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August 29, 2003

TIME TRAVEL....Over at Crooked Timber, Brian Weatherson starts his most recent post this way:

I’m teaching a freshman seminar on time travel at Brown this year....

Hot damn! When I was in school they taught Newtonian mechanics to us freshmen, and even at that we struggled with it. But today they teach the frosh time travel? I mean, you'd think it would at least be a graduate seminar, wouldn't you?

Then he continues:

....so I’ve been watching a lot of time travel movies as ‘preparation’.

Um, time travel movies? Is that why today's kids are so much more advanced than my generation? Because they watch movies instead of reading textbooks with all those hard to understand equations and things?

What's that? It's a philosophy class? Oh.

But let's help Brian out anyway. What's your favorite time travel book/story/movie etc? I'm very fond of Robert Heinlein's "By His Bootstraps," a perfect little gem of time travel paradoxes. And of course, RAH also wrote The Door Into Summer, notable because the hero is so dedicated to his cat that he makes sure to take him along into the future. How can you lose with a combination of time travel and feline adoration?

Other recommendations?

Posted by Kevin Drum at August 29, 2003 09:53 PM | TrackBack


Comments

There's an Isaac Asimov story, whose title i've forgotten, about time travel to see dinosaurs, and you're supposed to stay on a select pathway, and one of the time travellers steps off the path and crushes a butterfly, and when they return, a fascist has just been elected president....

Posted by: howard at August 29, 2003 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

I came upon a fascinating book of essays by Stanislaw Lem, author of Solaris, a while back, and probably his major preoccupation was all the things that are wrong with science fiction. Exhibit A was time travel paradoxes.

Posted by: David at August 29, 2003 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

I suggest Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman.

Posted by: Adam in MA at August 29, 2003 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

In my freshman philosophy class, we also started off with time travel. It's a good way to engage young minds who've never had much exposure to serious philosophical thinking. Unfortunately, I can't remember what we read, but I do know that we didn't watch any movies, although in hindsight, we could have probably benefited from it.

Since many will suggest good time travel films, let me suggest something different, like "Groundhog Day." It's not about time travel per se, but it does deal with time in its own unique way.

And speaking of "time," what in world are you doing blogging at 9:53 pm on a Friday?! (Heck, what the hell am I doing leaving a comment on your blog?! I should be downstairs watching a movie with my wife! See you later!)

Posted by: Robert Tagorda at August 29, 2003 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

That dinosaur story isn't Asimov... maybe Heinlein

--Somewhere in Time is a good movie
--Time After Time with Steenbergen, Warner and that English guy from Clockwork Orange... ah! Malcolm McDowell
--And Star Trek's Voyage Home
--And Star Trek Classic's "City on the Edge of Forever"
--ventura county, ca

Posted by: Darryl Pearce at August 29, 2003 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

It's a wonderful life! The movie that is.
--ventura county, ca

Posted by: Darryl Pearce at August 29, 2003 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

David Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself takes time travel paradoxes to the extreme. He ends up with many, many copies of his protagonist existing simultaneously at any particular time, as they come and go from different time streams.

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald at August 29, 2003 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

Even better Heinlein time travel paradox story: "All You Zombies".

Fritz Leiber's ChangeWar series: History is controlled by two mysterious groups from the future who are engaged in a war to sway events in the past to one side or the other.

howard:
[quote]and one of the time travellers steps off the path and crushes a butterfly, and when they return, a fascist has just been elected president....[/quote]

Hey, what's that on my boot...scrape, scrape.

Posted by: MikeN at August 29, 2003 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and Heinlein's controversial Farnham's Freehold

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald at August 29, 2003 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

The story Howard's thinking of is "A Sound of Thunder" by Ray Bradbury.

I'd take Lem's "Microworlds" essays with a grain of salt; he's a brilliant writer and an interesting, if crotchety, critic, but when he wrote those essays, he'd read a fairly small sample of American science fiction. Much of his frustration with it came out of the difficulty of finding the good stuff among the 90% crap as per Sturgeon's Law.

Posted by: Matt McIrvin at August 29, 2003 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

The story you folks are trying to think of is "A Sound of Thunder" and the author was neither Asimov nor Heinlein, but Ray Bradbury. Find the story here.

A greatly modified version of the story is supposedly going to be made into a movie, which will be good news for Brian Weatherson... the next time he teaches the class!

Posted by: Keith at August 29, 2003 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

Try Time Travel in Einstein's Universe by J. Richard Gott.

He is a physicist looking at how time travel might actually be possible based on Einstein's equations. It is also readable by a layman. Extremely interesting.

Posted by: Rick B at August 29, 2003 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

da Farmer's "Riverworld" series isn't quite time travel; it's more of an alternate universe theme, but he uses historical figures as castmembers. And now that I think of it, why not use alternate histories in philosophy classes?

Posted by: Linkmeister at August 29, 2003 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

Callahan's Crosstime Saloon.

Great stories.

Posted by: Dan at August 29, 2003 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

The Final Countdown.

Posted by: Balisardo at August 29, 2003 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

Before the other geeks get a chance to say it, Donnie Darko.

Posted by: Matthew at August 29, 2003 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

That class is very Brown.

Posted by: MDtoMN at August 29, 2003 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

A short-lived prime time series on NBC in the early '80s called "Voyagers!"

I learned a lot of history from that show, but sadly not as much about the mechanics of time travel.

I wish I had gone to Brown - I majored in philosophy at Virginia and don't remember watching any movies or discussing time travel.

Posted by: Edge at August 29, 2003 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

The TV series Time Tunnel. You go back in time to any place on earth and the people speak modern English.

Connecticutt Yankee in King Arthur's Court is my favorite "out of time" story.

Posted by: James E. Powell at August 29, 2003 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

There is an Asimov short story "The Ugly Little Boy", which is not about time-travel, but it is an integral part of the plot. Rather moving, and Asimov's personal favorite of his stories.

There's another Asimov short story, I forget the title, which is about a technology which can see back in time, and is being suppressed by the government.

Posted by: roublen vesseau at August 29, 2003 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

I second Donnie Darko! That was an incredible movie.

Posted by: Adam in MA at August 29, 2003 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

Damn, I'm about to graduate as a physicist and I haven't gotten to the time travel yet. I've been ripped off! I'm going to go talk to the Dean.

I like _Hyperion_, by Dan Simmons. Time travel is not central, but it plays a pivotal part. Great book (but buy the _Fall of Hyperion_ at the same time -- it is one novel that was split into two for marketing purposes).

Posted by: Timothy Klein at August 30, 2003 12:11 AM | PERMALINK


Not science fiction and not really time travel, but I'd reccomend Memento since (although ostensibly about memory) it reverses the normal time flow. I haven't read the story it was based on but possibly also worth a look.

Posted by: Michael Farris at August 30, 2003 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

Dudes? Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure?

Also, Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which has become the base vehicle for the rock-bottom of any B-list celebrity. I think that UPN is going to run a week of nothing but Connecticut Yankee retellings, starring the stars of all of your, um, "favorite" sitcoms.

Posted by: jesse at August 30, 2003 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

_The Anubis Gates_, Tim Powers. It resolves the central paradox of time travel in a nifty way: you can go back and affect the past, but you have to do it in such a way that nobody notices.

Posted by: tc at August 30, 2003 01:30 AM | PERMALINK

The original George Pal "The Time Machine", in gorgeous Technicolor, if I'm not mistaken.

"The End of Eternity" by the aforementioned Asimov.

Larry Niven had a great series about a guy who has to time-travel in the past to get stuff for the world leader, a descendant of some Secretary-General in an unspecified time from now. The guy comes from a future that is so polluted that he faints if he breaths our air, due to the low(for him) levels of CO2.

