Writing About Time Travel

Time travel isn’t, of course, a currently available technology – in fact, it may be theoretically impossible to do with any amount of control or predictability.  There’s plenty of books out there by theoretical physicists and authors on writing time travel sci fi for the masses, so I’ll leave the science to them (I’m just a meager chemist, after all).  I’ll glance over some scientific principles of time travel, but I’m primarily going to think about more social aspects of the theoretical technology.


Traveling In and Out of Control

You’ve built your time machine – but do you know when it will take you?

A time machine within your control can take you whenever you please.  By doing the right calculations or plugging in the right settings, you can choose any era or year to land in.  A time machine outside of your control takes you to an unspecified time that you can’t determine a priori.  If we want to get scientific, the random time machine seems more approachable due to the randomness of quantum physics.

Random time travel can pose several problems, though, some of which could pose cool story complications or ideas:

  • If your time travel is random, how can you be sure you won’t just go to the beginning of the universe, or a time period where Earth doesn’t exist?
  • Why would anyone want to use one of those things?  Is there anything worth taking that risk over?

To Be Fair, The Past Sucks


From Spongebob Squarepants.

So you’ve decided to assume technology that can let you off the time travel boat whenever you damn well please, and this includes the past.

Besides potential time paradoxes, you might want to consider that the past actually sucked. Are you nonwhite or not straight-cis-male?  Gonna suck even harder. Forget Victorian fashion – I’d rather have indoor plumbing for the poor and rural.  Screw ancient Greece, Rome, or Egypt – I’d rather not be captured and turned into a slave tutor (if I were lucky).  Not only that, remember reading old books?  Even Twain can be hard to decipher into modern English at times, much less Shakespeare.  The further you travel, the less likely your language even exists.

If you want to travel back in time, keep in mind how much the past really does suck.

The Far Future is a Crapshoot

We already know the past sucks – but what about the future?  Surely upward economic trends will continue, technology will improve, and social niceties will get nicer.

But we can’t know.  It’s possible that Earth will suffer from runaway global warming and become uninhabitable.  It’s possible that we’ll nuke each other and the Earth will become uninhabitable.  It’s possible eradicated diseases will return and everything will be lame and dangerous.

There’s only one good option for time travelers…

Using Your Power to Buy LOTTO Tickets

bold strategy

The people who use their time machines for betting purposes always lose or get made out to be the bad guys on TV and movies.  They get told “You’re ruining everything!” or that they’re cheating other people.

But they’re not.

You might kill the gambling industry, especially when it’s apparent you’ll need to make money by selling machines to other gamblers, but that isn’t too bad.  The lottery definitely destroys more lives and marriages than it saves thanks to gambling addiction, so you know what?  Screw it.

Horse racing?  Archaic form of animal and rider abuse. Screw it.

Sports?  The NFL is killing its players – I don’t care if it gets ruined.  Sports precipitates a rather wide variety of evil in this world, and removing the excitement by inventing time machines doesn’t bother me.

And the thing you’d get in return for making those sweet, sweet gambles?  That giant pile of cash?  There are powerful people already out there who have plenty more cash than any lottery – or two lotteries – could possibly give you. Getting the money isn’t evil; it’s what you do with it after that could be.

If you ever find yourself with a time machine, take the safe road out.  Take a gamble.

4 thoughts on “Writing About Time Travel

  1. Natalya Edwards says:

    Considering our history of the past, I think we’re lucky to have lived within this time period. However, it would be cool to have a sneak peak into the distant future and see how things have technologically advanced. Given the opportunity to see into the future, to gamble and always win though…that would be pretty cool too 🙂

  2. D. Wallace Peach says:

    “The further you travel, the less likely your language even exists.” That’s a great point and you don’t have to go back or ahead that far to run into linguistic trouble! I always think about hygiene when asked how far I’d be interested in traveling backward. Ugh. Plus disease, rape, and pillage, and all that unpleasant stuff. A short visit would be plenty. A fun post.

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      If I were to ever time travel, I’d want to be prepared by learning 2 things: knowledge of the Bessemer steel process and how to manufacture bleach. Since I already know how to produce vaccines and penicillin, I think I could take over the world if I weren’t first killed for magicry…

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.