Time travel blog

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!

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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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Review: Saves Nine and In One Basket by Les Lynam

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

Review: Saves Nine and In One Basket by Les Lynam

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

Saves Nine by Les Lynam
…Saves Nine

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

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

In One Basket by Les Lynam
…In One Basket

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

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

Storm in a Teacup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time travel component

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

General points

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

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

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

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

Rating * * * *

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

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

Don’t throw out the wheat with the chaff!

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

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

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

Author interview with Les

Paul

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

Star ratings:

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

The New Year: Is it worth all the fuss?

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

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

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

The New Year: Is it worth all the fuss?

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

Happy 2017 everyone! 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broken new years resolutions

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

A twist on eternalism:

I wish it could be Christmas every day!

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

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

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

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

Paul

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

The Paradox of the Winter Solstice and Daylight Saving Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul

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The Disturbance of a Temporal Doppelganger

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

Happy in the Past

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

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

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

The Present

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

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

Doppelganger!

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

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

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

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

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

Happy in the present

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

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

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

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

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

No, I don’t think so.

What will I do tonight / tomorrow morning?

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

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

The disturbance in the (gravitational) force

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

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

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

Paul

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

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Time Waves and a Sound of Thunder

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

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

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

Sound of Thunder movie (2005)

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

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

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

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

An interesting idea…but there’s a flaw.

Wave dispersion

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

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

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

Water waves and time waves

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

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

Peaks and troughs

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

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

Time waves

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

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

What would this mean?

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

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

Wave orbital motion

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

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

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

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

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

Closing

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

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

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

Now how awesome is that!

Paul

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Misuse of an hour

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

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

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

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

daylight saving clock

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

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

Isn’t this misuse of that hour?

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

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

Paul

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Review: The Clock that went Backward by Edward Page Mitchell

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

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

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

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

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

Curious?

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

Let down

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

I’m still not sure that I haven’t.

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

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

No flow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time travel philosophy

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

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

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

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

One of my favourite lines he gives is:

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

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

A connection through time

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

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

But it’s unclear, even perhaps inconsistent…

It doesn’t add up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open questions

There are other open questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Paul

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    Guest post: Deja Vu and the Parallel Universe

    This is a guest post by Mihir Kansara which looks at the phenomenon of Deja Vu and puts forward his ideas which includes an interesting component in time travel and parallel universes!

    We’ve already seen guest blogger Mihir Kansara when he wrote about God and Time about a year ago.

    Mihir Kansara

    Mihir writes for Theory of Space Time which covers many aspects of the nature of time. Here, Mihir looks at Deja Vu. Again? 😉


    Science does not always require a proof, cause if it did, there would be no creator! Sometimes, the answers we try to find out by using technology and huge equations are in our own head. We just require to look inside us and most of the things will fall in place.

    After discussing space time fabric, time travel, speed of light, big bang and the end of time itself, now let us light our torch on an event which we experience in day to day life!

    Déjà vu

    There can be philosophy without attraction, but no science is attractive without philosophy. The things I will explain down here might question many big theories. Many contradictions, but I consider all are true. Maybe not in our universe, but every theory has its own place to be true. We call that place – Parallel universe. A place where everything could be same, yet feel so different, or a place where everything would feel the same yet be so different.

    Before discussing the center of topic, let us first completely understand why is this a topic falling under space-time theories.

    What is a Déjà vu? Or even bigger – What creates it? Oh wait…who creates it?

    What is Déjà vu?

    “Already seen”

    The phenomenon of having a strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has already been experienced in the past. It happens with probably every one of us. A Déjà vu is something you can’t resist not to see or feel. Many believe it is a disorder of brain while many believe it is a temporary recollection of memories lost in past. Nothing can be termed wrong. But just imagine, on a huge planet with millions of people living and millions of them gone long back since humans were born and all of them having same brain disorder or memory recollection? Nearly impossible.

    People fear what they don’t understand, and maybe they never will, but that doesn’t make the truth their enemy!

    What creates a Déjà vu?

    So considering it is not a brain defect or memory loss case, what can possibly get into your head and make you feel your presence in the same situation where you have never ever even been before?

    What could possibly force you to stop everything for a moment and ask you question “Wait, I have seen this before!!”

    ‘We’ create our own Déjà vu. Not the ‘we’ of our time, but the ‘we’ of our future.

    A parallel universe

    A universe so similar to our own, yet so minutely or gigantically different, creates one parallel universe. Even a slightest difference possible has its own universe. A universe where you are a billionaire. Or some other where you have everything you need, everything you can think of. Even a universe where you smiled reading the last 2 line just a mini-second before you actually smiled in this Universe. A universe where you didn’t smile at all – wait that was this Universe.

    Anyway, so there could be infinite number of possibilities creating infinite number of universes. This parallel universe has no connection to any other parallel universe except a tiny but effective string – consciousness/soul.

    There are parallel universes where everything there is exactly the same as it is here except a small change which makes it an all together new universe. Let us consider the change to be the master of all and ruled by none – Time.

    Let the parallel universe the same as ours but of time in future. Smaller the difference between the 2 universes, less energy is required to connect to it.

    What connects them is one single thing- call it energy, call it soul or call it consciousness or call it brain. So let us consider such a body in examination and connect Déjà vu with time-travel with conscious being our guide for the journey…

    The process of Déjà vu.

    Consider a person ‘A’ of age 20 in our present universe. The same person A is of 30 years in the parallel universe where everything related to person A is same except the 10 years time gap.

    Both have same conscious inside them. The connection is quite weak but not null. ‘A’ of Parallel universe has lived 10 years more than ‘A’ of now. He has gathered more information while living the years of difference. Now, at the moment when both the minds are at rest or emitting a single frequency of mind state , the connection strengthens. This happens mostly while the body is in sleep. The situations and instances gets transferred from future A to past A with some utilization of energy. The minds are connected for a very small period of time.

    Now for the A of our universe, the transferred memory is stored within but is difficult to recollect because nothing has happened so far. And mostly none of that will ever happen because infinite universes lets infinite transfer of such memories while the present can choose only one future to go into.

    But whenever anything happens which the body had already seen which being connected then the mind recollects and it seems like it had already happened before. Well the part I like the most is…it never happened before with ‘you’ yet, it happened with ‘you’ of a parallel universe.

    If everything you see while you sleep is future from a parallel universe, then what are dreams ? I would like to bifurcate dreams in 3 parts.

    1. Information from future which later causes Déjà vu.
    2. We already discussed this part of dreams.

    3. Memories from the past.
    4. Sometimes we see a memory from our past which we ourselves would had never recollected in our day to day work. This is the time when the mind of your parallel universe of past is connected to the mind of your present universe. It shows you the things that happened on the same day in their universe but to you it might be lost in your memories. Here you are helping your past create his/her next Déjà vu.