Posted by: Dark Avenger at August 30, 2003 01:40 AM | PERMALINK

There's a paper by Frank Tipler called "Rotating Cylinders and the Possibility of Global Causality Violation", which shows how time travel might be theoretically possible using Einsteinian physics (although the engineering problems are, um, non-trivial).

Larry Niven also wrote a short story with the same title demonstrating the drawbacks to attempting to screw around with the universe.

Posted by: A Phoenician in a time of Romans at August 30, 2003 02:37 AM | PERMALINK

Ouch.

Not to be tetchy, but he said that HE was watching the films in preparation (with preparation in scare quotes), not that he was making his class watch them. And as a practical matter, the average freshman class runs from fifty minutes to an hour and a quarter. Even if he wanted to waste an entire class on a film, most run too long.

As for time travel, the class is an intro to metaphysics, with a focus on time. Calling it time travel is sexing it up a bit, but the issues are important philosophical ones regardless. If he had decided to focus the class on other metaphysical topics, say the nature of causation or the existence of god, I daresay you'd be giving him no flak. Theories on the nature of time and on what sort of time travel (if any) is possible are just as interesting, and just as central to metaphysics.

And about philosophy. As you can see, I'm a partisan, but let me just say the following in defense of academic philosophy. As a general thing, undergraduate philosophy courses are the best bang for the buck, educationally speaking, in the humanities. This is so for a variety of reasons.

For one thing, no single (non-tech) course will do a freshman more academic good, in the short and the long run, than intro logic/critical thinking. If I were king of the world, I would mandate this course for all incoming freshman. An understanding of the structure of reason and argumentation is not inborn, but it is necessary for any proper academic work (and most other work, as well). The only place to get it is in a philosophy class.

For another, philosophy departments generally hand out the lowest average grades in the humanities, and the courses are, as far as I can tell, the most difficult, especially at the early levels. If your kid is getting Bs in philosophy classes at a decent school, she's very likely doing actual academic work.

Also, phil majors score better than any other humanities majors on all of the major grad tests (GRE, LSAT, GMAT). IIRC, they come in first on the verbal portion of the GRE and the on the LSAT. In that same vein, philosophy programs put more people into good law schools than any other programs.

Based on my experience in the academe, if you want your kid to get a decent humanities education, and have a good chance at a proffesional degree, make 'em take at least a minor in philosophy. Even if they have to watch sci-fi movies.

/rant

Posted by: epist at August 30, 2003 02:38 AM | PERMALINK

"a fascist has just been elected president"

(wiping crud off foot) and your point is? Were we supposed to be on a diffent timeline?

Posted by: bad Jim at August 30, 2003 02:43 AM | PERMALINK

I can't believe nobody has mentioned Wilis's "Doomsday Book" and "To Say Nothing of the Dog". The second, especially, is excellent. A wonderful mixture of time paradox, comedy, mystery, romance, and adventure. To say nothing of the dog.

The Asimov story where the government is suppressing time travel, although it isn't time travel, just ability to view the past, is "The Dead Past". It has one of Asimov's better lines when a character is threatening to expose the suppression of truth and a bureaucrat threatens to have him imprisoned: "What do you think this is, the twentieth century?"

Another great short story is "Let the Ants Try" by James MacReigh. (Probably a pseudonym, since Google shows the same story attributed to Pohl.)

This may perhaps open me to heavy flamage, but I loved the first "Back to the Future". The second and third were ok, but the first was terrific.

Posted by: Alex at August 30, 2003 02:49 AM | PERMALINK

"Run Lola Run" (Lola rennt) is barely more silly than any other version of time travel, and reasonably congenial to anyone who taps snooze in hope for another odd dream.

After all, without variant realities, what is time-travel except costume dramas or space westerns?

Posted by: bad Jim at August 30, 2003 02:55 AM | PERMALINK

(1) Poul Anderson's "Time Patrol" series, in which a secret eons-spanning police force -- taking commands from a set of post-human superbeings so mindboggling to Homo sapiens that you can hardly even bear to LOOK at them -- polices history to keep other time travelers from modifying it (and doesn't always succeed). This gives Anderson a splendid opportunity to engage in one parallel-history speculation afer another -- and nobody (including Harry Turtledove) did alternate history stories like Anderson did. (But then, I remain astonished that Anderson isn't much more popular than Heinlein; he was more imaginative, a MUCH better stylist, and the most dazzlingly all-round erudite SF author -- in both the hard sciences and history -- ever to walk the planet. Virtually every story he wrote from 1947 to his death in 2001 -- and he wrote hundreds of stories and dozens of novels -- remains fresh and worth reading to this day. I devoured the guy for three straight decades.) He wrote four Time Patrol stories from 1954 to 1960, then returned to the series and did a flock more from 1975 through the late 1990s.

(2) Robert Grossbach's "Of Scorned Women and Causal Loops" (find it in the Jan. 1999 "F&SF Magazine" or in Gardner Dozois' anthology (The Year's Best Science Fiction -- 17th Annual Collection"). The guy actually managed to come up with a completely workable solution to the Grandfather Paradox that DOESN'T involve alternate universes.

(3) Heinlein's "By His Bootstraps". Not just a good time-travel paradox story, but (as Robert Silverberg said rcently) "one of the spookiest and most awe-inspiring visions of humanity's distant future in the history of SF" -- and the two facts are related.

(4) Larry Niven's story (mentioned by "Phoenician" above) in which he comes up with ANOTHER solution to the Grandfather Paradox that doesn't involve alternate universes -- although this solution is reminiscent of the way Alexander the Great solved the Gordian Knot problem.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at August 30, 2003 03:08 AM | PERMALINK

I hate time travel in sci-fi. I absolutly hate it. It is impossible to present it with any sort of plausibilty.

However..If I have to suggest something, I would actually go for a video game. Final Fantasy 8. The ending deals with time travel in a very interesting way. (Basically, a woman travels back in time to train a few orphans to have the power to defeat the great evil.)

Posted by: Karmakin at August 30, 2003 03:45 AM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised no one mentioned H.G. Wells' "Time Machine," which may be the granddaddy of them all. Too obvious?

The George Pal movie is a special favorite (as is "War of the Worlds"). Special effects were just emerging from the belly-laugh era. Given the technology Pal was using, it was pretty, uh, special.

The remake wasn't bad, either. Though I initially avoided it (as I do most remakes), it was sufficiently different that I didn't feel I was watching a total plagarism -- or a farce. (If Affleck and J-Lo really do remake "Casablanca," I may have to hurt them.)

Others: in Teminator I, John Connor sends his father back through time in order to become his father. That had to hurt.

On the tube, "Seven Days" was interesting, but uneven. A chrononaut could jump back seven days, usually to undo some disaster that happened within the last seven days. (Hence...) The limits built into the premise gave them some nice problems.

Also on the tube: "Time Cop" (which I didn't watch); a series (name forgotten at the moment) starring Dale Midkiff(?), again a cop from the future; plus "Quantum Leap." Oh yes, a classic Outer Limits: "The Man Who Was Never Born."

As noted, Star Trek has dealt with time travel often. "First Contact" was the Borg's attempt to rewrite Earth's history. Voyager's finale was all time travel (as were several episodes), Starfleet Future has a Temporal Prime Directive, and on Enterprise, Archer et al. have gotten sucked into a temporal war a few times.

Comics have dealt with time travel a lot, albeit on simpler levels. To deal with future paradoxes, DC established a rule: Superman could not travel to the future (to join up with the Legion of Superheroes) when Superboy was hanging with them, and vice versa. Thus: "I can't get to the 30th century because apparently I'm already there!" (That may qualify as a philosophical question.)

