Ten Rules of Time Travel by Ian Lehey

So you wish to include time traveling as part of your story? How hard can it be? Have a nutty scientist or brainy professor come up with a credible time machine, or stumble across one if you want to avoid some of the techy mumbo-jumbo, have them jump backwards or forwards to the time requested by the plot, and then, for the perfect Hollywood ending, everyone jumps back to their timeline and enjoys the cool effects of tweaking history.

Problems deriving from time-travel? There’s nothing so terrible about becoming your own father or mother (or both) that can’t be fixed with some counseling and some good parenting. (I think Douglas Adams said that.) It’s just like wiping a page from a history book and writing it again the way you want it to be, right?

Wrong.

The truth is that when it comes to time travel, the territory becomes rather uncertain if not entirely boggled. Here are ten things you should keep in mind when you start playing around with time.

1. If you are about to leap into the past, then it has already happened.

That’s right. The moment you allow your characters to jump back in time, then the alterations they will apply will already have taken place. This results in our first great dilemma: now that history has changed and the problem solved, what will motivate the heroes to jump back? When the solution is so effective that the problem never existed, who will need to think of a solution? One way to solve this is to conceal the fact that the current state of affairs is, in hindsight, a result of that jump, and that another, far worse, scenario would have ensued from not going back. In other words, the travelers’ motivations are not determined by something that will change, but something they have already changed.

2. Your traveler must, in no way, be connected to the facts he or she is trying to change.

As a collateral point to rule number one, any traveler altering events impacting their own timeline will automatically fail. This is because, by altering time, they will inevitably alter their own memory of what happened, and that will ultimately lead to different decisions the next time around.
“Wait what next time?”, you ask. Well that leads us to:

4. It’s a loop. An infinite one.

Get it?

3. It’s a loop. An infinite one.

A successful leap into the past is one that will always have happened. One in which the traveler will, at a certain point, either devise their own way to travel or be thrown back in time by a series of events which must, always, result in the same outcome. Time will not permit an ever-changing number of different outcomes, it will stabilize into a flow where the jump never happens, or where it does, but always follows the same exact script. The effects of this on the characters can be very dark, or also quite funny. Especially for short jumps. Just like this little joke.

5. Time is memory.

In other words, our only sense for the passing of time is our ability to keep a record of past events. As a result, altering time inevitably alters the record. There are only two ways out of this paradox, in my opinion: One way is based on the theory of alternative universes which is so popular nowadays. In this theory, when you travel in time what you really do is jump to a different reality where what you did has changed history, but you come from a universe where nothing was done, so your memory of that history remained the same. This theory has a few flaws, well pointed out by the Rick & Morty series, including meeting infinite yous intent on changing their histories, and infinite other yous content with their lot and suddenly buggered by all the goddamn people turning up at their door.

Another way is to have time change from the old reality to the new rewritten one, but slowly. Slowly enough for the transition itself to be noticed and recorded. This is what I did in my short story “Hero of Stolen Time”. In it, the hero Ratscrap is the only one capable of jumping back two years into the past to stop the beginning of a terrible series of Viking incursions. When he fails to do so, partially because Ratscrap is a self-loathing coward, reality slowly begins to shift to a Viking-ridden village where everyone’s soon-to-be alternative is killed. Knowing this, Ratscrap must jump back to preserve his reality as well as his own miserable life.

6. The Bootstrap Paradox.

This theory was described quite beautifully in a Dr. Who episode and went like this:

Imagine your character is a Beethoven fanatic. He packs his collection of sheet music and jumps back to meet the man himself to discuss all things musical. When he finally sees Ludwig, our hero is horrified to discover the great composer doing nothing but sitting on the sofa and scratching his butt. (I think the Doctor put it more elegantly). Panicking, the time traveler shoves all of Beethoven’s sheet music in the loafing musician’s hands and hurriedly leaps back to the present to discover, to his relief, that the great Ludwig still is the world-renown musical genius.

The paradox is this: who composed the music? Our hero would swear it was Beethoven, but Ludwig would say it was a frantic looking man with a funny German accent who made it and gave it to him. You can’t jump back in time and hand J.K. Rowling a copy of Harry Potter. That’s worse than becoming your own parent.

7. I don’t have time for number 7.

8. Beware the uncanny valley. (Yes, there’s one in time travel too)

People who read sci-fi appreciate the imaginative way authors apply their scientific knowledge. A lack of scientific detail will undermine the credibility of your story. When it comes to time and time travel, science itself becomes rather iffy. To put it in other words, there’s a whole lot of fi in the sci already. Some writers will try to compensate this by adding even more details on exploiting naturally occurring nano-wormholes, strings, membranes and that ever-recurring buzzword, the quantum [insert something here]. The result is that, past a certain threshold, the authors themselves get so garbled as to put off even the most hardened geek. Make it scientzy, but don’t overdo it. Sometimes it’s preferable to simplify too much rather than overexplain it. Ratscrap’s time jumping ability, for instance, came from a simple magic potion.

