An Exploration of the Challenges of Telling Time Travel Stories #SciFiSunday

An arbitrary division of time travel stories might go something like this: time travel stories are either Back to the Future or Primer. BttF time travel stories are loose: timelines can be rewritten, hands disappear in photos, time machines are magical devices in cool cars — anything goes, as long as the story is fun. Primer time travel stories are rigorously composed, based as much on real science as possible, subject to the laws of logic and thermodynamics to the point of obsession and damage, even if they’re incomprehensible. Whether you’re telling a BttFG story or a Primer story, time travel tales-pinning is very difficult. Here’s more from Classics of Science Fiction:

I judge time travel stories by how creative they are at dealing with time travel. For example, Heinlein’s “All You Zombies—” uses time travel and gender reassignment in a unique way. David Gerrold uses The Man Who Folded Himselfto allow a time traveler to really get to know himself. Jack Finney in Time and Again used historical photographs to enhance his novel. Kurt Vonnegut combined memoir and fiction brilliantly. Connie Willis has explored both drama and comedy in her time travel novels. Of course, Wells illustrated both evolution and cosmology to his 19th-century readers. Wells inspired the Dying Earth genre and the idea that humanity will spin off different new species. Olaf Stapledon ran away with that idea with his novel Last and First Men.

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