Another rule was that you can't change history, which despite history's facts, is oddly comforting (in that things can't get worse; c.f. the Asimov story). Nonetheless, it created some nice stories when when the well-intended rushed in. My favorite: adult Lex Luthor is hiding out in 1865's Washington D.C. Superboy appears. Luthor paralyses him with red Kryptonite (which he just happened to have on hand, of course) and taunts him for most of the book. Suddenly, someone screams, "The President's been shot!" Luthor realizes why Superboy is there. Luthor cries.

Posted by: Glen at August 30, 2003 04:09 AM | PERMALINK

I teach science fiction at the college level, and my favorite time travel story--in fact my very favorite science fiction story of all time--is Ian Watson's "The Very Slow Time Machine," which you can find in collections of his stories or in Ascent of Wonder, the anthology edited by David Hartwell. It combines a totally original time travel system with a satirical look at mass culture and hero worship.

Another very good story is Geoffrey Landis' "Ripples in the Dirac Sea," which I think won either the Hugo or Nebula. I first read it in Donald Wollheim's 1989 best annual volume.

I also have a weakness for John Varley's novel Millenium, which is a potboiler but a pretty good one. In the far future, humanity is dying out, and to regenerate the race they have to go back in time to snatch people off crashing planes. Non-stop action with lots of interesting time paradoxes. The ending is a bit of a disappointment, but until then it's a great ride.

Posted by: englishprofessor at August 30, 2003 04:20 AM | PERMALINK

David Gerrold's "The Man Who Folded Himself" works out the implications of branching alternate universes quite rigorously. It's most remarkable, though, for its exploration of the sexual psychology of time travel. I believe it has been republished this year.

Posted by: Canadian Reader at August 30, 2003 04:21 AM | PERMALINK

We watched Twelve Monkeys and discussed the philosophical implications/possibilities of time travel in my Intro to Philosophy class at Harvard. Great movie.

Posted by: Unlearned Hand at August 30, 2003 04:30 AM | PERMALINK

If you want to get down right surrealistic about temporal reality and time travel skip fiction completely and go right to hypothetical physics. I would recommend two books. David Deutsch?s "The Fabric of Reality" and Julian Barbour?s "the End of Time".


Deutsch argues there is direct, if not readily apparent, evidence for a quantum multi-verse and such evidence can be found in the study of three primary fields; quantum particle interaction, biological diversification and information theory. The book is dense and difficult at times, but is the best argument I've read yet for a multi-verse resulting in all possible times and realities as well as travel throughout.


Barbour also argues for a multi-verse, but in his version reality is static and our perception of activity is the result of a cumulative perspective inherent in any given point in the multi-verse. If the point of perspective can be altered then the result will be travel through time and space.


Both books require a basic understanding of classical and quantum physics, so if you're looking for a good starting point Stephen Hawking?s "A Brief History of Time" provides an overview of Quantum theory and the basic concepts of the multi-verse as well as touching on String Theory, Supersymetry and other concepts that get occasional mention in the popular press without much explanation. 

Posted by: Dietz at August 30, 2003 04:46 AM | PERMALINK

"The Simpsons: Time and Punishment" does a great spoof of the Asimov story. Homer goes back to the time of the dinosaurs due to an toaster repair accident, kills a bug, and finds upon his return to present that this trivial event has caused the world to change so that Ned Flanders is president. Its my favorite episode.

12 Monkeys and Terminator both use time travel to produce the fundamental irony of their plots.

Posted by: LowLife at August 30, 2003 04:53 AM | PERMALINK

A poster here mentioned Asimov's story "The Dead Past." A good companion is T. L. Sherred's "E for Effort," which proposes pretty much the same invention but looks at it from a different point of view. The political contrast between Asimov (conservative) and Sherred (liberal) is particularly revealing. Sherred's stuff can be hard to find, but "E for Effort" is in the SFWA Science Fiction Hall of Fame, volume IIB.

Posted by: englishprofessor at August 30, 2003 05:04 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not proud - I'll nominate the computer game Day of the Tentacle, which you play simultaenously in three different times. For example, in order to get a character out of a tree in the present, you need to persuade George Washington to chop it down in the past.

Posted by: KeithW at August 30, 2003 05:08 AM | PERMALINK

The best time travel story I ever read was in a review of a new video release of the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assasination. The reviewer ran the film backwards and observed:

Jackie crawled back into the limo, Kennedy suddenly sat up and his wound miraculously healed (as did Connaly's), he brought his hand down from his throat, and political assasination of US leaders was a distant memory.

Posted by: tristero at August 30, 2003 05:11 AM | PERMALINK

Varley's...unusual.

It's erotic -even stirring- up to the point where the heroine snacks on the mothballs, craving carbon-tetrachloride

At that point I remembered too many other dysunctional girlfriends, and stoppped reading.

I miss the tentacles, though.

Posted by: bad Jim at August 30, 2003 05:23 AM | PERMALINK

Books:
"Up the line" by Robert Silverberg.

"Planet of the Apes" Pierre Boulle ( the book deals with the issue in a different way then the movie)

Movies:
As others have mentioned. Donnie Darko and Twelve Monkeys

My favorite "light hearted" films dealing with time travel are "Back to the Future " and Time Cop

Posted by: Rick DeMent at August 30, 2003 06:31 AM | PERMALINK

I second Connie Willis' Doomsday Book. I thought it was a lot more readable To Say Nothing of the Dog which just struck me in some ways as silly. Of course I'm prejudiced; I think the medieval period is endlessly fascinating, although others might not see it that way.

Posted by: Mirele at August 30, 2003 06:40 AM | PERMALINK

Time Chasers!

Posted by: Thersites at August 30, 2003 07:08 AM | PERMALINK

No Robert Silverberg fans here? Hmmm. Well, check out "Up the Line." Implausible as hell, even the characters know it, and a great deal of fun.

Posted by: biff3000 at August 30, 2003 07:09 AM | PERMALINK

Three suggestions. If the class is supposed to address the philosophical implications of time travel, the short story "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed" by Alfred Bester and Phil Dick's novel "Now Wait For Last Year". Third suggestion is, don't ask Electrolite for suggestions or your server will be overloaded!
Jay C. Smith

Posted by: Jay C. Smith at August 30, 2003 07:17 AM | PERMALINK

The Terry Gilliam movie "Time Bandits" deserves a mention.

Posted by: dennisS at August 30, 2003 07:17 AM | PERMALINK

I am fascinated with the idea of a quantum multiverse, and to my cursory exposure to modern physics it seems, for lack of a better word, "right"...
I have read many of the works of RAH, and the greatest thing about him in my opinion is that all of his novels fit into a multiverse (look especially at novels such as Time Enough for Love, The Cat who Walks Through Walls, To Sail Beyond the Sunset, or anything else of his that deals with the Time Corps and/or the Circle of Ouroborous). I doubt this was his original intention, but the way he deals with time travel neatly allows all of his books to be tied together: characters from novels on different "timelines" can interact, etc.
To all those who listed links to academic (non-fiction) discussions of time travel and related topics, thank you. I plan on checking out all these links as soon as I have the time (soon?).
Slightly OT, but I must say that Kevin has some of the most interesting non-political posts I have found among the blogs I have come to frequent during my exploration of the political blogosphere (Cats, great literature [humor, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy are the great triumverate, in my opinion, with a nod to crazy-ass stream-of-consciousness writers like Faulkner, Pynchon, and David Foster Wallace [who have a lot of humor and pathos interspersed beautifully]], etc.). Keep up the great work, dude.

