I read that novel. Indeed, I must admit that I had some troubles in remembering what ‘the normal’ universe constituted!

Initially I didn’t like Diego. Fair enough, he was found naked and dangling in a tree, but he wallows in self pity – a real grate on my nerves because he’s surrounded by people (at the beginning) who are so delightful. In these sections I felt much more connected to these secondary characters – and was pleased that as in Book 1, chapters are written in first person from the viewpoint not just of the main character, but also of the others (maybe that ‘upgrades’ them from “secondary” characters…?)

The angle

Where Crossing in Time deals a lot with red tape in science, Lost Time and Dead Time are more about family relationships. There are parenting issues as well relations between siblings and coming of age. At one stage there seems to be some new sort of lingo introduced where I wasn’t sure if it was from the future or teenager stuff!

The basic premise is that there has been an outbreak of a virus and we’re reading about the end of the human world scenario. What makes this series an interesting read is that it’s concerned with the bits which happen afterwards.

One of the things which happens afterwards is a love interest. Actually there are two, and in both cases it was nice to see the relationship form and grow instead of having certain bodily parts thrust in your face and invited to the resulting shag-fest afterwards (as it was in Crossing in Time. There was a nice quote which I’ll reproduce here:

“Love is telling someone to go to hell and worrying if they’ll get there safely.”

Actually on this note, there are quite a few random but beautiful quotes scattered throughout the novels – as well as subtle references to other novels and films and subtle humour.

Writing style

I love Deb’s writing style. There’s scifi and comedy there for the taking if you recognise / understand it – and Latin if you care to translate it (I did!) – but more generally, the text reads so smoothly you wonder why it didn’t write itself (and in which case why did I need to wait so long for these novels?!)

The writing is powerful – one character is effectively kidnapped, and this situation is covered in first person – and in the third where the horror extends to the worry and anxiety of those who care about her. I really liked the ‘nicknames’ given to some of the characters – “the Hulk, “Blabbermouth”, “Nurse Ratched”, etc.. It describes not only those characters, but also gives more of an insight into the character asigning those names!

Characters

Recently I started to read a novel which I had to cast aside because its characters were able to do everything and anything and all that in superlative quantities. There was no tension because there were no problems or difficulties.

With Lost Time and Dead Time it’s different. There are many different characters who have many different skills in different levels of abilities. The interaction of these characters was done beautifully, and just as I’m always surprised at how my two daughters are so different from each other despite having the same parents and upbringing, I’m in awe at how an author can create so much character variety!

Interesting twists

In continuation with character interaction and relationships, I was really impressed with some masterful originality in a couple of instances.

The first is a crossover of couples – not in a swinging way, but in the same couples but straddling universes. A James from one universe with Isabella from another. The twist is not just different experiences, but different ages. As you may recall, I wasn’t impressed with the ‘same universe’ relationship from Crossing in Time – here’s things are much more solid.

The age / experience shuffle also comes into play where James meets himself. Characters meeting themselves are often taboo in time travel circles (or lines! 😉 ) or characters do very odd things (e.g. in The Man Who Folded Himself (David Gerrold) and All You Zombies by Robert Heinlein). In this case there’s nothing bizarre going on – perhaps as realistic as you’d expect it to be – yet it’s precisely this angle which makes it so interesting!

The ending

I had a bit of a rant when it came to the ending of Crossing in Time. Lost Time doesn’t really have an ending – it pretty much just stops. Not a problem, because we go straight into Dead Time where 3 sub-plots come together and…spoilers will not be divulged! 😉

I was pleased that it didn’t stop at the easy-cheesy point but followed through naturally – avoiding the Quantum Leap “Oh Boy!” run into the next instalment.

There is an epilogue. It caught me off guard, but it’s good!

What next?

The next book in the Between Two Evils series is Out of Time. If it’s anything like its predecessors then it’s a novel worth waiting for! (But not too long, please Deb!)

Why not head over to TimeTravelNexus.com and read my interview with Deb.