    5. Things you want to attract.
    6. This is a similar case to the first bifurcation. You see a parallel universe where you have the thing you wish for. Your mind tries to attract that Universe. But all that matters is how much energy it requires to be in that one. You might not necessarily end up being in that Universe.

    Can this connection be minded consciously?

    The answer to this question might change the way we see our world. Déjà vu isn’t as simple as it seems. Nor is it as difficult as it took here to explain.

    Everything is relative. Maybe not here, but maybe in a parallel universe which is soon going to encounter your present!

    Article by Mihir Kansara.

    Visit Mihir on Theory of Space Time.


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    Author interview: Patricia Smith (Time Split)

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

    Interview with Patricia Smith

    Author Patricia Smith
    Time Split author, Patricia Smith

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

    Time Split by Patricia Smith
    Time Split by Patricia Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tricia Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Distant Suns by Patricia Smith

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

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

    Islands- the Epidemic by Patricia Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Follow Patricia Smith
    Patricia Smith

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

    Review: Time Split by Patricia Smith

    Paul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Chuck – many thanks for giving us your time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Proud grandfather!
    Proud grandfather!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What would you like the future to hold for you?

    Chuck:

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

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

    Paul

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    Review: Hegira (Jim Cronin)

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

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

    Brief synopsis

    Hegira by Jim Cronin

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

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

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

    Not so final destination

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

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

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

    (Right!)

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

    Time travel element

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Originality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    World building

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

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

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

    Time travel methodology aside, less is more! 😉

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

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

    Writing style

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

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

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

    Rating * * * * *

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

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

    Paul

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    The worst day of my life. Again please!

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

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

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

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

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

    So here it is:

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

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

    Time both froze and zoomed by all too quickly.

    My worst day
    My worst day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I’ll learn.

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

    Paul

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    Happy Birthday HG Wells!

    The Time Machine by H.G.Wells is not the first time travel novel, and as far as time travel novels go, it doesn’t have much time travel in it. But both he and this novel have opened up the world of time travel. Happy birthday Herbert!

    Today, 21 September 2016, marks not only the day before the 2016 autumnal equinox but also the 150th birthday of H. G. Wells.

    H.G.Wells
    Author H. G. Wells (Image credit: www.biography.com/people/hg-wells-39224)

    Herbert George Wells – or H. G. Wells – is of course the author of The Time Machine, arguably the most famous of time travel novels. It was one of the first novels which brought the concept of time travel to the reader – and it still does today.

    But to be honest I’m a little upset because I believe that H.G. Wells is credited with too much when it comes to time travel.

    For example, he is often credited with being the first time travel author by writing The Time Machine – but this simply isn’t true! Just like the moonwalk existed before Michael Jackson mastered and performed it for us, time travel existed (in literature) well before H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine.

    Now admittedly it is pretty terrible, but H. G. Wells’own The Chronic Argonauts was written before The Time Machine (some consider it as a prequel, or at least a foundation). And before that is the (bloated) The Clock that Went Backward (Edward Page Mitchell) where the title clearly gives the game away!

    Just two examples within the same decade of publication as The Time Machine – a simple internet search I’m sure would throw up many more earlier examples of time travel in fiction, and from even earlier.

    And what of The Time Machine itself?

    It’s heralded as being the Bible of time travel – the ultimate time travel novel that all other time travel novels should aspire to being.

    But I disagree.

    The Time Machine book cover
    Image source: en.wikipedia.org

    Well, it’s OK. I mean, it’s not fantastic as time travel novels go. The Time Traveller goes into the future, meets the Eloi and the Morlocks, and makes a few assumptions about present day sociology. Aside from the description of time being the fourth dimension quote, the actual time travel aspect in The Time Machine is pretty crap; the novel could have started off with “Once upon a time there was a chap living in the future and saw a load of Eloi and Morlocks.”

    Take the time travel out of The Time Machine, you’ve still pretty much got the same novel as before – although the title would probably need changing!

    But I don’t mean to slag off The Time Machine – or H. G. Wells! After all, the novel has been responsible for bringing many readers into the realm of scifi / time travel, and indeed H. G. Wells has written some brilliant scifi novels in other areas.

    And it’s also inspired other authors to write sequels for it. Stephen Baxter, vice-President of the international H. G. Wells Society, wrote The Time Ships which is the official authorised sequel. And I’ve also read Epilogue (Jaime V. Batista) which to my mind is a far superior sequel to The Time Machine than The Time Ships.

    (You can read my interview with author Jaime on Time Travel Nexus.)

    Another worthy mention is The Map of Time – an extraordinary novel by Felix J. Palma which features H. G. Wells as the main character and either has or has no time travel within it, depending on how you view it! Brilliantly written!

    So OK. H. G. Wells isn’t the first time travel author, and on top of that The Time Machine isn’t the best time travel novel, but there’s no denying that H. G. Wells has certainly popularised the genre and inspired many readers and authors alike!

    Time is an arbitrary measure when you have a time machine, but all the same I’d like to sending my birthday wishes across time and back to H. G. Wells.

    Happy 150th birthday, Herbert! 🙂

    Paul

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    Clock Anti-Clock – a time travel short movie

    How does time flow in Clock Anti-Clock? Is there personal time, is it a matter of perception of time, or does time actually flow backwards?

    Clock Anti-Clock is a time travel movie produced by Deepak Sharma (Paragravity) with the simple premise of a time traveler who meets himself. But there’s a twist…

    I’ve only got one issue with this movie, and I only noticed it because it accentuates the first of a few of my thoughts when I watched Clock Anti-Clock: Is time personal?

    It relates to the construction; when the character is experiencing a backward flow of time, he stares at everything running backwards; it’s strange, it’s unusual – it deserves a good look.

    But why was no-one staring at him? Relative to their time frame he’s also walking backwards etc. and would be strange to look at. He seems to be in a personal time bubble.

    Personal time

    In my post A Unique Signature of Time I alluded to the question: Is time personal?

    In Clock Anti-Clock the question is very relevant because I think it explains a situation at the end of the film where otherwise there’d be a paradox.

    We hear the door knob rattle. He puts his glasses on and from then on it seems that time runs backwards from around 12:00 pm. This is inside the room where we see the clocks going backwards, and also outside where he observes people walking backwards, taps dripping upwards, etc..

    By the end of the movie we have a better perspective on what’s going on outside. The ‘experienced’ version of the character tries to open the door (causing the door handle to rattle), and realising it’s locked, walks away.

    But here’s the thing: if time is running backwards for the guy inside his room and opening the door (to find no-one there) why hasn’t he seen the guy outside walking backwards back towards the door and trying the handle?

    In other words, time appears to be flowing in different directions by the door – or at least, in different directions for each character.

