Reflection: Time Travel Stories

I love time travel stories.  And I mean, I really love time travel stories.  I’ve experimented with time travel many times.  Two of my favorite time travel short stories I wrote are already posted here: The Time Machine and Village of Yesterday.  In Swogprille, I’ve done time travel a couple times, and in Swogprille: COTG, I used it very extensively.

A character can end up unintentionally changing the past through their actions, or causing history to play out as it always did.  A character can end up stranded in some time period in a “fish out of water” story.  A character can interact with their past or future selves, or their children or ancestors.  Need I go on?  The idea of time travel just has so many possibilities!

Stories where characters change the past can make interesting “what if” scenarios, allowing me to explore alternate histories.  If the time travel is part of a longer work, it is a good opportunity for exploring characters’ pasts and backstory.  It can also speculate on real history, and what would happen if one historical event happened differently – leaving a time traveler as an audience surrogate, someone from our time observing the alternate history.

On the other hand, maybe the opposite happens.  Maybe a character goes back in time to prevent some disaster, like, stop World War II by killing Hitler, but they’re doomed to fail.  No matter what, they can’t kill him.  Or maybe their assassination attempt actually leads to Hitler’s rise to power.

In my published time travel stories, I tried to explore ideas that are not quite so common.  In “The Time Machine”, the main character doesn’t change the past through his action, but rather, his lack of action.  In “Village of Yesterday”, the character’s mere presence does end up changing the timeline, but the character was also mistaken as to which time period he traveled to.

Revealing the actual results of the time trip will many times reveal a big twist.

There are so many theories about how time travel would work, and thus, time travel can be portrayed many ways.  In some stories, history can be changed through the slightest action.  In others, no matter what people do, they can’t change the past.  In some continuities, these rules may not always be consistent.  Star Trek did time travel episodes many times, in many different, sometimes inconsistent, ways.

In my Swogprille series (which I am still looking for the best way to publish), I tried a bit harder to be consistent with time travel.  To do this, I wrote the eighteen temporal laws, which are strict rules as to how time travel works in that universe.  In COTG especially, I have characters often mention these laws to make it clear to the reader that time travel works in a consistent way.

But regardless of how time travel works, it makes for one real good story.  So, tell me, do you have any favorite time travel stories?  I’ll be sure to check them out.  White Rakogis, signing off.


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