Saturday, March 7, 2020

Springing Through Time in Leap Year: Thoughts on Time Travel from the RW staff

Greetings, Rebels!

Every four years a special occasion occurs: we get an extra day. February 29th is just like any other winter day, but some of us get really excited with the chance to do something that can't happen every year.

The staff here at RW started throwing some ideas out for ways to celebrate and we decided to share with all of you our thoughts on Time Travel in fiction!

Time travel is something that fascinates me, especially as a living history interpreter (which to me, is about as close to time travel as we’re going to get). But as for time travel in fiction, I’ve only had limited experience with it. The best example I can put forth is the NBC show Timeless, and even that is a bit sketchy.
There definitely has to be rules about time travel. There is a huge push to keep from messing with the time continuum, as everything is affected by something that happened in the past. You almost have to be in your own bubble, just observing, and what fun is that??
To be honest, I’m not wild about time travel as a plot device because of how unrealistic it can turn. As Avengers: Endgame has proven, time travel also can’t fix a bad plot.
As for stereotypes, there is always the time machine. Because we can’t seem to go back in time without a time machine, which seems silly if you really think about it. I mean, don’t you think that those things would be….noticable? Written about? I know some failed prototypes were developed, but still. Would really like to see some other vehicle for traveling back in time - covered wagon with an energizer beam-like thing? THAT would be cool.

Clare A.:
I have to admit, I get really excited anytime I know that there is a book or movie that has to do with time travel. But, sometimes when I am disappointed! When I come across a story that is really well executed using time travel I get so happy!
Time travel is so often used to fix mistakes that the characters have made. We all relate to that, we think that if we could just go back to change something… Alas, it isn’t like that in the world. And it shows in time travel because most times they just make an even worse mess than before.
But for me, what makes a time travel story good? Though this is a common one and sometimes it is done poorly I like it when they go back to save someone’s life. Yes, I loved Endgame. I never want the characters to die, and while there are times when they shouldn’t come back to life (usually if you decide to kill off a character, keep it that way! Actually, our very own Julian had an awesome post about it HERE that I absolutely agree with) but every once in a rare while they feel they need to save a character. As I said, this can be well done, and this can be poorly done. For example, one of the Harry Potter books is my favorite example because it uses this so well, while another book in the series tries it again and it feels weird to me. BUT, it also shows the dangers involved with changing the past, how it changes the present.
Overall, if you tell me that a story has time travel in it, I am bound to check it out! (Pst, I'll almost always love it.)

It depends on the context, for me. Time travel in general? Can’t stand it. However, when the entire plot is driven by time travel? ESPECIALLY when you throw a multi-verse or the time-space continuum into the mix, it becomes so nonsensical to actual logic that I can let it slide. It’s something like a magic system—no, maybe it doesn’t make ANY sense. But if the story pulls it off, great! I will accept it.
Doctor Who is an example of a show that does this really well. After all, the whole show is about an alien with a time box. His actions don’t affect the future—until the moments they do. You might roll your eyes at the fact that something is a “fixed point in time”, and at least once, you might even cry (heaven knows I did). It might not be a logic that makes any sense, but it has a logic of its own, so it works.
My opinion on time travel comes down to this: by necessity, the plot of a story that includes time travel must be zany. It can’t be too serious, too full of itself. A story that’s aware it’s absolute nonsense, that incorporates that nonsense with a wink at the audience, is the way to do time travel right. Make it zany. Make it comedic. Make it absolutely nonsensical. And have fun with it. Too many stories try to use time travel as an entirely serious plot device, and it doesn’t work. The more comedic, the better.

I always have wished that the rules for time travel were more distinct in media, they honestly make no sense. No matter what you do in the past, you’re still messing up the future because you’re still impacting people and things around you. The butterfly effect would be an interesting thing to think about as well (and possibly write about?? Plot bunnies maybe???).
I think out of all the books I’ve read that Harry Potter does a pretty good job at time traveling because we saw how the small actions affected everything.
My thoughts kind of echo Julian’s, it would be cool if there was a way to witness the past but as a spectator, not a participator. That would make a little more sense technologically speaking, while still allowing the characters to learn and experience the past.
Also, if they time traveled they could be doing it to better understand the other characters, like a daughter angry at her mom time travels and watches her mom’s traumatic past experiences with her home life and then realizes that her mom has been simply trying to protect her from that, etc.

I personally find the whole time travel concept rather unlikely to ever actually be a thing in real life. And so, as something that will probably always be “just” a thing for fiction (and as someone who doesn’t read/watch a lot of time travel stories) I don’t really have an opinion.
I don’t like when it’s used to “fix” sloppy writing, or used as an “escape” when characters are backed into such an impossible situation that using time travel seems the easiest option.
I do like when time travel is made funny (think like The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd, or maybe even Doctor Who).
But let’s break the stereotypes, shall we? Maybe have a character who time travels and simply goes to enjoy things and doesn’t ever “mess” things up? Maybe if you go back in time (or to the past) people can’t see you and things you do can’t affect the past/future because you aren’t fully “in” that time. The “can’t mess up the future” thing is kinda old.

In conclusion, humorous time travel and completely in fiction seems to be the general consensus. While there are so many possibilities (which we would love for all of you readers to explore!), don't use it as an excuse for bad writing.

These are just our opinions, and we would love to hear all of your thoughts on time travel. We hope that you enjoyed your extra day! Keep writing rebelliously!

1 comment:

  1. This is so fun! I really enjoyed this whole topic and discussion ;)