    I think it’s clear by the end of the movie we’ve figured out that it’s the glasses which cause the change of flow direction for time (though whether time actually flows backwards, or that things look like they’re going backwards can be questioned!). Since only one person can wear a single pair of glasses at the same time, it seems reasonable to assume that time is indeed personal and that there is a time bubble or something around our guy. After all – he’s still walking forwards whilst everyone else is walking backwards.

    The Perception of Time

    The flip side of this is that no matter what direction time flows, we perceive it as forwards – rather like applying a modulus function on time ( -2 seconds becomes 2 seconds).

    This already happens in physics; I remember a cretinous teacher who took joy in deducting a mark from me when I was calculating “work done”, given as force times distance. We were told that distance was measured positive from left to right, but in the example the force was applied to an object moving in the opposite direction, so I gave it a negative sign. Of course, this gave me a negative product, but since work done cannot be negative I applied the modulus and gave the final work done as a positive number.

    Mr Cretin took a mark away because he didn’t even want to see the negative number in a work done calculation. I still disagree with him. But the point remains – having a closed mind and removing a negative sign completely, or being a budding scientist to be and applying the modulus are just 2 ways in which direction is made a non factor.

    So why not with time? Maybe wearing these glasses “opens our eyes”!

    (As an aside, you might like to read my guest post on the perception of time and its relevance in time travel on the Theory of Space Time blog.)

    Time running backwards

    The question of time either being personal and acting under its own rules within personal space, or being perceived to be so, brings me onto my final point – time actually running backwards.

    Time travel seems to be obsessed with moving from one point in time to another, but for the large part, time flows in one (forwards) direction. It’s often referred to as the “Arrow of Time” – a term developed by astronomer Arthur Eddington which basically says that there’s an obvious direction or flow of time reference: Wikipedia.

    (Sometimes we experience time appearing to move backwards from the viewpoint of a time machine making a backward trip, but I’d suggest that this is little more than illusion – parked cars don’t really move backwards when we walk forwards alongside them, for example.)

    So how does physics work when time runs backwards? For example, we saw in the movie a plane flying backwards because time flows backwards. But for the plane to remain in the air, complete with its aerodynamic design, surely physics must have changed to keep it airborne?

    Plane flying backwards

    To the left is a snapshot of the plane in the sky. It’s not falling, yet it’s not defying gravity. The force of gravity is an acceleration so has a time term, but here in this snapshot time has simply been removed from the equation. Is the gravitational force now working in the opposite direction so keep the plane airborne?

    Physical processes at the microscopic level are believed to be either entirely or mostly time-symmetric: if the direction of time were to reverse, the theoretical statements that describe them would remain true. Yet at the macroscopic level it often appears that this is not the case: there is an obvious direction (or flow) of time. Reference: Wikipedia

    In practice, I don’t know what this actually means and how that relates to the (macroscopic) plane, but I wondered further about the sign of time in vector physical equations. For example, velocity. Where speed (a scalar) is concerned only with how fast something goes, velocity is more specific; direction is also important.

    Usain Bolt is the fastest human on the planet and ran 100 m in 9.58 seconds (reference: Guinness World Records). (That’s a speed of 10.43 m/s – he can run further in 1 second than he can fall if he fell off a cliff in the same time!) But Usain wouldn’t have won the Olympics unless he ran in the right direction – i.e. from the start line to the finish line. He needed to have the fastest velocity.

    Where speed can’t be negative, velocity can (e.g. if Usain ran in the opposite direction). We’re back to my work done calculation here…where we can switch the sign for distance and come up with a negative velocity, can we not equally change the sign of time instead? We’d end up with negative velocity – and it would explain why everyone would be walking backwards…

    Personal, perception or actual?

    So how is time flowing in Clock Anti-Clock? Is there personal time, is it a matter of perception of time, or does time actually flow backwards?

    The more I think about this movie, the more intricacies I find. And getting someone to think can only be a good thing!


    You can see more of Deepak’s productions on his website (paragravityfilms) and follow him on Facebook and on Twitter (@deepaktrivadi).

    Paul

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    Review: Stumbling on a Tale (Suzanne Roche)

    “Stumbling On a Tale” is the next novel in the “Time to Time” series by Suzanne Roche. Like its predecessor it’s written beautifully and sweeps the reader in the author’s enthusiasm for the time and place that the novel is set. Layers are gradually added to the time travel mechanism, and there’s also promise of more great time travel things to follow too!

    Stumbling On a Tale

    Stumbling On a Tale by Suzanne Roche is a beautifully crafted time travel novel aimed at middle grade readers (8-12 years old). It follows Book 1, Making it Home, in Suzanne’s Time to Time series.

    The writing style and fluency in Stumbling On a Tale is just as wonderful as previously, but the style in mapping out the story line differs substantially.

    Perhaps all sequels should be like this.

    Stumbling on a Tale (Suzanne Roche)

    Often, sequels follow the same format as earlier novels in a series – Suzanne does it differently in Stumbling On a Tale and I think the approach works well.

    We have the same characters – brothers Henry and Max, and their older step-sister Peri, and we have the same scenario where they’re transported back in time. From here there’s a divergence in the structure.

    Plot structure

    Where the plot was moved forwards in Making it Home by laying out a series of tasks for Peri, Henry and Max to follow with a clear end goal in mind, the plot in Stumbling on a Tale appears at first glance to be stationary. The children are dumped in a forest and come across secondary characters who tell stories to each other.

    And that seems to be about it. The children are lost in a forest – but have we lost the plot somewhere?

    I don’t think so. It’s not until the closing chapters that the tales come into focus and their context with each other is made clear. Indeed, things are wrapped up very nicely.

    But that’s not to say that prior to the revelation of clarity that Stumbling On a Tale is dull! Suzanne’s writing style is gently humourous and we get the feeling that this is an author who genuinely has fun in the time and location that she’s placed her characters – and she sweeps the reader up in her enthusiasm by educating us in a subtle yet effective manner through her narration!

    Characters

    My biggest disappointment was the loss of Peri as the main character (as she was in Making it Home). The focus in Stumbling On a Tale seems to be on Henry – although of course he frequently looks to his older step-sister and star of the last book.

    Henry is not as strong a main character as Peri was. Mostly he just whines and wants to be at home playing chess. He’s a negative kind of a chap and I felt little sympathy for him. Sadly, Peri often seemed to be dragged down to Henry’s level in discussion. Actually, even one of the indigenous characters even noted how much they bickered with each other.

    Thrust into time travel

    I’ve always hated the confusion beset by unknowing time travelers. Not that I’d do any better, but I’m a reader and I’ve picked (or been given) a book from the time travel section off the bookshelf. Unlike the characters in the novel I at least partly know what to expect.