Posted by: anxiety disorder at August 30, 2003 07:48 AM | PERMALINK

Einstein's Bridge....which doesn't really center around time travel, but rather heavily implies that the cancellation of the SSC and the nomination of Dan Qualye for VP in 1992 could only have happened if someone traveled back in time with an ulterior motive...

Posted by: Morat at August 30, 2003 07:49 AM | PERMALINK

haha...forgot as a east coaster that the times are three hours off...I thought this was a dead thread and I was just shouting in the dark (which I'm kind of used to--I work in food service, not the most intellectually demanding field)

Posted by: anxiety disorder at August 30, 2003 07:51 AM | PERMALINK

12 Monkeys is a much-inferior remake of Chris Marker's La Jetee -- the greatest time-travel movie ever made.

Alain Resnais' Je T'Aime Je T'Aime is also superb. (And you will be most interested, Kevin, in a particular speech in that film in which it is declared that all of life is built around cats. Humans, the film's hero claims, were created solely to invent the can opener and the radio -- because cats love music.)

As for The Man Who Folded Himself, it's most notable for Gerrold's unfettered homoeroticism. (Hubba-Hubba!)

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at August 30, 2003 07:51 AM | PERMALINK

The core mythology (and religion of the Minbari race) and "last war" against the galactic enemy in BABYLON 5, is based on a self-folding time loop which plays out over several seasons. Most notably the episodes "Babylon Squared" (season 1) and the mirror episodes "War Without End I & II" in the third season.

Great stuff for TV.

Posted by: Kevin at August 30, 2003 07:54 AM | PERMALINK

behold the man by michael moorcock and glimpses by lewis shiner.

Posted by: matttb at August 30, 2003 07:55 AM | PERMALINK

The best recent SF novel intimately involved with time travel I've read is, hands down no contest, John Barnes' Kaleidoscope Century--almost as much of a downer as Earth Made of Glass and possibly slightly better written. (I say both those books are must reads, but they are disturbing, and Kaleidoscope Century in particular is one of the most casually violent books I've ever read.)

Barnes' Leiberish Timeline Wars series uses multiple timelines as a device (with time travel as a side-effect), but it's just a maguffin to set up crowd-pleasing historical action. (Why did it never occur to me to send Allen Ginsberg, Werner Von Braun, Robert Heinlein, Edward Teller, Curtis LeMay, JFK and Ho Chi Minh out to beat the Nazis--talk about your Dream Teams!)

Okay, but what Graham Greene meant when he called some of his own books 'entertainments'. Earth Made of Glass is what Greene meant by a novel--in fact, it's very much like Greene.

Still, the Timeline Wars books do treat history in a way that impresses on me the role of contingency and fortune on both personal character and historical events.

But back to time travel--just a few comments:

Asimov's "The Dying Past" (I'd forgotten how dark Asimov stories could be) predates a similar story by Damon Knight, "I See You"--similar base idea, totally different treatment, really good. Barry Malzberg wrote an interesting sequel to "The Dying Past" in Foundation's Friends (you gotta get it for the Orson Scott Card story alone! but Turtledove is good, too), "The Present Eternal".

There's a radio play of "By His Bootstraps" with (I think--it's been awaile) Richard Dreyfus, but it's disappointing--the clumsiness of Heinlein's dialogue is exposed when it's acted unedited. Somehow, it doesn't fail on paper--I've read that story I don't know how many times and still think it's one of Heinlein's best. The dialogue doesn't read so bad, but it speaks awful.

Farnham's Freehold, now, I think that one is going to be recognized as much better than people have realized. (It'll help that the weaknesses of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress become more apparent--I wonder if it got the Hugo in part because people felt bad about disliking Farnham's Freehold?) I re-read it recently and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

As for Poul Anderson, let me mention two really tasty non-Time Patrol items: tau zero and There Will Be Time. The former is a time story, if not a time travel story, but it's a good book and worthy for a philosopher reading up on time travel. The latter is particularly humane and well-written, making me wonder why I've never gone through an Anderson period--he's awfully good.

There are four short stories I'd like to mention.

Ballantine's Best Of series contains three of them:

Fredric Brown's The End has the highest value per word of any time travel story ever written. Except maybe his Experiment, also in the Best Of. And the Eustace Weaver stories.

Philip K. Dick's A Little Something For Us Tempanauts is in the same groove as Groundhog Day and Kaleidoscope Century and somewhere between them in tone.

C. L. Moore's Vintage Season is a classic, deservedly.

Finally, a short I love from Asimov's May '92 issue: Maggie Flinn's classic (in oh so many ways) Fifty More Ways To Improve Your Orgasm.

Posted by: adamsj at August 30, 2003 07:56 AM | PERMALINK

Two of my absolute favourites growing up that people seem to have missed.

"Dr. Who," the TC series
"Saga of the Exiles," by Julian May

Posted by: Jason at August 30, 2003 07:58 AM | PERMALINK

I've read all of Heinlein and the Silverberg stories mentioned above as well as a lot of Poul Anderson and Isaac Azimov but I have to recommend these books:

"Replay" by Ken Grimwood where our hero dies and wakes up back in college and lives his life over and over again, doing it a different way each time. No machine, but similar to time travel stories.

"Time On My Hands" by Peter Delacorte in which an eccentric finds a time machine and gets our hero to go back in time to 1930s Hollywood to keep Ronald Reagan from becoming president.

Also "Sliding Doors" a movie with Gwyneth Paltrow which shows two versions of an event, split from one event: whether Gwyneth makes it onto a subway car or not.

And "Groundhog Day", one of my favorite movies where Bill Murray lives the same day over and over until he can change himself enough to get out of the loop.

Posted by: Dan at August 30, 2003 08:01 AM | PERMALINK

I'll second the "Doctor Who" nomination, in particular the episode that has the John Cleese cameo.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has some time travel material.

Or how about Stephen Fry's Making History?

Or Minority Report?

Posted by: Scott Martin at August 30, 2003 08:19 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, yeah, Silverberg--I'm an idiot to forget him. Two exhibits:

The Stochastic Man is great, judged just as SF or as a book to shelve proudly between Pynchon and Vonnegut--there's a hair of Slaughterhouse Five in it, but it stands on its own.

So many excellent stories in Unfamiliar Territory (Out of print! Why? And where's my copy?), but let me single out When We Went to See the End of the World and In Entropy's Jaws. The former is dead-on social commentary on self-absorbed yuppies, just a perfect little story; the latter is not exactly a time travel story, but a time story and, again, deeply humane.

If those of us who think that some SF will be seen in retrospect as part of the great literature of our time are correct, Robert Silverberg is a contender for best of the bunch.

Posted by: adamsj at August 30, 2003 08:25 AM | PERMALINK

Most of my favorites have already been mentioned (including, of course, the finest Star Trek episode ever made, "The City on the Edge of Forever", which I just watched again the other night). There are a couple that have been missed, however:

First is L. Sprague DeCamp's Lest Darkness Fall, which gets the time-travel part over in a hand-waving blink and spends the rest of the book having the hero prevent the fall of the Roman Empire. One-way time-travel, and the mechanism is irrelevant, but a great story.

Another (not so much a favorite as an intriguing memory) was a movie I recall seeing on "Dialing for Dollars" when I was a kid. I don't remember the title, but it involved a bunch of time travelers. They were trying to get back -- to the future or the past, I can't remember which -- but wound up being caught in a time loop in which every time they tried to get their time/space-ship off the pad it blew up and they had to start the loop all over again. Anyone remember this one?

Posted by: Mike at August 30, 2003 08:29 AM | PERMALINK

http://www.mjyoung.net/time/timeprim.html

Best time travel website on the web hands down. Paradox discussion and exploration.