Paul

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Review: Two Worlds Collided (Karen Michelle Nutt)

“Two Worlds Collided” by Karen Michelle Nutt probably doesn’t set out to be a time travel novel in itself, but rather a quirky romance novel with time travel added to make it interesting!

The ‘Pre-read’

The first thing I thought when I was offered the chance to read Two Worlds Collided was that the cover looked a bit soppy – this was going to be more of a slushy romance than time travel. But (pre)judging a book by its cover would be crazy.

"Two Worlds Collided" (Karen Michelle Nutt)

So I delved around a bit to see if this was going to be worth a read. Author Karen Michelle Nutt has a “research sites” page on her website where I was happy to see a link to time2time travel (thanks Karen! 🙂 ) and a few reposted links from my interesting links page, so of course this was looking good so far. But I was akso interested to read that Karen and her daughter Katrina Gillian create pre-made book covers (see their website at Judge Your Book by its Cover! 😉 )

Well, let’s just give a shot, shall we? Besides, with an e-book no-one can see what I’m reading!

Plot

Evie goes back in time to change history – namely to stop rock star Bellamy from killing himself. Whilst there, seeds of romance are planted.

Is it time travel?

Spend some time online and it won’t take you too long to discover that there’s a bit of a debate as to what makes a time travel novel. Does it only need to span (at least) 2 time periods? Or does it need to have a time machine (maybe with an in-depth instruction manual complete with theory)? Or some other time travel mechanism?

Shakespeare once asked “What’s in a name?”, and if I can paraphrase, he questioned whether it’s worth defining a genre within a novel because however you define it, the novel is what it is, right?

Personally I believe that simply having time travel in a novel doesn’t make it a time travel novel – just the same way that having a car in a novel doesn’t make it a travel novel.

Two Worlds Collided puts a character in the past, and this is where / when the novel takes off. Ultimately the novel is set in the past, and the present (with a rushed recount of what happened in between) is the drawn out (and perhaps contrived) happy ever after bit. For the most part the entire novel could have been written ‘conventionally” without time travel at all – although there are some interesting time travel issues introduced towards the end 🙂

Approach

Irrespective of how Shakespeare – or we – would (bother to) define this novel, I’m going to tease out the time travel aspects and separate it from the love story which motivates it.

Time travel element

I’ve never read this time travel mechanism before: since time travel needs blood (“blood is the essence of all life”) the time traveler must stand in a circle of chicken blood (human blood would of course be crazy!). Next we need an anchor which can be a physical object like a necklace (outward trip) or friends (return trip) and then some voodoo chanting which includes mumbling about “space-time and special relativity and other words she cant pronounce”. (I think that’s the science bit 😉 )

Aside: Here I need to credit Steven Burgauer (author of The Grandfather Paradox) where I learned of “Clarke’s Third Law” which I think may be applicable here:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

As far as time travel methodologies go, I can’t help thinking this is pure nonsense, but in its defense this is fiction not science fiction so anything goes! 😉

The time traveller goes back in time and merges into the body of their previous self whilst their previous mind goes into limbo. This reminded me The Mind Traveller by Bonnie Rozanski and the movie Click with Adam Sandler.

Mention the future, and the time traveller snaps back to the present. (Although making ‘predictions’ about the future under the guise of palm reading doesn’t count). That said, Evie manages to get back to the present by getting on an aeroplane (recall Stephen King’s novella The Langoliers)- though this may have been timed with her ‘work’ being done.

A few welcome time travel issues are touched on at the close of the novel. One of them is that the changes in the past take time to ripple forwards and come into effect in the present. I love this idea! It reminds me of the Sound of Thunder movie (see this link to read my thoughts on time waves) – and it also explains nicely how, by saving Bellamy’s life, Evie has now lived a different history than previously. (In fact, a lot of history is rewritten – and written in as narrative in the closing pages.)

Actually, rewriting history isn’t strictly correct. The time travel premise works on timelines where events in the past cause a fork. This has two consequences but only the first is alluded to in the novel which is that Evie can’t go back to same event twice. It’s a self-imposed restriction – Evie can’t try again a second time if she makes a mistake. So kudos to Karen for incorporating this aspect which undoubtedly made Evie’s mission more difficult to attain!