    Peri, Max and Henry have their share of confusion but being younger maybe they rely on their adventure method of learning more than getting bogged down like us oldies who stumble and rummage around looking for previous experience to help us deal with problems. And with no time travel experience we’re lost and confused.

    The children in this second novel of the Time to Time series have a new take. They’re ready for adventure (sort of – Peri is, and Max is young enough to, but Henry whines), but they also have experience of how their time travel works. It happened before, so surely they can follow the same rules and get back home the same way that they did last time?

    There’s the catch. Either they’re prevented from following the rules, or the rules have altered, or they need to develop their ideas of the rules further.

    In Making it Home, the time travel rules weren’t known, so the children – and plot – kept moving forwards. In Stumbling On a Tale the time travel rules aren’t playing and so present a problem. The children spend more time in mental solving mode – and this is the journey which moves the plot forwards.

    Time travel

    The time travel mechanism itself, as you can imagine in a novel for younger readers, isn’t exactly realistic, but it does fit nicely into the realm of magic and fantasy – and ideas for children to consider.

    We’re reminded of the time travel method fairly early on. An antique is placed on an encyclopedia and the children are taken back in time to where that antique first came from. The return mechanism is slightly more complex – but won’t be mentioned here because that’s a large part of this novel!

    I missed it when I read Making it Home, but I caught it this time; when the children go back in time, they ‘arrive’ in clothing suitable to the period. Often in time travel novels there’s a lot of attention given over to the transport of non organic matter (such as clothing) when time travelling.

    Again, there’s no scientific explanation as to why clothing morphs from the style of one time period to another, but then again – this is a kids book! But the point is embraced here all the same, and indeed the clothing styles help the children (through Peri) understand something about the era in which they’ve arrived, as well as the status that they – and those they meet – hold in relation to each other.

    I like the closing scenes of Stumbling On a Tale because we start to hit some of the deeper time travel stuff. I mentioned earlier that Peri, Henry and Max are in need of figuring out how to possibly expand the rules of their time travel and one of their discussion ends up with the idea of pre-destination – the things that the children did in the past had to happen because they had already happened in the present and had been already been recorded in history.

    We can therefore deduce that we’re operating on a single time line, and not several time lines with alternative histories.

    That said, there’s the encyclopedia. I mentioned in my review of Making it Home that the encyclopedia had an interesting angle, and indeed we are slowly learning some more of the intricacies behind the the mysteries that it holds – such as a change in location of publisher. The epilogue here adds another layer of of mystery of the origin and meaning of the book. I’m looking forward to reading more!

    Print layout and quality

    I’ll finish with a superficial look at the print layout and quality. It was a problem in the first book and I harped on about it in my review of Making it Home and I’ve since noted that several other reviewers have also mentioned it. It’s sad that it hasn’t been addressed in the second book of the series.

    This print edition has the look of a low quality novel. The paper quality is good, but the text is faint. The point size is one bigger than previously which helps, but the text is squidged within a narrow print space with huge margins on each side so it looks like there was a problem with the printer – a possible scenario given that the Epilogue and following pages have a more sensible layout.

    The images suffer the same problem as before – they’re too small. Perhaps this is an odd thing to say because they already reduce the amount of text on a page (leading to more page turns) so increasing their size would exacerbate the problem the problem further.

    I’m in two minds about the inclusion of the captioned images. They seem like an easy way of removing description from the narrative which may be appealing for the young target audience and they do make the page visually attractive. But there’s no real right time to look at / read them because they’re relevant for a large chuck of text on the page which may or may not flow onto the next.

    Personally I don’t like pictures in books. To quote / paraphrase Sheldon from the “Big Bang Theory” sitcom, the greatest graphics card is the human imagination. That’s where the power of an author lies – in helping to shape a reader’s imagination. Slapping a picture ‘saves’ a thousand words but it makes us lazy.

    Admittedly, maybe it’s a different condition with younger readers.

    I’d advocate resizing the images to page width, and inserting them at a suitable locations in the text. They’d be larger, clearer, easier to read, and at the right place. But yes – more page turning.

    How the above issues translate on an electronic book format I don’t know.

    Final thoughts and rating * * * * *

    My first instinct was to knock off a star because Peri is no longer the wonderful main character that she was in Making it Home, and instead we have whingey Henry.

    Will Max be the main character in the third novel? Personally I hope not. Good child actors are rare, and I’d be cautious that we may have a literary equivalent here with Max. I’d love to see Peri return, but I do concede that it’s probably Max’s ‘turn’.

    I was also tempted to knock off a star because of the vagueness of the general story line where we stagger from one tale to another (as the title may suggest!). But I got to thinking that not only is this a novel approach in appealing to younger readers, things do sort of come together at the end and wrap up.

    I also really appreciate that layers are being added to the time travel element – not just the the encyclopedia aspect, but in more subtle things like the discussions leading to the idea of predestination.

    I’m looking forward to Book 3 which guessing from the Epilogue sounds very promising – Peri trying to the solve the mystery which shrouds the encyclopedia. Perfect!

    Review: Making it Home (Suzanne Roche)

    Paul

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    Disclaimer: I received a free copy of “Stumbling On a Tale” from Word Slinger Publicity to read and provide an honest review. This is it!

    Star ratings:

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

    Lessons in time travel anyone?

    This video (transcript below) from guest author “Entangled in Time” explains the reasoning behind “The Quantum Time Travel Institute – the world’s first school of human powered time travel” – and a chance to sign up for lessons!

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    Learn to Time Travel (video transcript)

    Time travel is HERE! There is absolutely NOTHING in the laws of physics that impedes time travel in either direction and as a matter of fact, at this moment in human history there are no less than ten different time travel technologies, being developed by organizations and researchers in labs, including NASA’s “Alcubierre Drive”. This does not any individuals working out of their own home. Simultaneously, over the last 200 years or so personal human development has progressed to the point where psychic and psionic abilities such as telekinesis, pyrokinesis, aerokinesis and others; have gone from mere curiosities to being taught as formal systems of instruction. There are now several schools that teach them, and YouTube is filled with legitimate videos of people demonstrating these skills. We feel it’s time to “take it to the next level”.

    Over the last few years, has developed what is known as the “quantum paradigm” and variations of the Many World’s Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, along with a “Global Awakening” of consciousness and a far greater awareness of what is known as the “Law of Attraction” or the concept that thoughts do indeed “become things”. Through the study of quantum theory, along with different models of what is known as “holographic universe theory” we are learning that “reality” is not all it’s “cracked up” to be, and that it is in FACT far easier to make seemingly impossible changes to one’s “reality”, by the power of one’s consciousness; than previously thought. All of these things taken in combination have allowed us to develop a methodology for teaching people the basics of time traveling without the use of machines!

