I’m thinking that time travel might be both the most fun and the most stupid idea in this history of science fiction. The fun part goes without saying. The stupid part relates to the incredibly simplistic thinking that perhaps only an earthbound animal creature is capable of, for all we know. You can go back to the beginning of this sentence and read it again, but the universe is not at all like that. It does not rewind, or if it does, the enormity of such an action is seriously unthinkable. Every drop that flowed, every breath of wind that blew, every molecule that vibrated, all of that would have to be undone. Even the briefest moment (in the subjective experience of it) contains near infinite quantities of change. Nevertheless …
I’m only thinking about it because last night I watched the first episode of the new James Franco series based on the Stephen King novel (11.22.63 on Hulu) about a guy who is shown a portal to a certain time and place (1960, small-town Maine) where he can go and therein set about preventing the assassination of JFK. Leaving aside the old parallel universe conundrum, or the notion that, hey, now the guy can’t ever go back once he accomplishes his mission because every time he goes back the whole thing resets, like a default value.
Silly, but fun. What grabbed my attention was the feature that “the past does not want to be changed” and it actively resists, by setting things on fire, causing cars to crash and chandeliers to fall. It’s as if the past is spying on itself, endlessly paranoid that it’s little masterpiece might get tinkered with. It’s as if Jackson Pollock were hiding out in a museum to leap out just in time just in case someone decided to alter one of those meaningless scribbles of paint.
My thought was, hey, this is sort of like my own ‘Time Zone‘, where the past cannot be changed, but in my version, there’s no such volition, and no chance of ever defying it. What “time” does in that book is simply make you fit in. It absorbs you, changes you. There is nothing you can do about it. You are a molecule and it is the universe. I like my idea better, even though it is absolutely hopeless and makes it impossible for any story to occur in which the protagonists or their goals remain at all.
It’s a more subtle and less obvious take on the whole time travel thing, I think, and if it were made into a movie you could still have the cool cars, hairstyles and early rock and roll if you wanted, and those are clearly the best things about this particular TV show anyway.
(oddly, only a few minutes after I posted this I was notified that someone reviewed it on Smashwords. It hadn’t been reviewed there in more than 4 years!! The guy gave it 2 stars. Maybe if I went back in time and re-wrote it he would end up liking it better! What do you think? Should I do it? Are you ready to lose everything that’s happened in your world over the past 17 years since I wrote it?)