But the second consequence is that if there’s a fork there’s a splitting of the time line. In other words it’s not a rewriting, but an additional ‘writing’ alongside the original – so there’s still a version of Bellamy kicking around destined for a short end in a universe following an alternate time line.

Or not? Is ‘forking’ more like a redirection which still maintains a single time line? But then the grandfather paradox applies – Evie’s reason for going back in time (Bellamy’s suicide) no longer holds, so she doesn’t (didn’t) go back in time, so Bellamy does die and Evie’s motivated to go back in time to remove her motivation…

These thoughts make it interesting, right?!

The romance

I’ll touch here briefly on the non-time travel aspects of Two Worlds Collided – but with the caveat that despite the time travel aspects as above I wouldn’t say that I fall in the target audience (which I’m hazarding a guess that it’s geared towards female readers.)

In many time travel romances there’s an element of attraction due to large cultural differences due to differing root times of the two parties involved. With a span of only a few years here, this doesn’t happen in Two Worlds Collided. Evie and Blellamy could be any random couple thrown together for whatever reason. For this reason I first thought that the romance side of things was weak, but in real non time travel / soap-opera / Hollywood life relationships build more slowly, so this might be spot on.

One thing which I did find missing (though I again point out that I’m not necessarily tuned into these kinds of things) is that I didn’t get the feeling that Bellamy was suicidal, other than a couple of comments that he blamed himself for his father’s death and got depressed. And this meant that I didn’t pick up how he needed rescuing by Evie. That said, this angle is probably more for the (weak) time travel motivation which could have been written out, and serves more for the back cover blurb than the main stuff, er, within the covers.

Writing style

Karen writes well – a huge relief given the subject matter!

As we’ve discussed, time travel is used pretty much as a scene setter; not much knowledge from the future is taken to the past. This is also compounded as the amount of time traveled is short so there’s little juxtapositioning of feelings or advance knowledge from another time.

There are reams of pages with nothing much in particular going on – choosing dresses, random small talk, hair cuts and styling etc.. I guess this might make it good for a holiday read as there’s not much for the brain to mull over. Personally I found it a little difficult to concentrate because the main story line was rather fuzzy – but I guess this is how life really is!

Bellamy has the pre-requisite weakness for a hero / villain; in this case he can’t smell or taste. Evie is the exception (I’ll let you read why! 😉 )

Summary

I’d imagine that readers expecting a romance novel will be surprised with the time travel.

Conversely, those expecting more heavy duty time travel will be a little frustrated with the slush – the closing text relating to events occurring after Evie’s changes and running up to the present was very much concerned with fashion from the sixties to the nineties. Indeed, one of the chief consequences of going back into the past and making changes was that Evie got to sport a new hairstyle.

But I think it’s important to remember that Two Worlds Collided probably doesn’t set out to be a time travel novel – rather a quirky romance novel with something a little different (time travel) added to make it interesting!

Paul

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Review: The Grandfather Paradox: A Time Travel Story (Steven Burgauer)

I was heavily impressed – and disappointed – with “The Grandfather Paradox” by Steven Burgauer. It has the makings of an absolutely cracking scifi novel, but somehow loses itself along the way.

Remember in one of the Superman movies where Superman grabs a lump of coal and crushes it with his bare hands to form a diamond? Call me fussy, but I can’t help noticing that when he opens his hand and out pops this diamond – metamorphically created by superhuman pressures – it’s perfectly cut. Surely this wouldn’t have happened! It would have been a rough diamond with all the potential of a sparkly engagement ring quality diamond – given a bit more work!

The Grandfather Paradox - a time travel story

The Grandfather Paradox by Steven Burgauer is like that rough diamond. It’s shiny and it’s sparkly and it has all the makings of an absolutely cracking scifi novel, but there’s still a lot of coal which needs some more working.

The novel comes in three parts, so I’ll go through each of them in turn.