    We don’t want you to harbor any illusions that by taking one of our courses you will be able to time travel to a timeline where you are the pharoah of Egypt or travel to the future thousands of years, because this is only the dawn of the human time travel experience. On the other hand things like transforming a small object to your liking or warping time for a few minutes because you are late to an appointment are QUITE doable!

    We believe the future shows great promise for humans to advance naturally, without the use of pills, injections, genetic engineering OR machines! Once humans get accustomed to time traveling on their own, we expect that humans will develop even MORE advanced abilities; including teleportation, quantum tunneling, transmutation and direct materialization. We envision a far future where we are able to time travel “great distances” – far greater than any machine technology could POSSIBLY take us! They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Come walk with us!

    The author is the founder of the the Quantum Time Travel Institute, the world’s first school of human powered time travel.

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    About time for a reflection

    Is there a future with optic fibers and warped mirrors as time machines? Or are these just some random thoughts from the reflection of a wrinkly old man day dreaming in front of a mirror?

    As I stood in front of a mirror a few days ago I saw wrinkles on the man in the reflection. Sadly the wrinkles weren’t from the mirror itself, but an unwelcome sign of my increasing age and my ongoing one-way movement along the time line.

    I’m sure they weren’t there a few days ago…but what’s a few days in the scales of the infinity of time?

    It got me thinking…

    In a guest post I wrote a couple of years back, I commented that we perceive a reflected ray of light as an extension into and beyond that of the reflective surface. In other words, the reflection is a construct which our brain has put together. What this means for time and time travel is outlined in the full article on the Quantum Time Travel Institute.

    In this post I’d like to revisit this idea of light rays and their parallels with the time line.

    Admittedly this post is a little long as I briefly describe a couple of optical properties, but you can jump straight to the time travel bit here if you wish! (Time is a precious commodity, after all!)

    Commutative

    Reflection is commutative – in the same way that the order of the factors in multiplication is irrelevant (e.g. 2 x 3 is the same as 3 x 2), the same can be said for the direction of a light ray. i.e. the angles of incidence and reflection are interchangeable.

    Or to put it another way, the direction of the light beam can go along either pathway – from source to destination, and the vice versa.

    Torch rays and reflection
    The torch can be moved from the left of the line to the right, but the ray of light follows the same path. (Image source: http://spaceguard.rm.iasf.cnr.it)

    Here’s a practical example: shine a torch at a mirror in the dark, and you’ll see an illuminated spot on the wall where the light beam from the torch has been reflected. Now shine the torch from the illuminated spot on the wall onto the same spot on the mirror, and the new reflected spot will be in the place where you were just standing. Source and destination are interchangeable!

    Note that the same principle also holds true for refraction, where a ray of light (partially) enters another medium of a different optical density and follows a different direction.

    Total internal reflection

    In optics there’s a condition called “total internal reflection” where a ray of light doesn’t enter and refract into a medium of a different optical density, but is instead reflected within the same medium as it’s source. More simply put, the interface between the two optical mediums becomes a mirror, even though this particular mirror can under other conditions allow light to pass through it.

    Incidentally, this is the principle behind fiber optics – the light stays within the optic because it’s totally internally reflected (it doesn’t pass out of the fiber optic cable).

    Image source: http://askmichellephysics.blogspot.nl/2012/04/light-and-sound.html
    Image source: http://askmichellephysics.blogspot.nl/2012/04/light-and-sound.html

    It’s also the principle that a certain 7 year old tried putting into practice by sticking a torch in his mouth and taking a leak in the dark to see if the fruit juice he’d just drunk glowed in the dark when it came out… I’ll let you conduct the experiment yourself if you’re interested in knowing the outcome…! 😉

    Critical angle of incidence

    Between reflection and refraction there’s an interesting phenomenon.

    As the angle of incidence away from perpendicular is increased, there comes a certain angle (the “critical angle”) where on meeting the second medium there is a line of light which is reflected along the interface. The light ray doesn’t bounce away, and it doesn’t penetrate through – it simply zooms of sideways! It’s explained well in Mr Cutlife’s Web Pages where I also found the image below.

    Progression (left to right) from refraction to reflection
    Progression (left to right) from refraction to reflection. Note the ray of light parallel to the interface third from right. Image source: http://www.edu.pe.ca/gray/class_pages/krcutcliffe

    Recall from commutativism (?) that the torch in the above graphic can be moved to the top of the picture and the rays would propagate downwards.

    And put it all together…

    Now this is the juicy bit!

    Let’s take that case third from right in the above image. The torch shines from the blue side, and the resulting ray travels along the boundary. But we know that light rays are commutative, so we can expect that if we now place the torch on the line between the blue and the white and aim it to the left, the ray of light will bend down and enter the blue.

    Here’s the thing: at what point along the boundary (and how) does the ray of light change its horizontal direction downwards?

    This is a paradox, because actually that single point is undefined – it can be anywhere at any and every point along the light ray. And further, what physical mechanism exists to cause the light ray to change its direction? It’s scientifically possible but (currently) inexplicable!

    (My high school physics teacher tentatively suggested there’s a small irregularity on the reflecting surface, but I disagree – the effect occurs with a perfectly smooth interface.)

    Arguably, the above paradox could be considered to be an inverted version of the scientific explanation of time travel mechanics in physics; there’s nothing in physics to say that it can’t happen, but we don’t know how it can happen – let alone know how to explain it!).

    Finally…the time travel bit!

    Now let’s compare the line of light to the time line.

    The time line is probably the simplest model of time that there is – that time progresses linearly from past, through present and into the future.

    Many mechanisms for time travel in science fiction refer to a ‘river of time’ where it’s a little easier to visualise the flow of time in one direction. It allows for certain modifications and adjustment to the simple time line model, thus providing ways to allow time travel. For example, inserting loops and meanders into the river of time, creating eddies, or just getting out the river completely, walking along the river bank and jumping back in again.

    (I’ll momentarily interrupt myself here to point out that moving away from the traditional time line has been discussed in my imaginary yet complex post post.)

    In short, we have some form of time travel if we’re able to deviate away from the regular and unbroken) linear flow of time.

    Using our light ray example, can a fiber optic be seen as a parallel with a time machine, causing us to jump out of a time line?

    Optical fiber as a time machine
    Image source: http://www.edu.pe.ca

    Such a time machine would maintain the basic principle of optical / temporal straight lines, yet provide a physical mechanism for the same net result as a departure from the linear condition.

    Timewarp – a change in reference

    There’s another way we can add curves to our time line – by changing the viewing reference.

    Now after a very complimentary comment on my post about complex time I do feel quite self conscious about my following example which this time, yes, I read from Stephen Hawking (“The Grand Design“).

    This particular example examines the view which a goldfish has of the world whilst viewing it the confines of his goldfish bowl. The water and curved glass make straight lines outside of the bowl appear distorted and curved, but for the fish, that ‘means’ straight. That’s his reality and a question of perception.