A magic potion? Jeez, who am I trying to fool here? That’s almost as bad as quantum.

9. Forward jumps are ok. Sometimes.

Making your hero jump forward in time is absolutely doable. Unless you have the nerve to also bring them back. In that case, all of the above rules apply again. Knowledge of future events could potentially lead to attempts aimed at altering that future, but in that case, the original future never existed, so why change it? Headaches anyone? (One of Ratscrap’s side effects of time travel was a massive, sentient headache).

10. Alternatives to time travel.

There are a couple of more approachable alternatives to time travel, to avoid headaches, embarrassing family reunions and all that excessive mucking about with quantum and J.K.Rowling.

One way to travel into the past safely is to “tune in” to a past moment. This can be done by sending back a hidden probe, or waiting for when everyone will have a memory chip installed into their brains and simply playback their experience, or even sync present and past atoms to create a replica via, sigh, quantum entanglement. In all three cases, the past cannot be altered but only experienced as a hologram or virtual reality.
Another alternative to changing the past is even simpler. As stated in rule no. 5, time is memory. Do you really need to send your character back in time to hide the fact that they murdered someone? Wouldn’t it be relatively easier to alter everyone’s memory of the event, so that the murder becomes an accident? In this case, the hero’s memory would remain intact, as well as anyone’s they wish to preserve.

These are just ideas, not to be taken as absolute guidelines. Just make sure your plot holds, maybe catch a glimpse of the future to check how readers will respond and you will have seen – are going to have seen…

Truth be told, the hardest thing about writing time travel are the damn tenses.


Ian Lahey, author, dreamer, and Olympic-level binge-watcher, teaches English Language and Literature in Italy. Apart from writing arguably decent fiction, he also cooks with nearly edible results, tinkers with computer graphics, and does quite a lot of gardening, since he needs to replace all the plants he’s inadvertently killed.
https://ilahey.com

New No Wasted Ink ETSY Shop Launches as part of Comic Con At Home

New No Wasted Ink ETSY Shop launches!

As a poet, I’ve been showing my illustrated poetry here on No Wasted Ink for many years.  At first, my sketches were simple blog posts to display my poetry.  Later, the drawings were picked up by “Quantum Visions” as part of the annual chapbook to provide illustrations for the books.

A year later, I brought in a few of the sketches as art prints and exhibited them for the first time at Comic Con along with my artisan jewelry table.  They began to sell and two years later, I began to set up a full panel of my art at Comic Con.

This year, due to the pandemic, Comic Con is At Home.  The speakers are available for free via youtube and Comic Con is supporting its dealers and artists with advertising at the virtual convention.

The prints offered in my etsy shop are the same archival quality prints that I would exhibit at Comic Con each year.  Each print is signed and numbered as part of a limited edition.  When you purchase a print in my ETSY shop, it will be sent to you in a rigid mailer in protective cellophane.

I hope those of you who visit the Comic Con Art Show will support me and the other artists exhibiting at Comic Con this year.  Find us via the #comicconathome or #comicconathomeartshow hashtags on your social media outlets. Or come to the main ComicCon sponsored tumblr homepage: https://comicconathome.tumblr.com/

 

Author Interview: Jon R Osbourne

Author Jon Osbourne could be described as a long time gamer who took up the keyboard to tell the stories my dice wouldn’t. He would not be the first writer to transition from the gaming realm to writing books. Please welcome him here on No Wasted Ink.

I’m Jon R. Osborne, a Midwestern nerd who split his childhood between Chicagoland and rural Illinois. I started playing role-playing games when I was 13 and I never lost the passion for the hobby. I was a journalism major in college but did almost no work in the field after graduation. I work in scientific logistics – at least until I reach the point I can turn full-time writer.

When and why did you begin writing?

I first started trying to write fiction in college. I was a journalism major, and I wanted to find a way to share the adventures from my D&D campaigns. My first attempt at a book was a collaboration with two of my players trying to write out our college campaign.

Later, I began writing scenes for the players as ‘behind the scenes’ and between session material, as well as filling out recaps of game sessions to include extra material.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I didn’t consider myself a writer until a publisher accepted and published my first short story. I went to the convention where the book launch party was held and signed copies of the book. It was surreal.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My current book is set in my urban fantasy universe and follows my Milesian Accords trilogy. It focuses on what happens when magic returns to the world, with various characters trying to deal with the fall out.

What inspired you to write this book?