Part 1

This is easily the strongest part of the novel! It is immediately apparent that author Steven Burgauer has carried out extensive research to support the myriad of information that’s packed into this novel. I’d dare say that some of it is not particularly necessary or relevant to the plot, but interesting enough to keep in!

However, I couldn’t help noticing that sometimes there seemed to be some misunderstanding of some of the principles. For example, the time it takes for messages to cross space takes time and introduces delays, so for this reason messages are brief and small talk and banter is kept to a minimum. But whilst this makes sense for live conversation, the point is moot for transmissions of complete messages (as they come in the novel).

Other times things didn’t quite add up. There are footprints 2 cm deep made from a human of mass 70 kg, but deeper 10 cm prints from a less massive 50 kg creature. Or there’s an explanation of how triangulation works, but the characters are confused when it doesn’t work for a signal source in deep space. From the way it reads, all 3 points in the triangulation are on Earth – comparatively short distances when compared to deep space distances, so of course this wouldn’t work. Or were the 3 points taken at 4 monthly intervals so that the earth is in 3 different parts of its orbit around the sun over a year? You’d expect so, but it’s not mentioned.

So whilst snippets and explanations of a number of things are interesting and add depth, there’s a level of credibility lost where for those I already understand I see flaws. But for the most part they’re an excellent parallel addition to the novel which really add some extra depth and make this a unique read!

Among these factoids there’s some really good stuff – triple and quad star systems which are too unstable to stay together long enough for higher life forms to evolve. Hyperspace which is curved like coils in a slinky spring – travelling down its axis is faster than along the coils. Durbinium energy sponges (which make appearances in other of Steven’s novels (e.g. The Fornax drive and The Railguns of Luna). “Durbin anomalies”, and “tachys” which have a mathematical imaginary mass. Great stuff!

Whether or not some or all of these things are true or imaginary (I should really find out…) I thought they added some good solid weight into a scifi novel! 🙂

Writing style

The writing style makes for a difficult, even predictable, read – one which reminded me of the Apollo 13 ‘novel’ by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger. What makes the Apollo 13 novel a particularly interesting read is that it’s based on fact. And because most of us aren’t familiar with spacecraft technology there’s a lot of explanation. Pretty good, except it follows a formula: this is how something works, then it stopped working, so the astronauts and ground control tried to fix it.

And it’s the same in The Grandfather Paradox. In these conditions, you can find yourself in this situation. Andu finds himself in this situation. In this situation the best thing to do is… – and this is exactly what Andu did.

In this kind of situation the suspense in a novel can evaporate. And this is what happened with me.

Another player in the loss of suspense arena is the formidable number of lucky chances which come into play. Take for example a crew who have spent weeks in space looking for a planet which is emitting a signal – and who can’t find it. They eject Andu from their space craft in a smaller hopper…which just happens to be on course to this elusive planet (which can be reached in time in terms of life support and fuel) and on landing there’s a breathable atmosphere.

I don’t buy it.

But the biggest non-sale of the day though goes to the journey out of the Ancon solar system (a half day under low acceleration) to the event horizon of a black hole (a microsecond after the power button is pushed) and then to the Earth where aerobraking is allegedly the only way to slow down from a near light speed velocity(!) The spacecraft is then in orbit at a height of “some 30,000 km” (which sings geostationary at 36,000 km) – yet the occupants are able to experience a changing view of the oceans (which confirms a (near) equatorial orbit).

Time travel

The time travel component in The Grandfather Paradox is much like the other gems of scifi in the novel – an interesting addition. That said I couldn’t quite see the need for time travel in this novel other than to save Andu’s grandmother – although this is giving the motivation a lot of credit.

As we’d expect, there’s a lot of explanation about the mechanics of the time travel which naturally I welcome! But like previous examples, it needs polishing. It’s presented in a series of slow and repetitive logical steps, and just as we start breaking into the real nitty gritty of it all a huge assumption is made – that time stops at the speed of light so it goes backwards faster than it and if we’re near a large mass. It’s frustrating because after cheesy descriptions of the grandfather and ontological paradoxes, and a gradual gearing up to the nuts and bolts of time travel, the power’s switched off and we’re left coasting.