Posted by: G C at August 30, 2003 08:33 AM | PERMALINK

Stephen Baxter has a series of books using the same characters in different stories. Although not actually set up that way, it's sort of a multiverse approach.
One of them, Manifold Time, I think, has a technology allowing people to view anywhere in the past. It explores the social implications of such technology.

Posted by: sal at August 30, 2003 08:35 AM | PERMALINK

Crichton's Timeline was good. I also liked the Ender series by OS Card, that deals more with space travel and time differences in other parts of the galaxy. Stephen Hawking's essays are fun and accessible. Time Bandits, yes, and Dr. Who. And there was that Millenium movie about the airplane crashes. The people from the future are dying off and so they go back in time to plane crashes and switch dead bodies from the future for the people who would have died anyhow. Cheryl Ladd was in it, I believe. And Kris Kristoferson.

Posted by: Laura at August 30, 2003 08:37 AM | PERMALINK

Sliders, on tv was fun, tho that involved parallel universes.

Posted by: Laura at August 30, 2003 08:39 AM | PERMALINK

Someone may have already mentioned it, but Orson Scott Card's Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus is really great. It's a classic. There was also one I read by Alan Dean Foster, I think, about someone who goes back to the time of the Russian Revolution. Or maybe I'm mixing two books I read at the same time. There was a great one I have never been able to find or remember by Farmer, I think, that involved changing time and involved the Spanish Empire. I have looked for it for years but never found it.

Posted by: Mimikatz at August 30, 2003 08:39 AM | PERMALINK

Huh, no mention of Michael Crichton's new movie due out this fall.

August 26, 2003 - The latest trailer for Richard Donner's Timeline is now online at the link below. The much delayed film, based on the novel by Michael Crichton, stars Paul Walker, Frances O'Connor, Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly, Ethan Embry, David Thewlis and Marton Csokas.

The story follows a group of archaeology students who are working at a medieval site in France when their professor, the father of Walker's character, goes missing. Suddenly, the group of students are whisked off by a mysterious company known as ITC. The company's president tells them about a new technology they've created that will allow people to travel to different dimensions and timelines. He reveals that the professor has been stranded at the very site where they have all been working... 500 years in the past. The students travel back to the mid-1300s to rescue him, where they're caught up in an epic medieval battle for survival.

Timeline has been rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences and brief language. The film is due in theaters this fall.,/i>

I've seen the trailer and it looks pretty good. I like Michael Crichton because he tends to stick with what might be theoretical possibilities rather than the really stupid looking Sci-Fi movie “The Core”.

Go here for previews but you need a fast connection speed.

Posted by: Cheryl at August 30, 2003 08:40 AM | PERMALINK

My faves already mentioned
Willis is just a great book, crossover into literature

Gerrold and Silverberg good paradox fun.

Pulling out my Nichols from under the computer...
Dick Counter-Clock World (time runs backward)
Dickson Timestorm (adventure + psychology)
Harness Paradox Men (beautifully written, obscure classic of early 50's....I highly recommend this guy)
Brunner Quicksand
Silverberg Hawksbill Station

Williamson Legion of Time series and Andersen Timecop series....does anyone read this old mag stuff anymore? Early eighties I read most all decent genre SF as a project

Posted by: bob mcmanus at August 30, 2003 08:44 AM | PERMALINK

I'm more into alternate history (massive Turtledove fan - I'll look into the Anderson stuff!), but Turtledove did write one time-travel based short story, Death In Vesunna (with Elaine O'Byrne), found in his collection Departures.

Basically, it's treasure hunters from the not-too-distant future going back to the Roman Empire to get artifacts. More of a police procedural (think CSI: Imperium Romanum), but still a nice story.

WF

Posted by: Wes F. in Cincinnati at August 30, 2003 08:44 AM | PERMALINK

A few more worthy candidates from the realm of games:

Trinity, by Infocom, was an '80s-era text adventure with a reasonably inventive time-travel premise (travel backwards through history through various nuclear explosions and eventually sabotage the first test at Los Alamos), and some good moral ambiguity. Sorcerer and Spellbreaker, also by Infocom, had terrific time-travel puzzles. (They're not available for free now, but this is a good tribute site.)

There have been several latter-day text adventures, available as freeware that have involved time travel; one of the best is Jigsaw, where you're chasing an enemy who's dead set on changing a whole bunch of the 20th century's major events, and your mission is to keep them as they are. Highly literate and intelligent. See here.

Posted by: Duncan Stevens at August 30, 2003 09:19 AM | PERMALINK

I'm with Daryl in nominating Time After Time. It's a very clever premise (by Nicholas "The Seven Percent Solution" Mayer): H. G. Welles (Malcolm McDowell) actually invented the time machine, and Jack The Ripper uses it to escape to 1979. Welles, convinced that such a far flung future will be (ahem) a utopia, is horrified to imagine that such a creature is unleashed on a defenseless world, and uses the time machine to chase him. He's then more horrified to discover that the Ripper (the incomparable David Warner) is much more at home in '79 -- as just another serial killer -- than he. He does, however, strike up a relationship with a bank teller (Mary Steenburgen), who thinks his claims of beleiving in "free love" are a charming anachronism -- from the '60s.

Trivia: Malcolm McDowell and the charming Mary Steenburgen fell in love during the making of the film and married shortly thereafter. Alas, it didn't last, but you can see the sparks in their onscreen pairing.

It's a great flick and available on DVD.

Posted by: Gregory at August 30, 2003 09:28 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with all who have noted Donnie Darko. It's a must see. But did anyone truely understand it the first time watching it? Even after watching it again I had to do some web reading to get it all.

Posted by: miles at August 30, 2003 09:34 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and as a big zombie movie fan, I'd have to give the nod to Army of Darknwss, especially the original director's cut, which extends the goof on time travel and avoids the happy ending of the theatrical release -- although that ending is pretty darn cool. "Hail to the King, baby!"

Posted by: Gregory at August 30, 2003 09:34 AM | PERMALINK

Second the recommendation above for Poul Anderson's There Will Be Time, a neglected gem. Anderson's politics were very different from mine, but he's one of my very favorite SF writers, and in the best of his time-travel work he gets at both the grandeur and the tragedy of human history, without either element undercutting the other. Poul Anderson understood that a lot of good, worthwhile human lives get ground up under the wheels of change and "progress," and didn't try to convince you that this was always a good bargain.

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden at August 30, 2003 09:54 AM | PERMALINK

Nice list. I think we've established how common this theme is. Reading this, I still had Dr. Who left, but was foiled at the last minute. Curses!
Here's two others:
One of Mick Jagger's relatively few movies has him in a future where they yank people about to die out of the past as body replacements for rich folks in a pretty fascist state, IIRC. Mick is OK.
Going for the record:
The first time travel story may be Sebastien Mercier's "L'An 2440", from 1774. It's utopian.

Posted by: John Isbell at August 30, 2003 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Oh - the Mercier is a novel.
Dr. Who is great.

Posted by: John Isbell at August 30, 2003 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

I've always been fond of "Brown Robert," a short story by the late, great editor Terry Carr. It's based on a pretty fundamental physical principle that most time travel stories appear to neglect.

Posted by: wolfstar at August 30, 2003 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

On the Philip K. Dick front, I strongly second the recommendations of Now Wait for Last Year and "A Little Something for us Tempanauts." There's another time travel novel from his early days, Dr. Futurity, but it's fairly ordinary (for Dick, anyway). Ubik, maybe his greatest novel, isn't really about time travel, but the characters appear to travel back in time during the course of the story.

And a big thanks to Duncan Stevens for reminding me of Trinity, the great Infocom text adventure which (among all the other great Infocom adventures) helped keep me sane during graduate school.

