Guest post: Time Dilation as a Trope

Despite the recent explosion of time travel stories, time dilation remains an untapped treasure trove. In this guest post from Roy Huff we learn something about time dilation as a trope.

This is a guest post from author Roy Huff.

Author Roy Huff
Roy Huff

Roy Huff is a huge science fiction and fantasy lover! He also happens to be an award-winning, best-selling fiction and nonfiction author.

Currently he’s busy with his time travel novel which I hear will avoid the trope of the time paradox by embracing the multiverse theory. I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing it – but it won’t be ready until Autumn! Until then we can read his article…

Time Dilation as a Trope (Roy Huff)

I’m not sure when I first discovered time dilation in fiction. It could’ve been from an early 80’s superhero movie or Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor in Dr. Who. But what I do remember is watching many Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes with spatial anomalies, time dilation’s big sister.

One of my favorite examples though was in Unending, a Stargate SG-1 episode written and directed by Robert C. Cooper. In Unending, Samantha Carter used a time dilation “field” to buy decades for each fraction of a second outside the field. In the truest sense, that was a spatial anomaly.

Time dilation only allows those accelerating near light speeds to experience time slower than those around them. It only lets them move forward in time. That “tiny” detail aside, I can’t argue with Unending’s effect. I must’ve watched it a dozen times.

It also happened to air when I was 30 years old, the same year I returned to school after a decade-long break and my second of three bankruptcies. It was a tumultuous period and a great opportunity to dive deep into fantasies of what could’ve been if only I had more time.

Time travel romance, or pure romance, stories also use time dilation as a means for star-crossed lovers to glimpse a fleeting romance. Gene Kelly’s 1954 Brigadoon accomplished the same feat, but without the time dilation.

Writers use the trope in near-light-speed intergalactic ships. But it’s an underutilized mechanism for forward time travel. More often, you find authors using suspended animation or cryo-storage (think Genesis by Ken Lozito).

Of course, there’ve been attempts. Alastair Reynolds’ 2008 House of Suns, Pat Murphy’s 1999 There and Back Again, and Poul Anderson’s The Long Way Home are a few.

Despite the recent explosion of time travel stories, time dilation remains an untapped treasure trove. It’s a wide-open field of unexplored fiction too tempting for me to pass up.

I think it would fit nicely in a space opera, military sci-fi series.

Stay tuned.

Roy Huff

About the author

Author Roy Huff
Author Roy Huff

I’m a Hawaii-based author, research scientist, and teacher. At a young age, I struggled in a family plagued by severe poverty and mental illness. After high school, I moved to the islands and haven’t looked back.

Despite my challenging youth, or perhaps because of it, I embrace optimism, science, and creativity. I still dream of traveling into space and discovering the secrets of the universe. But until then, I make Hawaii my home, where I create new worlds with the stroke of a pen.

You can follow Roy on his website, Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter (@realroyhuff).

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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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