    (You might be interested to read my guest post on Mihir’s Theory of Space Time blog on the Perception of Time).

    View from a goldfish bowl
    Image source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/

    Perhaps we can imagine the life of a goldfish more readily when we see the wobbly shadow of a straight stick on the rippled surface of a beach. From the sun’s view, that wobble is a straight line because the dimension of (sand ripple) height is projected – and to use the Matlab programming term, squeezed – onto the 2D surface of the Earth; it becomes hidden in perspective. As our viewing angle changes, that third dimension comes of out hiding and becomes visible.

    Going full circle and coming back to the mirror – or at least going on a trip to the funfair and visiting the hall of mirrors – we put ourselves into a kind of goldfish bowl; an altered state of fixed reference where normal images and lines appear distorted thanks to optical trickery and misdirection of rays of light.

    Wobbly mirrors play with our perception of straight.
    Light travels in straight lines but our perception is otherwise. Image source: www.static-ip-85-25-168-52.inaddr.intergenia.de

    If we consider travel between two points on that warped image, where they’re stretched apart if follows that travel between them will take longer. The inverse is true for points which have been compressed or squeezed together. Of course we know that these points aren’t really at differing spatial distances and the speed between them must be constant. Yet we see them differently.

    But could we consider a possible explanation in having a change in local time to account for these differences in speed? This is covered in General Relativity.

    Can we achieve time travel by changing our point of reference?

    Like most things, it’s easier said than done. We can’t jump into the mirror and become the reflection, although we can certainly influence it’s behavior. And recall that a reflection, after all, is a construction from our own perception of optical rays of light based upon our knowledge that it always travels in a straight line. Maybe if it’s in our head we can totally immerse ourselves after all.

    But perhaps our analogy with time may still hold.

    Aside from the synergistic view, we can assume that the total travel time of all light rays must be equal to the sum of the individual components from all directions. By definition, the average speed will then be the baseline norm given with a flat mirror where all light paths are straight and parallel to each other. But if we could get a handle on local variances in the speed of time effectively trading moments of low speed for high speed (or vice versa depending on your point of view) then maybe time travel would be within our reach.

    Oddly, this brings us back to the optic fiber based time machine I mentioned earlier. The paths of individual some rays of light will be longer than others, depending on the number of internal reflections it’s suffered. Whether all travel durations take the same amount of time, or that we simply cannot perceive the fractional differences in arrival speed from within the fiber is a question best directed to general relativity specialists.

    Is there a future with optic fibers and warped mirrors as time machines? Or are these just some random thoughts from a wrinkly old man day dreaming in front of a mirror?

    Paul

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    Punished for Punctuality?

    Punctuality seems to be a rare commodity, yet it’s presence isn’t recognised. I’d like to think that punctuality to time is a matter of temporal precision and should be rewarded!

    The doctor appointment was set for 14:20, and I was requested to ensure that I turn up on time. No need to tell me – I say it myself but punctuality is one of my strong points!

    Doctor's receptionist misses the point of coming in a little early

    So I did. I was still waiting at 14:35 when the doc came out – but he wasn’t looking in my direction.

    “Miss Jones?”

    The lady next to me stood up and started straightening her dress. “Finally!” she muttered. “Late as usual…” She gathered her bags and followed the doc.

    The door closed behind them, but another opened on the other side of the waiting room. A smartly dressed gentleman walked through and reported at the front desk.

    “Jeff Smith. I’m here for my 14:40.”

    The receptionist covered the mouthpiece of her phone and looked up.

    “You were requested to be here 10 minutes early to avoid being late” she barked, and went back to her phone call. “Sorry about that – you were saying something about satin?”

    Aside from the personal phone call, the receptionist had a fair point – people often do turn up late and really mess things up for others. Building in a time buffer zone helps to reduce the likelihood of this problem; pseudo punctuality.

    Waiting for the plane which is already there.
    Waiting for the plane which is already there.

    It’s like when we’re asked to turn up 2 hours early before a flight. How people can look forward to a holiday for months ahead, and then still not factor in delays and still turn up late is beyond me. At Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, the automated announcement on the loudspeaker is classic Dutch directness when a poor soul hasn’t been punctual and able to check in on time: “John Smith you’re holding up the flight. Please check in immediately”. Yep – nothing wrong in a bit of public naming and shaming when you’re causing hundreds of other people to be late because you can’t tell the time!

    Anyway. In the doctor’s waiting room it was a different story because the receptionist had completely missed the point – Jeff was actually in time for his 14:40 appointment (which was itself running late).

    Still thinking about Miss Jones and her late appointment, I started to question how it is that it’s acceptable for doctors and dentists to keep patients waiting, but seemingly never the other way around.

    This is crazy! If we’re late, we miss our appointment, or the plane leaves and takes off without us or whatever. It’s our fault and we suffer the consequences. But if a doctor is late by 5 minutes it doesn’t affect him; not because he’s salaried but because the consequences are carried on to the next patient…and the one after that and so on until it’s closing time.

    In other words, there’s a knock-on effect. Doc is late by 5 minutes, and the following 20 patients are also late by 5 minutes – a cumulative value of just over an hour and a half. It’s getting on for the butterfly effect where a small change leads to much bigger ones. Maybe it does here too – a patient is late for his job interview and doesn’t get his job.

    Or someone misses his plane… 😉

    From planes to trains

    Ah yes, back to our airport scenario where we’re called to arrive early to ensure that we’re not late for the plane. But isn’t it more common that it’s the plane or the airport staff which keeps us waiting? And if that plane takes off 5 minutes late, the total man hours of delay accumulates very quickly. Butterfly effect? You’d think that aircraft staff would be especially keen to avoid hurricanes! 😉

    Surely punctuality should be rewarded – but it seems that the opposite is true; being punctual doesn’t count for anything, even penalised.

    Take for instance, the train conductor on my morning commute. He walks along the carriage asking for tickets to inspect. Although people see and hear him coming they wait until he’s standing over them and asking for their ticket before they start rummaging around in handbags and wallets to pull out their ticket ready for inspection.

    Personally, I like to be ready in advance (besides, knowing I’m going to be interrupted from reading my book isn’t handy!). He walks towards me, he sees me, my arm is holding out my ticket ready for his cursory glance, and…he asks the person on the other side of the aisle for their ticket(!). Said passenger bends down to pick up her handbag. She rummages through it and pulls out a purse. Flips it open and fumbles to find her ticket.

    And me? Forgotten, and kept waiting. *growl* 🙁

    It seems that good time keepers just aren’t recognised.

    Problems at the roots?

    Anyway. That’s planes and trains – infamous for tardy time keeping. (Begin sarcasm tag) It’s not like they need to run on a timetable or anything…(end sarcasm tag).