I'm of two minds on Poul Anderson. Like Patrick Nielsen Hayden, I'm not a fan of his politics. But he was an excellent storyteller, except when he tried to be "literary." Then you wound up with dreadfully overwrtten "classics" like "Kyrie" and "Goat Song."

Posted by: englishprofessor at August 30, 2003 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Story: "Jeffty is five" by Harlan Ellison
Movie: "Time Bandits"

Posted by: Jane Finch at August 30, 2003 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of Ian Watson, Chekhov's Journey has a nasty little time-paradox and is good for learning some facts about the man to boot.

Every other time-travel-using author I know has been mentioned, but Philip K Dick wrote a number of other works involving time travel: The Counter-Clock World, The Crack In Space (just a hint) and Ubik. I don't have my short story collections on me right now, but I think the following short stories are also about time travel: Meddler, The Captive Market and Paycheck, which I can't believe hasn't been made into a crappy movie yet.

Posted by: Anarch at August 30, 2003 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

I second the recommendation of Stephen Fry's Making History, a very untypical "what would happen if you traveled back in time and killed Hitler" story.

I second a lot of these recommendations, including Heinlein's The Door Into Summer, (very dated but still good) and Silverberg's excellent output, including his latest, an alternative history called Roma Eterna.

Posted by: Julia Grey at August 30, 2003 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

How about The Light of Other Days? Can't remember the author (I vaguelly recall it being a collaboration, and I think Baxter was one of the two). Basically, it involves the creation of wormhole technology that first allows you to place a "camera", so to speak, anywhere in the world....and then they realize you can do it with time as well.

It spawns a culture where either you have no privacy (anyone can open a wormhole and watch you, and you'd never know) or you take great lengths to get it....and the entire history of man is open to scrutiny.

Interestingly, the Catholic Church starts a project designed to watch the core years of Jesus' ministry (I think they called it the Thousand Days project) and the book notes their surprise at seeing his marriage....and the fact that so many people sent wormholes back to watch the crucifiction that space-time in the area is rather screwed up...making it difficult to see what exactly went on.

Posted by: Morat at August 30, 2003 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Quantum Leap?

Posted by: Jo Fish at August 30, 2003 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

_The Hitchhike's Guide To The Galaxy_ has some interesting takes on time travel as well as other odd implications of quantum theory.

Posted by: Kyle McCullough at August 30, 2003 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

For the ladies, Diana Gabaldon's excellent epic time travel romance beginning with "Outlander"

Posted by: op99 at August 30, 2003 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

That Simpsons episode is my all-time favorite too. I think it was from one of the early Halloween specials. Perfect from beginning to end - I liked it so much that I was disappointed by the actual Bradbury story when I read it later on. (Bradbury, not Asimov.)

This is the movie adaptation, which is coming out next year. Apparently, Ashton Kutcher is going to make the move into serious acting. The mind reels...

Oh yeah, don't forget about Bill and Ted.

Posted by: JP at August 30, 2003 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Gene Wolfe's "The Book of the New Sun" series.

It is a brilliant reconceptualization of the Christ myth set in a far off future when the Earth ("Urth") is in final decline... Five amazing books filled with philosophy, adventure, mythology, reliegon...and time travel is integral to the story.

The Series begins with The Shadow of the Torturer, and represents one of the finest works of Sci-Fi or any form of lit for that matter, EVER. If you are an INTP you will really love it i think.

Another retelling of the Christ myth also depends on time-travel, and is an excellent work as well: Micheal Morcock's Behold the Man.

And now that i think about it, another sci-fi story with time travel that involves a brief Christ scene is Paul Park's "The Tourist." I can't believe it, i just checked and it's here on-line (short story). I hope someone will follow the link and give it a read (Gene Wolfe likes him as well...)
Paul Park's The Tourist

Posted by: Simone at August 30, 2003 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Timescape by Gregory Benford. A very limited form of time travel: trying to send a text message via Morse code back to the 1970s (because that's when someone accidentally built a receiver) to forestall an environmental disaster in the near future. One of the best SF novels of the '80s - vivid characters & setting, skillful treatment of the science part, & a very disturbing and plausible depiction of ecological and social collapse. Despite the apocalyptic element, it's also one of the most low-key SF novels ever written - Benford has written some baroque cosmic epics as well as a couple of Crichtonesque pulp adventures, but this one is extremely down-to-earth - the wonder & the horror creep up on you gradually.

Posted by: Eli Bishop at August 30, 2003 01:10 PM | PERMALINK

Interestingly, the Catholic Church starts a project designed to watch the core years of Jesus' ministry (I think they called it the Thousand Days project) and the book notes their surprise at seeing his marriage....and the fact that so many people sent wormholes back to watch the crucifiction that space-time in the area is rather screwed up...making it difficult to see what exactly went on.

There's a fannish joke (I've heard it attributed to Chris Claremont, but no guarantees) that the real reason the Titanic sank was the accumulated weight of all the time travelers who turned up to watch it sink.

Posted by: DonBoy at August 30, 2003 01:11 PM | PERMALINK

I can't believe Duncan mentioned "Trinity." Of course, there's the classic "A Mind Forever Voyaging": what if a computer could simulate the future? It's almost time travel.

(referring to old Infocom games)

Also: Philip K. Dick, "Captive Market."

Posted by: John G at August 30, 2003 02:07 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, AMFV was an interesting variation on time travel--all the more so because it was barely a game at all; there were hardly any puzzles, and exploring the simulation of the future was almost the entire point of the game.

Other Infocom games with time travel were Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Zork III and Beyond Zork, and some more latter-day time-travel games from the IF renaissance (available for free download, and many comparable in quality to Infocom) are Moments Out of Time, Mulldoon Legacy, Curses, and Lost New York.

Posted by: Duncan Stevens at August 30, 2003 02:33 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and First Things First and LASH.

Posted by: Duncan Stevens at August 30, 2003 03:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'll throw in R.A. Lafferty's "Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne", which is both a grand sendup of "A Sound of Thunder" and a wonderful introduction to that very, very funny science fiction writer.

Posted by: Steve at August 30, 2003 03:22 PM | PERMALINK

My wife and I were just discussing this thread, and Farnham's Freehold plus Poul Anderson led me to suggest she read Anderson's short story "The Sharing of Flesh", which she does as she breastfeeds our daughter. This is a wonderful story, and I suspect that, were it offered up today as a fresh piece of writing, many editors would reject the ending as being too decent.

My memory may play me false, but I'm thinking it was Michael Moorcock who wrote Behold the Man (a few of my brain cells nominate Anthony Burgess--but probably I should've killed those cells off when I had the chance, back in the seventies), one of the more interesting back-to-Jesus'-time novels, though a depressing one.

Oh, and one thread-joiner: I know of a very funny time-travel story, but I can't think of its name, and I'm away from my National Lampoon collection, so I can't specify it precisely, but one of Chris Miller's funniest stories was about a man whose wife invented a tesseract diaphragm (the sperm just...goes away, y'know?) and the impact this invention had on their subsequent lives together.

Posted by: adamsj at August 30, 2003 03:27 PM | PERMALINK

"Back to the Future"
...ducks...

but seriously -
"Bring the Jubilee" by Ward Moore - time travel screws up the Civil War; Confederates win, then Lee frees the slaves...

Posted by: Duncan Young at August 30, 2003 03:43 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't going to post anything this fluffy until I saw all the Dr. Who cites...

Time travel and time anomalies are the themes of my favorite epidsodes of 'Red Dwarf'.