Later there’s mention of time differential, so I’m guessing that the relative difference between the rates of the passage of time between two objects travelling close to (but not at) the speed of light means that transfer from one object to another results in a form of time travel through time dilation. It’s a nice idea!
There is another nice idea to use a pulsar to measure absolute time (although the travel time of the pulsar’s signal may take a while to reach an object moving away from it at nearly the same rate…)

But I’m not sure. I don’t like to dampen one’s imagination, but I can’t see how sling-shotting around a black hole would get an object to move above light speed, as it is suggested.

Of course, this is science fiction, so in theory anything can happen – though I’d postulate that to keep it in the realm of science fiction theory we should adhere to scientific principles. (Not that I’m an expert in this area…)

Part 2

Reading Part 1 of The Grandfather Paradox is like standing in a dark tunnel where there’s a strong glimpse of the light ahead. Then when Part 2 of the novel comes – WHAM! The oncoming train with full beam headlights smacks you senseless, pages fluttering in the tailwind.

I mentioned earlier than Part 1 is not an easy read. Part 2 is a paradoxical read, being both difficult and easy at the same time.

This part of the novel is where Andu has landed on Earth in 1861 and we’re yanked out of the realm of scifi and into the world of poker games, slavery, smoking and steam boats. I really wasn’t expecting this, and to be brutally honest, I didn’t really want to read this either. So it was a difficult read – which ended up being skim read.

And like Andu’s ship which somehow managed to accelerate to near light speeds, my skim reading ended up being so fast that I hard bounced off the back cover of the book and realised I’d come to the end. This was the easy part of the read.

Even in my limited reading of this section I found inconsistency. For example, Margaret is telepathic and there’s a really nice description of how this may work in a scientific grounding. Margaret is playing poker – and we have 2 pages to explain not only the rules but also some of the techniques involved. Isn’t this then irrelevant when it turns out that Margaret uses her telepathy to her advantage here? And why can’t she connect with Andu?

Part 3

Because I was skimming through Part 2 at high velocity I didn’t even realise there was a Part 3 until I was thumbing back through the novel to double check a few things. So no, it wasn’t read.

I’d hazard that if you’re interested in history, then Parts 2 and 3 are probably OK. The subject matter just wasn’t my cup of tea. I certainly hope that they’d put the time travel element into context!

Concluding remarks

I was heavily impressed – and disappointed – with The Grandfather Paradox!

For the most part, the ‘side’ explanations are interesting, relevant and accurate and add some depth to make Part 1 of the novel a really solid scifi novel; other times one or more of these adjectives are not so applicable.

I know we’re time travel fans here, but I think most people have heard of the grandfather paradox, or at least know that it’s related to time travel. The “a time travel story” qualifier in the title therefore seems to set the tone in the novel – to satisfy a need to explain too much.

As far as Part 1 is concerned, the content shines but reads a little rough around the edges. Where novels like Thanksgiving Eve was so polished it squeaks, some parts of The Grandfather Paradox don’t quite click into place – but I really think that it has the makings of a superb novel!

Rating ? ? ? ? ?

I’ve no idea how to give this a single star rating!

I love the general ethos behind the writing style with the supporting facts (5*) but got annoyed where some were either wrong or inadequately explained (1*). The attention given over to explaining the time travel element is brilliant (5*) but falls short when the progression of logical steps takes wild assumptions (1*). Brilliant scifi ideas are numerous (5*), but there are bad (unworkable) ones too (2*). The plot behind Part 1 is intriguing (4*) but the random events seemed an easy way to get out of difficult situations (1*). Parts 2 and 3 are beyond my personal interest (super subjective rating: 1*).

So I’m not going to give a star rating! (An average would be meaningless (and nonsensical!) so I’m going to leave it blank.)

I should point out though, that if you really need a star rating then head over to Amazon and Goodreads where there are lots of high-ended ratings over there. I can understand why – perhaps I just misunderstood or missed something in the novel (other than Parts 2 and 3… 😉 ).