    Some time ago I wrote a post about how being late is sometimes unavoidable, but measures can be taken to alleviate some of the problems that being late can cause.

    Sometimes though, being late really can’t be helped, and I’ve learned to try to get morning appointments so that accumulated lateness is minimal. Like today though, it’s not always possible and I’ll need to literally join the queue of other patients.

    But – sometimes being late is inevitable, or even avoidable. The power hungry doc receptionist who’ll spend 5 minutes tapping away at a screen before checking someone in, or chatting away “Oh doctor, giggle giggle, yes, what? Oh this. Yes, I just threw it on. Do you like it? It’s made of satin.”

    receptionist-doctor-late

    Admittedly I don’t have patience for these kinds of people. These are the people who have turned being punctual into a sop for other people who can’t keep time.

    Lateness ripples through the waiting patients downstream in the river of time. As the cause of lateness, perhaps this explains why Public Service Agent Miss Blond 00:07 is so keen on holding a tight rein on the appointment schedule.

    Psychological problems

    All that said, I should mention that in fairness it’s not always the fault of the receptionist – or the doc. It’s the patient.

    A German flatmate once told me about some research she’d read where it was found that if someone talking in a public phone box (which, incidentally, dates the research!) knew that someone was waiting for them then they would spend longer on that phone call than otherwise.

    Whether this is a psychological phenomenon (“Look at how popular I am – people want to talk to me for so long“) or that they were made to wait so they’ll do the same I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s perceived time dilation by those waiting for their turn. I mostly suspect that they realise the importance of time on the phone so they make the most of it.

    I think the last comes into play with patients who are called in late for their appointment.

    Having invested so long in waiting for their appointment and their time with the doc, some people wish to make the most of it whilst they’re there, or even spend 10 minutes complaining about being late – making the problem even worse!

    Time’s up!

    It’s 14:50. I’m late, I suppose as I always knew I would be. The doc walks in and calls me through.

    “I’m running late, so I’m going to have to rush you.”

    “That’s fine. I understand.” Yeah, I understand you can’t tell the time and can’t apologise for it.

    He leads me to his room and spends a few minutes staring at his monitor, then asks me what my problem is. Funny – I was hoping he was going to tell me. Anyway, we have a discussion at the end of which he looks away from the monitor and for the first time looks at me.

    “Mr Wandason, this is very serious. You should have come in earlier!”

    It would have made no difference doc – you can’t even handle it when I’m on time.

    He writes out the prescription and I leave, walking through the waiting room which has evidently fills up faster than the rate the patients are being seen.

    Jeff is visibly narked off for being kept waiting. I understand how he feels.

    I walk into the pharmacy to pick up my prescription. There’s a customer ticket machine there which dispenses numbers so people know who got there first and who’s turn is next, so I take my ticket. It turns out I’m next but I can see the assistant pharmacist is stirring her coffee and facing the opposite direction.

    I sit down and wait, presumably, for her coffee to cool, till she’s had a sip and feels that she’s ready to see me.

    Ah well. Being punctual doesn’t just mean turning up on time – it means we need to be flexible enough to accommodate for those around us who can’t be 🙁

    Paul

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    Review: Fated Memories by Joan Carney

    Fated Memories by Joan Carney is a well written and interesting exploration into the times of the American Civil War seen through the eyes of Kitty and Maggie. Surviving as nurses they see the harsher sides of the war, although a romantic light shines its light into the novel. Frequent comparisons between the duo’s past and present keep the time travel theme alive, though as is fitting with the flavour of the novel, there is no heavy scientific content.

    Fated Memories by Joan Carney is an interesting delve into the past thanks to a simplistic time travel device and characters who yearn to be back in their own time.

    Fated Memories book cover (Joan Carney)

    It’s a relatively simple plot – Kitty and Maggie inexplicably find themselves transported back in time to 1861 – the time of the American Civil War. Without knowing how they got there, or more importantly, how to get back, they enlist as nurses at an army camp which gives them food, shelter and a degree of protection.

    Although they often seem to wallow around a bit waiting for things to respond to rather then trying to actively deal with their predicament, Joan writes with an easy style which keeps the reader engaged and interested in what’s happening – and what will come!

    A large element of Fated Memories devotes itself to the day to day living experiences within that compound – some pleasant, and others harrowing, and this is where the main thrust of the novel lies; in how Kitty and Maggie come to terms with their new temporal location.

    Many time travel novels involve characters being thrust into another era who then need to deal with finding a way back or getting on with things. Fated Memories has a bit of both – the lack of knowledge of how things happened and the uncomfortable environment they find themselves in brings an intense internal conflict.

    At times Kitty and Maggie make temporary plans with an eye on the near term future (for example, getting things to eat and a place sleep) to a longer term view as their prospect of return becomes increasingly bleak. Soldiers around them help them settle in, and for the most part are respectful and friendly (complete in one case with a proposal). That said – this duo could look after themselves pretty well!

    Writing style

    Fated Memories is very well written. Joan writes smoothly with sentences which somehow give more information and feeling than at face value. No, I don’t know how it’s done!

    What I really like is that every now and then there’s a small section with a couple of paragraphs which describe conditions or feelings then we’re back to main story line. These small sections are almost like an aside or a semi-running commentary or something. It’s a powerful writing technique which I’ve not seen before – and don’t know why not!

    At times I was reminded of Marlys Millhiser’s The Mirror – not in the negative way in that I didn’t enjoy it, but in the way that Kitty and Maggie seemed to resign to being in the past and just got on with things. This is predominantly a destination novel where the focus is on what characters do once they’re done with time travel (rather than the ‘journey’ novel which focuses more on the time travel mechanics and time machine side of things).

    But where The Mirror is dull and misses several time travel opportunities, Joan keeps things active in Fated Memories – not necessarily through time travel related mechanics and paradoxes, but with active comparison between the past and present, complete with frustration of life threatening changes in medical practices. (Actually in this last respect Fated Memories has a huge amount of medical information. It doesn’t come over as contrived, but as natural thought processes that Kitty and Maggie have as trained nurses. I thought it was really well done!)

    Genre

    Science fiction?

    I wouldn’t normally include a “Genre” section, but whilst reading through Joan’s website regarding the front cover (which I’ll come back to in a bit) I thought I’d write a few thoughts here.

    Joan describes Fated Memories as science fiction because time travel isn’t possible. I think this is a fair point to make, although personally I subscribe to Asimov’s description of a science fiction novel being one in which science plays a central role, i.e, if the science was taken out then the novel would no longer make sense. In this latter sense, Fated Memories isn’t science fiction.

    OK, so Fated Memories contains no science, but it does make use of a phenomenon which for now has not been scientifically realised and therefore remains within the (science) fiction camp…!