I had hoped that the story would continue after I finished the trilogy, and reader feedback inspired me to keep the story going. The original Milesian Accords was inspired by the Irish legends in Lebor Gabala Erenn – The Book of Invasions, specifically the conflict between the Tuatha De Danann and the Milesians.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I don’t have a singular style, but I tend to use the same style for a given setting. For example, in the Milesian Accords and ensuing books in that setting, I write each chapter from a single character’s point of view.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

The current book I’m working on is titled “The House Between Worlds.” The origin becomes obvious if you’ve read the Milesian Accords, but in a nutshell the home of one of the character’s becomes a waystation between the mundane world and the otherworld.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I don’t consciously put messages in my work. I think you can weave in a message if you choose and do it organically without beating the reader over the head. Great examples are Star Trek or the X-Men. The X-Men’s struggle against anti-mutant sentiment was a parallel of the civil rights movement, with Professor X and Magneto as stand-ins for Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The events in my books do not reflect my own experiences. I’ve never had a supernatural delegation turn up on my doorstep (checks door). A few characters in my urban fantasy books may have attributes inspired by people I know, and one minor character is a tribute to a deceased friend, but overall the characters stand on their own. Some of the locations are based on places from my childhood – especially Liam’s farmhouse.

In the military science fiction books, it there are more characters inspired by real people. Some of these are ‘red shirts’ – for some reason mil sci fi fans love to see themselves go out in a blaze of glory. One of the POV characters for my most recent mil sci fi book started in the previous book as a red shirt I never got around to ending, and he filled a role in the next book. I won’t say if he made it to the end of the newer book.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Larry Niven and Robert Heinlein were my major science fiction influences. They made me believe someday mankind would step out into the stars. Larry Niven’s “Ringworld” was one of the first science fiction books I remember reading – I was probably too young (it was my mother’s book) and some of it went over my head, but I was amazed. I stumbled across Heinlein’s books in a store in the mall – one of the first of his I read was “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.”
As for fantasy, early on I read the Thieves’ World series, Stephen Brust’s Vlad Taltos books, and David Eddings’ Belgariad. My first urban fantasy was courtesy of Charles de Lint, and he inspired my urban fantasy writing.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I see a difference between inspiration and mentor. While the aforementioned authors were inspirations, they never provided feedback. If I had to name a mentor, I’d say it was my publisher Chris Kennedy. His guidance and feedback made me a better author. I believe there is a marked difference between Book One and Book Three of the trilogy regarding my writing quality, and I owe a lot of that to Chris.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

The covers on the Milesian Accords books are the second ones. When Podium Audiobooks produced the audiobook for ‘A Reluctant Druid” they sent us the cover art by Alexandre Rito that they were going to use and told us we could use it and the art for the other two books. The covers were so awesome I said yes immediately.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Make a habit of writing. I wasn’t published until I was 51 because I lacked the discipline to finish projects. I now use a spreadsheet to track my writing, and I have a time scheduled to write. My first story was published 3 years ago – I now have 6 books and 9 stories published. If you have trouble finishing a book, try short stories. Also, don’t obsess on making your book perfect. My publisher has a saying – “Any story can be fixed in editing except the one that isn’t finished.”

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you. Every time I get a review or e-mail telling me someone enjoyed my work it inspires me to keep writing.

Jon R. Osborne
Indianapolis, IN

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A Reluctant Druid

Cover Artist: Alexandre Rito
Publisher: Chris Kennedy Publishing

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No Wasted Ink Writers Links

Happy Monday! This week’s top ten list of writing links are a variable selection of general writing tips mixed in with scifi and fantasy genre specific articles. I hope you enjoy them.

How ‘Horta-nomics’ can save Star Trek’s socialist utopia from the horrors of the dilithium mines

10 Amazing Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books by Women

Teaching Shakespeare Under Quarantine

Touching Your Audience Deeply through Viewpoint

When Book Collaborations Go Bad

Pencil Leaners

The Power of Pronouns

Does Your Story Really Need That Extra POV Character?

Writing Characters with Trauma

Freewrite: How to Write About Traumatic Events Without Adding More Trauma

From Pad 39-A: Poem by Wendy Van Camp

I’ve been a huge follower of the American space program for as long as I can remember. So it is a no brainer that I watched the SpaceX Dragon launch. I noticed that it was from the same space pad as the moon launches and shuttle launches of the past. I was inspired to write a poem, something to be uplifting instead of our current doom and gloom.

Around this time, the editor of this magazine was interested in featuring an astropoem about the launch. A mutual friend put us together.

On June 21st, The Starlight Emporium Magazine put out its summer issue and my three-part poem “From Pad 39-A” was published as part of the poetry collection.

Starlight Emporium is a beautiful art magazine filled with colorful paintings, illustrations, poetry, and short stories. A full 152 pages! I am honored to be included. Available in print and pdf.

https://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1802474

Author Interviews * Book Reviews * Essays * Writer's Links * Scifaiku

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