Paul

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Author Interview: Scott Eric Barrett (The Guttersnipes)

Scott Eric Barrett has published more than fifty articles for various newspapers, history magazines, and educational publications -and the author of time travel novel “The Guttersnipes”. how did he manage it?

Scott Eric Barrett is the creator behind “The Guttersnipes” – a fun and fast-paced read which has a time travel component that involves a biological and technological component.

Scott Eric Barrett
Guttersnipes author Scott Eric Barrett

The time machine is a black box mechanism – albeit one which works with a purple beam which takes Charlie and his friend Arty back to New York city in 1865. In this setting there’s a light educational element which makes The Guttersnipes an especially good novel for teenagers.

In his own words, Scott loves History, Science Fiction/Fantasy, and any work of fiction that has strong characters and a subtle message. In this author interview Scott reveals how his love of Star Wars influenced parts of The Guttersnipes – as well as laying down his limits!

The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett

The Guttersnipes is your first novel, but not your first publication. How did you find the transition from writing articles for newspapers and magazines to a full blown novel?

Scott: I stammered into the writing world in a somewhat nontraditional way. I always wanted to be a storyteller, but my first dream was to write and direct movies. I studied film production in college and went to work (and I do mean work) in the industry as a production assistant. My path from dragging cables and moving key lights to directing the next Harrison Ford blockbuster seemed daunting to say the least. I dabbled in screenwriting a bit, but found much more creative freedom in fiction. The problem was that screenwriting and fiction were extremely different disciplines so I made the painful decision to go back to school to study creative writing. That led me to working as a professional writer and editor to pay the bills. The transition from writing stories (my early screenwriting days) to nonfiction stuff like company profiles and product reviews was actually tougher than going from magazine articles to novels.

The Guttersnipes is aimed at younger readers but has some quite gruesome sections. Were these gory sections a deliberate ‘addition’ to the novel, or are they a necessary part of Charlie’s story?

Scott: I wanted to make sure the ugliness and grossness of mid-19th century America was on full display. I remember the differences between Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns and the glossy western TV shows from the same time period. The Eastwood films painted a very grim, gritty picture of 19th century life that left a lasting impression. I loved watching Eastwood’s characters do battle, but I knew even when I was 10 that I wanted no part of that sweaty, stinky world. I wanted both the character of Charlie and the reader himself/herself to realize that New York City in 1865 was a very dangerous place. It helps prepare Charlie for his future adventures/destinations and helps him appreciate home a bit like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”.

How did you find the balance between education for younger readers and progressing the story line?

Scott: When it came to the historical elements, I didn’t want to come across as too preachy or explain too much. It would sound awkward and clunky to have characters talking too much about the Civil War, Lincoln assassination, slavery, etc. I needed to trust that my readers would know some basic facts about the time period. My hope is that they will come away entertained and perhaps with a curiosity about P.T. Barnum or the American Museum or the awful plight of the 1860s street kids.

Charlie describes the story of finding Trike as “…really long”. Will we ever hear more about this story?

Scott: I don’t want to sound like I’m keeping secrets, but I will say for certain that Charlie’s experiences with dinosaurs don’t end with the death of Trike. As far as Charlie talking about Trike (and how he “found” a dinosaur in the first place), it will be a subject he bottles up for years and years. The loss was and is significant and when we meet up with Charlie again (only a few months will have passed), he is trying to cope with feelings by never talking about Trike openly. He even tries to avoid thinking about him.

Is your passion for history instrumental in incorporating time travel in The Guttersnipes?

Scott: Absolutely. I devour history books and magazines in my leisure time. I don’t think a day has passed since I was five that I didn’t imagine, at some point in each day, what it would be like to visit Egypt in 2560 BCE, Athens in 490 BCE, etc. I wanted to incorporate a time travel element to The Guttersnipes rather than simply set the story in the past because fish-out of-water type tales provide limitless opportunities for adventure.