    Time travel romance?

    Where there is no scientific content, Fated Memories picks up on character development. Indeed, Kitty and Maggie are characters who for the most part seem to be driven by their love interest.

    That said, I’m not sure if Fated Memories comes in as a romance novel either – there is a love interest and a heavy emphasis on relationships, but I’m not convinced that this is the main thrust of the plot. Certainly it’s a strong back-drop and motivation (or induced behaviour) for much of what Kitty and Maggie do.

    Chick lit?

    I’m not sure what “chick lit” is (or even if it’s an offensive term), but Fated Memories, especially at the end, starts to drift into what I imagine romantic fiction geared towards ladies would be like.

    For me the ‘give away’ is that whilst Kitty and Maggie are well developed characters, the male characters are superficial at best. This may be a little unfair to point out because in other novels with mainly male characters the reverse can often be said for the female participants in the plot. But where I can imagine a “hot girl” quite easily, when Simon’s described as “hot” I draw a blank. Then again, I don’t want to read about rugged looks or tight buns or whatever, so I suppose that’s a good thing.

    Ultimately, I just don’t know who he is and what he really thinks about things. Where the “hot girl” in the male dominated novel is often there to support the big boobs, Simon (and others) are around in Fated Memories to be either the knight in shining armour or the dragon.

    Towards the end of the novel Kitty was winding up in an unrealistic soppy love story with too many conveniences and people to help her out. It’s very cuddly, goody goody and drives the point home that everyone lives happily ever after.

    On the time travel side of things, there’s a huge explanation of what I thought was pretty obvious, but admittedly perhaps this is justifiably toned down for a non scientific novel. That said, there’s potential for a paradoxical twist regarding time travel which never came, though by this stage I think I’d probably bought into the chick lit thing – I wanted the happy ever after bit.

    Mission accomplished, I guess!

    Historical aspect

    Kitty, Maggie and Simon end up travelling back in time to 28 June 1861 which is commensurate with Simon’s memories…of the American Civil War.

    By now I’m sure you’re already aware that I’ve got no knowledge of history so it’ll come as no surprise that some names (e.g. Commander Biddle and Colonel Kane) meant nothing to me. Come to think of it, I don’t even know if they’re not supposed to mean anything to me… But I should mention that I don’t think my lack of historical knowledge detracted from novel (unless Simon was a well known and famous chap and I was expected to have known about him, thus negating the need to provide some deeper character building for him…).

    Kitty and Maggie had a few deep conversations about philosophical approaches to war which I found interesting. For example, ethics are called into question when as nurses they end up caring for wounded ‘enemy’ soldiers. Effectively, this means that a wounded enemy can be brought back to health so they then get to have another shot at killing you later. Killing someone presumably means winning the war? It’s insanity – and as Kitty and Maggie note, these men just wear different colour clothes and stand on the other side of the line.

    It’s a good point: caring for the wounded is not crazy, but often war is.

    Time travel aspect

    Time travel isn’t really a large part of this novel other than it was used to transport the main characters back in time. The time travel element mostly comes into play not through the mechanism or paradoxes, but more through a description of the past through the eyes of Kitty and Maggie who have a modern perspective.

    The time ‘machine’ is simple and necessarily black box. It has an interesting trigger mechanism which I won’t reveal here. It does the job and basic though it is, I was happy to note that there is consistency in its operation and how it’s capable of transporting more than one person at the same time. (“At the same time” – is that even relevant with a time machine? 😉 )

    One of my pet peeves with unwilling or unknowing time travelers is that a huge amount of time spent is often spent in confusion after the trip to the past (or future). That is the case in Fated Memories although I’m going to forgive Kitty and Maggie here because of Simon’s previous interest in historical reenactments which blurs the distinction between past and present. It’s a nice new angle which gives credence to the confusion and disbelief, and adds a layer of depth to the new setting the time travelers find themselves in.

    Whilst the story line is a little slow at times, Joan keeps the characters treading water by taking opportunities to wander around the area in that time. For example, Kitty and Maggie go off to get dresses tailor made which means that they get to meet the temporally indigenous people. Whilst it didn’t move the plot forwards these kinds of events provide interesting insights into the destination side of Fated Memories.

    There are other indications that we’re reading a time travel novel; there are frequent links back to the present with references to old houses which now look new, for example, or to local history, how a pinafore got its name, etc. – these things mercifully aren’t done explicitly, but gently and surreptitiously through observations made by the characters.

    There’s one scene which had me in stitches – Kitty swears in front of men who are shocked because women don’t use such language in this time. A cover up story is made hastily – she has tourettes and needs a smack in the mouth to shock her out of it(!) Later, Kitty swears again so a soldier raises his arm as he’s about to hit her as prescribed – but Kitty gets in first; she hits him and warns him not to try it again – and walks off swearing under her breath!

    At first I read this as Kitty being a leopard who can’t change her swearing spots (as well a lady who could look after herself in a male dominated setting) then I got to thinking that maybe we are just tied into our times just as we are with our spatial location – we have a language and a culture which take their roots from where we grew up. Usually.

    A couple of final points

    The butterfly effect

    The front cover of Fated Memories shows a butterfly on a watch.

    Butterfly effect in Fated Memories (Joan Carney)
    The butterfly effect in Fated Memories

    This makes it fairly clear that this is a time travel novel, and indeed there’s a discussion on Joan’s blog where Joan explains that “The butterfly is taken from chaos theory and represents the possible damaging effects a time traveler might have on the future. It is not meant to be whimsical.”

    Indeed, within the novel there’s mention of the butterfly effect. I particularly liked how it was handled at the end by mentioning that the effects of actions in the past, if any, weren’t known. Realistic, and fits with the tone of the novel – perfect!

    Why not?

    The end of the novel made me raise my time travel alert eyebrow. This is the eyebrow over the eye beneath it which sees a phenomenal opportunity to go time travelling and curls upwards in mouth watering anticipation. But in Fated Memories this route isn’t taken.

    Having found the mechanism behind time travel, Kitty, Maggie and companions lock the time machine away. Why? Why not make the most of it? Or is the point that they are now in the happy ever bit and don’t want to change anything?

    Maybe this scientific curiosity / opportunity is another difference between a science fiction novel and novels in other genres.

    Summary and Rating * * * *

    Fated Memories is a well written and interesting exploration into the times of the American Civil War seen through the eyes of Kitty and Maggie. Surviving as nurses they see the harsher sides of the war, although a romantic light shines its light into the novel. Frequent comparisons between the duo’s past and present keep the time travel theme alive, though as is fitting with the flavour of the novel, there is no hard scientific content.

    All in all, an enjoyable read!

    Paul

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    Disclaimer: Joan kindly sent me a free copy of “Fated Memories” to read in exchange for honest review. This is it!

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