Best & Worst reactions to unexpected time travel in fiction

Theres a certain subset of science fiction which deals with how one would react if they were suddenly transported either forwards or backwards in time. The device can range from magic to strange physics to suspended animation to software simulation but the main gist of the story is to focus on the persons realisation and adaptation to this unexpected time travel event.

Most time travel stories focus on one of the following scenarios:

  1. Someone from the present is transported into the past
  2. Someone from the past is transported into the present
  3. Someone from the present is transported into the future
  4. Someone from the future is transported into the present
    and more rarely:
  5. Someone from the future is transported into the past
  6. Someone from the past is transported into the future

I was wondering what people thought were some things they loved and hated about how different books dealt with this phenomena.

One thing which I’ve always been rather peeved about is how dumb and stubborn minded they seem to make people from the past transported into the present. It seems to me that sure the first few days would be kind of scary but it wouldn’t take long to get them up to speed about the process of science and technology and have them accepting modern life. Also, the insistance of people from the present being transported into the past/future that this is all some massive hoax and they’re on candid camera far after any reasonable thinking man should have accepted what has happened.

Am I being dense, or do numbers 5 & 6 not really make any sense? They would be transported from future to past (or vice versa) relative to what?

Future and past relative to the present–you know, the times we live in and the book is written in–but the present is not a part of the book. I’ve read a book where a character from 2400 or thereabouts was transported to Regency England, and proceeds to have a more or less Regency Romance and ends up staying in Regency England. It doesn’t fit the OP, because the character is expecting to travel backwards in time-- though she gets confused when it becomes clear that she is visiting the time of her birth–she’d been transported into the future along with some artwork shortly before she would have died in a fire. I also have no idea what the title or author of the book were. Not a bad book, but not a tremendously deep one, either.

Ahhh, ok…yeah, I was being dense.

I was imagining a book about some group of present-day mad scientists getting their giggles by zapping feudal knights over to Martian colonies.

I’d pay to read that, if it were done by the right author! :smiley:

Y’know what’s fun to do?

Run up to a stranger in the street and nervously ask for the date. When they say something like “July 24th”, scream back, “No! No! The year! The year!”

Then, no matter what they say, look astonished and run off in terror.

That’s an interesting thing to think about.

In my experience, there are a lot of, shall we say, “older” people who just can’t understand what its supposed to be like to browse the world wide web.

Based on this and similar examples, I’d speculate that a lot of people from, say, the 13th century, would just be utterly dumbfounded, maybe permanently, by the prospect of attempting to live with our technology and social mores (sp?)

I suspect also if I were transported back to the 12th century in Europe, I’d be completely unable to figure out how to get along as well, even if everyone were trying to be friendly with me which is unlikely from what I think I know about 12th century Europe…


I do that all the time. Great fun.

:: Updates “Things To Do” List ::

“The Domesday Book” isn’t about unexpected time travel-- a college student intentionally goes back to the Middle Ages (though she ends up a few years off course and witnesses the Black Death.)This one I always enjoyed because the author seems to have actually done some research.

It always annoyed me to no end that modern-day characters in some novels seem to have little trouble blending in with people in the past. In reality, the people would probably have trouble even understanding what you were saying. (In “Domesday” the girl has to have a special chip implanted to allow her to understand Old English.) Even if they could understand us, our accents would be so bizarre, they would assume we had to be foreigners or even mentally deficient. (Modern English accents are vastly different than the accents of, say, the Tudor period.)

Secondly, there’s rarely any mention of the fact that we’re huge compared to people during some time periods. (“Domesday” does cover this-- the girl is described as being very petite, so her size wouldn’t stand out.)

I liked it when Poul Anderson sent someone back 1000 years – in Iceland, and he spoke Icelandic, which hasn’t changed very much in that time frame.

I also don’t think size is that big an issue. Most people from today would be bigger than the norm for the Middle Ages, but not freakishly so.

I always liked The Door into Summer by robert Heinlein. There was a throwaway line about how the first time the machine was used a student named Lenord Vincent was sent to the middle ages… :slight_smile:

From reading reviews, I suspect that I am one of the few people in the world who enjoyed Michael Crichton’s Timeline, in which a group of modern-day folks find themselves transported to medieval France. Someone could have made a helluva movie out of this. Instead, they made a colossal, money-losing turkey gobbler of a film. And I confess: I love time travel stories so much, I even found some things to enjoy in that wretched movie.

I liked the way the movie 12 Monkeys referred to this communication problem.

I have spent some time trying to find the story and regrettably have not yet succeeded.

But…in one of the SF magazines (likely Asimov’s, may have been Fantasy & Science Fiction, but ??), I read a really unique time travel story of type 5, but from the standpoint of the story, it was more of a type 1.

Anyway, does anyone remember this one? Guy from the near future goes back into ancient Rome and tries to get this book (or maybe books) from a Roman of the time. Really important, lost texts. The Roman agrees, and says he will have them copied for the traveller. Time, alas, is of the essence, and the traveller can not wait for the books to be hand-copied.

So, he kills the Roman with a pistol shot to the head and steals the books. Enter oman detective. Who, far from being a feeble-minded person unable to think out of the box, actually solves the mirder Sherlock Holmes style, figurinig out that the culprit was from the past and nailing him before he can return uptime.

I loved this plot and have been surprised that I have not seen it in any SF collections. And, bad on me, I do not remember the title or author of this extraordinary story.

Yeesh, I ain’t even drunk and am eat slam up with typos in the above post. Sorry.

A radiation suite and a delorian would help as well.

Death in Vessuna, Harry Turtledove and Elaine O’Byrne, collected in Turtledove’s Departures collection.

Or nothing much more than a trenchcoat and sawn-off shotgun.

There is a totally crappy book by, I think (are you ready for this?) Piers Anthony about one of those tough steppes warriors transported to the future (I think there was a huge game of historical simulation and somebody was trying to cheat with this - I think the guy knew who was going to grow up to be Genghis Khan or something) and he wasn’t dumbed down at all. I remember him pulling out all his hair after he’d escaped to blend in with the bald future people, and he kept the hair because he might need it somehow. He was plenty smart.

In the opposite direction, L Sprague DeCamp’s Lest Darkness Fall has a modern (when the book was written) guy sent back to Rome, and he tries to come up with technology like the printing press and all. Thing is, he finds out it isn’t easy and finally realizes the only way he did come up with decent paper and ink is that he knew it could be done because somebody at some point did it. Otherwise he’d never have kept trying.