Posted by: Nell Lancaster at August 30, 2003 04:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Another (not so much a favorite as an intriguing memory) was a movie I recall seeing on "Dialing for Dollars" when I was a kid. I don't remember the title, but it involved a bunch of time travelers. They were trying to get back -- to the future or the past, I can't remember which -- but wound up being caught in a time loop in which every time they tried to get their time/space-ship off the pad it blew up and they had to start the loop all over again. Anyone remember this one?"

I THINK -- though I'm not sure -- that you saw an episode of "Twilight Zone" (from its one-hour season) called "Death Ship", written by Richard Matheson (and starring Jack Klugman!) I've never seen it, but I've read about it.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at August 30, 2003 05:15 PM | PERMALINK

Well, if you're going to bring up "Bring the Jubilee," then I have to mention one of Harry Turtledove's few really good books, The Guns of the South. It starts with a premise straight out of Saturday Night Live -- What if the Confederacy got AK-47s -- gives us a time-travel explanation, and then manages to pull it off. No philosophy of time-travel, however, but it would make a pretty decent film.

Posted by: Keith at August 30, 2003 05:16 PM | PERMALINK

"I'm of two minds on Poul Anderson. Like Patrick Nielsen Hayden, I'm not a fan of his politics. But he was an excellent storyteller, except when he tried to be 'literary.' Then you wound up with dreadfully overwritten 'classics' like 'Kyrie' and 'Goat Song.' "

He was more conservative than me, too -- but he ws also one of the most thoughtful, intelligent rightists I've ever read. (And, as a corollary of this, he NEVER assumed that liberals are swine. Indeed, there are at least three very sympathetic characters in his stories who are pro-totalitarian Communists -- one of Anderson's obsessions was with how much damage can be done, not by deliberate malice, but by accidental, and sometimes very small, mistakes).

I also agree that his style was far from perfect -- especially after the Fifties, when he did indeed start straining for a style based on the Elder Eddas and often ended up sounding precious and/or pompous. But even then I liked it far better than Heinlein's abrasive, shallow self-confidence and goofy optimism -- the theme of all Anderson's fiction is that things usually turn out for the worst in this universe, and it's hard to argue with that. (And -- for that reason -- I DO like "Kyrie".)

Back to time travel: a new writer named Kage Baker has been doing a whole series of stories in "Asimov's SF Magazine" -- plus at least three novels -- about the adventures of "The Company", a set of involuntary draftees from various eras who have been turned into immortal and virtually indestructible cyborgs and sent to various eras by their mysterious 25th-century masters to copy or steal various artworks or discoveries just before they would be destroyed by historical disasters. The stories started out lighthearted, but have been getting steadily darker. Some of the agents have discovered that their masters have a hidden agenda -- apparently including slaughtering people and whole societies wholesale in the past if they judge that their violence threatens historical human progress (or that 25th-century business firm itself) -- but so far they lack the ability to do anything at all to stop it.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at August 30, 2003 05:32 PM | PERMALINK

Frequency is one of my favorites. Not exactly time travel but communication between people in different times.

I think time travel raises many philosphical issues that are excellent ways to grapple with complex topics. Paradox, the morality of changing the future are just two.

Posted by: Justene at August 30, 2003 05:38 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding games, Steve Jackson's GURPS system has a worldbook (in the typical high-quality thorough treatment on any particular topic) on time travel involving both parallel universes and "change the past" travel. The mechanics are written for use in roleplaying games rather than fiction, but workable.

Where the worldbook shines is dealing with time travel from a "what can you do with it" perspective. Wanna get rich? "Invent" the paperclip and Post-It note. Major problems? The past is a hideously alien culture. Wanna lead an army? Basic sanitation may be more useful than gunpowder in the short run.

Posted by: a Phoenician in a time of Romans at August 30, 2003 06:33 PM | PERMALINK

I remember a story by a British writer with the initials A. B. about aliens who send a device with a sentient being back in time to destroy Earth in the
geological past, as they are getting their asses kicked by humanity in their present.

It has a neat trick ending, for sure.

Posted by: Dark Avenger at August 30, 2003 06:45 PM | PERMALINK

I'm glad that someone finally mentioned Baker's novels and stories of "The Company". As a long-time reader of SF and lover of time-travel stories (reading since the early 1950's, read Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder" around 1955), I regard Baker's series as the among the best time-travel adventure/mysteries (as opposed to explorations of time-travel paradoxes, "what-if" stories, etc) ever written. I'm on tenterhooks wondering just exactly what is going on up there in The Company's 25th century. And who or what will get Mendoza off that island?

BTW, I don't know why anyone would consider the first novel, In The Garden of Iden, as "lighthearted". The things which befall Mendoza are nothing short of horrific and mold her character and attitudes for the rest of the series (so far).

Posted by: alantex at August 30, 2003 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Anarch - you must be fishing. "Paycheck" will soon (Dec 25th) be a crappy movie near you starring the "talented" Ben Affleck. Of course, mentioning it in a time travel thread probably spoils the plot.

Merry Christmas.

Posted by: Out4Blood at August 30, 2003 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

Another interesting question is, what was the first time travel story?

Was there anything before H.G. Wells' Time Machine?

(And what would happen if you went back in time and wrote a story before the first one?)

Posted by: frankly0 at August 30, 2003 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

To Alantex: I actually haven't read any of the "Company" novels yet -- but, having subscribed to "Asimov's" for 7 years, I've read all the short stories virtually from the beginning. The first two or three were lighthearted; starting with "Son Observe The Time", they started turning much darker. (Forget Mendoza; consider the far more appalling fix of that poor bastard in "Black Smoker"!)

Actually, they aren't my favorite time-travel stories -- for one thing, there's the glaring logical error that the Company's founders can build cyborgs that they then CAN'T DESTROY -- but they are good enough that I figured someone should mention them.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at August 31, 2003 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

And to Morat: Baxter's "collaborator" in "The Light of Other Days" was none other than Arthur C. Clarke, whose "collaboration" no doubt consisted of stating a one-sentence plot suggestion to Baxter and then having his name attached to the novel for marketing purposes. (This is turning into a depressingly common practice nowadays in SF, and for that matter in fiction generally. But at least Clarke, on doing it once before with Gentry Lee, raised hell with the publishers when they tried to print Lee's name on the cover in smaller type than his own.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at August 31, 2003 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

"Paycheck" will soon (Dec 25th) be a crappy movie near you starring the "talented" Ben Affleck.

*blink*

You have -got- to be kidding me.

[And no, I wasn't fishing -- I had absolutely no idea. Frankly, in this regard at least, I think ignorance would have been bliss ;) ]

Posted by: Anarch at August 31, 2003 02:33 AM | PERMALINK

"what was the first time travel story?"

Depends on what you mean by time travel story. Washinton Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" might count, for example.

One of my all-time [sorry for bad pun]favorites, not yet mentioned, is Vonnengut's "Slaughterhouse Five."

Posted by: rea at August 31, 2003 06:43 AM | PERMALINK

Frankly0: probably Sebastien Mercier, 1774. See upthread (me). Another record for the French!

Posted by: John Isbell at August 31, 2003 07:34 AM | PERMALINK

My first thought was a book "The last day of the creation", or "The seventh day of the Creation" (I did not remember the author). Now this book can be applied to the current day news:
USA has developed a way to send back in time people/objects, and start sending troops to the past with a mission - to pump out the oil from the East and bring it in America "before the arabs put their asses on it". The tiny problem is that the technology for the bringing them out of the past is not developed yet. But the troops should not worry - with the progress it will be created, and they be brought back. After that the story describes the life of troop that is send to the medditerian area ~100 000years ago, to find that no one is taken back to the future, the arabs had started sending troops too, the pipeline is sabotaged, there are people of several versions of the history (at least one was Mexico defeated USA at Alamo with the help from the future).