Your time travel mechanism is black box and there’s not much in the way of time travel paradoxes. What techniques did you use to keep the reader aware that time travel is a key element of The Guttersnipes?

Scott: I wanted the technical aspects of the time travelling to be mysterious and almost magical for the first adventure. The key turns out to be the purple “energy” rather than a fancy device/gadget. I tried use Charlie’s (and Arty’s) overwhelming sense of wonder to keep the readers aware of the time travelling element. The strange sights and people, odd clothing, and even some of the words people used needed to be “out of time.” I also focused on the pace and the idea that travelling through the time isn’t simply like a road trip. Charlie and Arty have to find Trike and get back to their own time before seven days pass or they will be stuck in 1865 permanently. I think adding a physical danger element and the idea that people aren’t meant to make these kinds of journeys helped make the time travel aspect a critical part to the story.

The purple colour of the light sabres in the Star Wars follow up movies created a lot of debate regarding whether or not it carried any significance. Is there any significance to the purple light in your time travel orb and the fire at the museum?

Scott: Nice catch! The color is important for each of those elements (I don’t want to reveal its true nature yet…lol). As far as the aesthetic element. It was my mom’s favorite color and is definitely an ode to Star Wars. In Star Wars, the “good” guys have blue lightsabers and the “bad” guys have red lightsabers. A purple lightsaber represents shades of both good and bad, light and dark. It’s an important concept I plan to explore even more in the follow up adventures.

Would you rather have a piggy back on a dinosaur or ride a tauntaun?

Would Scott Eric Barrett ride a tauntaun?
Tauntaun from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Image credit: www.starwars.com/databank/tauntaun

Scott: Tough one. If I love Star Wars as a whole, then I practically worship The Empire Strikes Back. I don’t; however, worship cold weather and since riding a tauntaun would probably place me somewhere in the arctic I’m going to go with a dinosaur ride. Hook me up with a good T-Rex whisperer and I will be in Cretaceous heaven!

And a couple of questions from my daughter:

How do you know about dinosaurs?

Scott: I have a strange brain. I don’t know a ton about a lot of things (especially math…lol), but certain subjects intrigue me to such an extent that I embark on obsessive research extremes. Dinosaurs may have been my very first obsession. They are giant monsters from a bygone era that disappeared in a geological instant. The mystery, wonder, and tragedy still give me goose bumps to this day. Paleontologists teach us more every year and I still read about every new discovery with the same curiosity I had as a boy. From Tyrannosaurus Rex to the nasty raptors and, of course, triceratops, I have always dreamed about visiting the Age of Dinosaurs.

How did you think about the people in the American Museum?

Scott: The American Museum was really the spark for the whole adventure! I knew Charlie Daniels was a “different” character and I knew, as an adolescent, he was naturally very uncomfortable about his differences so I wanted him to interact with others who were as odd, and some far odder than him. My moment of inspiration came when I happened to catch a documentary on History about P.T. Barnum and the so-called “circus freaks” and “human curiosities” of the 19th century. I always assumed they were a travelling group like some of today’s carnivals. When the program showcased the American Museum smack dab in the middle of New York City, I knew I had my setting. Barnum was really an amazing historical figure. His American Museum was THE place to go for the average 1860s New Yorker. Most of the museum characters in the novel are based on real people. Their stories are sad, oftentimes tragic, and very inspiring.

Author bio:

Scott Eric Barrett is an award-winning freelance writer and full-time editor from Glendale, Arizona. Scott has published more than fifty articles for various newspapers, history magazines, and educational publications. He completed his first novel, The Guttersnipes, in early 2015, and recently finished his second book, A Christmas Wish. Both fantasy adventures are fast-paced rides with twists and turns galore aimed at young and middle-grade readers. Scott’s wife and daughter inspire him to work hard every day and stay resilient in a fiercely competitive industry that often forces young writers to give up on their dreams.

You can follow Scott on his website, on Facebook and on Goodreads).

The Guttersnipes is available from Amazon.com in both paperback and kindle format.

Review: The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett

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

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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