Stanislav Lem has some indeed good time travel stories. He stays out of cliches "to go back and kill your father"

Strange noone mentioned "Back to the future", while there were so many pop movies mentioned.

Posted by: GB at August 31, 2003 08:12 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin:
I'm very fond of Robert Heinlein's "By His Bootstraps," a perfect little gem of time travel paradoxes.

It isn't perfect; it bumbs up against the lack of free will too obviously at one point.

Not already mentioned:
Robert Forward's Timemaster is rigorous in its development and use of time travel, but the plot and characters aren't very good.
S.M. Stirling's Island in the Sea of Time and Eric Flint's 1632 are both good Connecticut Yankee stories. They each have sequels. The only time travel is in the setup.
James Hogan's Thrice Upon a Time is good in the 'destroy our world in order to save it' line like Pastwatch.
"Stargate SG-1" had a good time travel episode, "1969", though there were a few loose ends.

Posted by: Bill Woods at August 31, 2003 09:43 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and Stargate also had a "Groundhog Day" episode, "Window of Opportunity".

Posted by: Bill Woods at August 31, 2003 09:45 AM | PERMALINK

One interesting piece of history here is that it was the man of paradoxes, Godel, I believe, who first pointed out that there were solutions to Einstein's General Relativity equations that allowed for time travel. (Though I think he was the first to admit that the conditions of those solutions did not obtain in the real world). He of course immediately raised the question of how time travel paradoxes might be accounted for. Raised it -- but didn't answer it. Thanks a lot Godel, you haven't confused us enough, you know?

Posted by: frankly0 at August 31, 2003 09:50 AM | PERMALINK

Red Dwarf, although that deals with stasis more than time travel, really.

Posted by: L. at August 31, 2003 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

I've heard a lot about this "Red Dwarf" thing. I'm apparently Supposed to know about it in order to even pretend to be hip (that's my current lifestance: fraudulently au courant).

What's Red Dwarf's basic premise?

Posted by: Julia Grey at August 31, 2003 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

We've managed 116 comments without mentioning Asimov's story "The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline?" Amazing.

Posted by: Jonathan Goldberg at August 31, 2003 04:09 PM | PERMALINK

I second David Ehrenstein's pick: "Chris Marker's La Jetee -- the greatest time-travel movie ever made."
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Posted by: easytiger at August 31, 2003 05:43 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the premise for "Red Dwarf":

A radiation leak wipes out the crew of the mining ship Red Dwarf, leaving only one survivor - chicken soup machine repair man, Dave Lister. After three million years in suspended animation, Lister emerges to find he is the last human being in the universe. But he is not alone.

He shares the ship with Rimmer, who is an obnoxious hologram of a now-deceased crew member.

You can find the official site at www.reddwarf.co.uk

Posted by: Dark Avenger at August 31, 2003 08:59 PM | PERMALINK

What's Red Dwarf's basic premise?

Three million years in the future, aboard a huge mining ship, one human remains alive. He shares the ship with a hologram of his bunkmate, a lifeform descended from his pet cat, and (a bit later) a domestic android.

The series is considerably funnier than the premise sounds, in that British fashion. It's interesting - I've seen many funny American shows, but I've also seen a pilot for an American version of Red Dwarf and it really sucked. British humour doesn't translate well into American production.

Posted by: a Phonecian in a time of Romans at September 1, 2003 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

There are some exceptions, like "All in the Family", which was taken from a British show, if I'm not mistaken.

Posted by: Dark Avenger at September 1, 2003 01:05 PM | PERMALINK

Seconding Orson Scott Card's Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. Fascinating political statements about why Europe overwhelmed the Americas.

Posted by: jim at September 2, 2003 01:09 AM | PERMALINK

I haven't seen "The Toynbee Convector" by Ray Bradbury mentioned yet.

"Was there anything before H.G. Wells' Time Machine?"

Well, I don't know how much Diana Galbaldon manipulated the stories to match what she needed for her own story, but "Outlander" mentions Celtic folk tales about people who disappear to other lands and times.

Posted by: Jenny at September 2, 2003 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think anyone has mentioned Stephen Fry's Making History. A brilliant comedy with time travel as a crucial plot device - what if Hitler had never been born?

Posted by: bentSinister at September 2, 2003 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

"but seriously -
"Bring the Jubilee" by Ward Moore - time travel screws up the Civil War; Confederates win, then Lee frees the slaves..."

Actually, the time traveler screws up the Civil War so that the North wins. The "original" history includes a Confederate victory; the time traveler accidentally interferes with the Confederates at Gettysburg, bringing about a Northern victory, changing the course of history, preventing the invention of time travel, and leaving himself stranded in our "altered" history.

Posted by: Ken at September 2, 2003 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

The wonderful Blackadder comedies of Rowan Atkinson: the first series is "The Black Adder" in the time of Richard III, the second is a hundred years later in the time of Queen Elizabeth, the third is in the 1790s or thereabouts, and the fourth is in the trenches of World War I -- but it's the same characters in each one. Then there's a one-hour special in which Blackadder and his sidekick, Baldric, invent a time machine and have to straighten out the mess they cause (Napoleon conquers England). Also, I must put in another good word for Doomsday Book, which is the best novel about the Middle Ages I've ever read, and the best at explaining why people should be interested in history. It won the Hugo and the Nebula both -- for good reason.

Posted by: Temperance at September 2, 2003 03:11 PM | PERMALINK

Moomaw -- "Actually, they aren't my favorite time-travel stories -- for one thing, there's the glaring logical error..."

There's no such animal as a perfectly logical time-travel story. They don't call them paradoxes for nothing. Every writer of such stories (as least ones which are meant to taken seriously) has to make at least one logical compromise. If you read the other Company novels and begin to see that the Company may not be the super-smart future humans that they are assumed to be in the earlier books, then the idea that they have built indestructible (or almost so) cyborgs doesn't seem too strange.

I read the early stories in a compilation (Black Projects, White Knights: The Company Dossier) after finishing the first 4 novels. In the Garden of Iden is the first story to introduce a major character from the time she is made a cyborg and the rest of the novels concern themselves with her to some degree or another. The only other major continuing character is the __very__ old cyborg who rescues Mendoza from the Inquisition and puts her in for cyborgization(term ?).

Posted by: alantex at September 2, 2003 08:30 PM | PERMALINK

Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series has to be my all time favorite, but then again ... anything by the Grand Master (rest his soul) was a favorite. The man lived in the future, and only sold his wares here in this timeframe.

I teach Composition at our local university as an Adjunct Professor, and there is one videotape I share with my students every semester to get them to open their minds to the possibilities. The NOVA program "Time Travel," which was originally broadcast on October 12, 1999. In the program, leading physicists delve into the mystery of whether time travel is possible, and if so, how one might go about building a time machine.

Einstein, Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Clifford Pickover, and Kip S. Thorne are all quoted in this piece. When the students hear the most respected Scientists and Physicists speak on this subject, or hear their quotes ... it has a lot of impact. Fiction turned reality ... almost.

Good luck with your teaching, and my the must be with you....

Dave

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The fear of death is the beginning of slavery.

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Posted by: martin at February 18, 2004 09:30 PM | PERMALINK

End of Eternity - Isaac Asimov. Great example of time travel, and another is Timeships, a continuation of the classic Time Machine.

And on the lighter side....Back to the Future. Of course this story has many flaws in it's theories, but it was just fun.

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"There's a radio play of "By His Bootstraps" with (I think--it's been awaile) Richard Dreyfus, but it's disappointing--the clumsiness of Heinlein's dialogue is exposed when it's acted unedited."

You're full of shit. Dreyfus is wonderful and the radio play (1982, re-broadcast as part of 2000x series in 1999) is an award-winning classic.

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