Time Travel Fiction

The scifi and fantasy fields are fraught with land mines in birthing good literature, though many authors have succeeded. I think the toughest subject to deal with is time travel. The inherent conundrums of writing a good story concerning time travel are enormous. And they make most time travel stories unsatisfying, at least for me.
However I just finished a young-adult series of novels focusing on time travel and these books were very satisfying. The series is the Gideon trilogy by Linda Buckley-Archer. http://www.amazon.com/Time-Travelers-Gideon-Trilogy/dp/1416915265/ref=pd_sim_b_2It is wonderful and highly recommended.
How do you all out there in doperland feel about time travel stories? Are the inevitable plot convolutions worth the trouble? Which ones have you enjoyed?

Time After Time is hands down the best film, based on the strangest premise, in this genre. I saw it several times in the theatre, but couldn’t get many other people to see it.

I love time travel tales, always have. The only problem I have with some is the way they ignore the implications of the technology. For instance, Mastodonia by Clifford Simak is a great yarn, but they never even try to go into historical times, or even ask if they can go into the future. I am not asking that Simak change the whole concept of the plot, but how about just a few throwaway lines saying why it’s incredibly dangerous or impossible?

Robert Heinlein’s By his Bootstraps is the ultimate convoluted time-travel stoery, to me. Everyone seems to prefer All You Zombies 9which leaves me cold), but BHB has a complex but consistent series of repeating loops through time.

Robert L. Forward, who was a physicist and said he wouldn’t believe the Grandfather Paradox until someone could prove it to him, physically or mathematically, wrote timeMaster to show what a coherent and logical Timne-Travel story (with the protagonist encountering himself multiple times) would be like. Worth the read.

David Gerrold’s The Man Who Folded Himself is, apparently, an attempt to fit all the time travel tropes in one short story. A fun read.
James Hogan’s The Proteus Operation tells a looped time travel story that seems consistent. It’s fun because he actually got permission from the real-life characters to use them in his story.

Mark Twain’s a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is the first and one of the best modern-man-goes-into-the-past-and-uses-superior-technology novels, and one of the best, in that he shows the character’s limitations. l. Sprague de Camp’s lest Darkness Fall is a worthy successor, and Harry Turtledove’s Guns of the South is a great recent example.

Primer is my favorite time travel movie, even if it does have the crappiest looking time machine since Calvin and Hobbes traveled through time in a cardboard box.


I love time travel stories, and I just enjoy them – I don’t fret if the author doesn’t close all the holes or address all the paradoxes. I figure if I can accept time travel, I should be able to accept everything that goes with it.

I think one of the most intriguing time travel novels is Replay by Ken Grimwood. Another good one is A Shortcut in Time by Charles Dickinson.

Poul Anderson’s Time Patrol stories were a personal favorite of mine.

In terms of time travel novels, I won’t say it is the best, but it is the one I’ve read the most. The Adventures of Conrad Stargard by Leo A. Frankowski. It is up to seven books now.

It is about a modern Polish engineer who accidentally is transmitted back in time to 13th century Poland.

I enjoy reading about all the things he invents. Most of the times, they are real inventions, because he knows what is possible, but only a vague idea how to do it.


Seconding the Frankowski, but only the first 4 books. After that they get repetitive and silly.

Harry Turtledove got Ph.D. in Byzantine history because he read Lest Darkness Fall.

Reading Lest Darkness Fall only caused me to find a copy of The Secret History by Procopius, so I could find out what the Empress Theodora used to complain about. :wink:

Unless someone else writes them, there won’t be more. Frankowski died not that long ago.

I forgot Robert Silverberg’s Up the Line. If Harry Turtledove was going to get a Ph.D. for Byzantine history, this is the one he should have read.
I also have a soft spot for “Time Travelers Hunting Dinosaurs”:

A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury (the movie’s not altogether bad)

A Gun for Dinosaur by L. Sprague de Camp, and its expansion, Rivers of Time. De Camp didn’t like Sound of Thunder, and this is his response.
Deathbeast by David Gerrold is a gory example

Asimov wrote a sorta story like this, and Jim Danforth was trying to make a movie about it about 20 years ago (it never got made).
Don’t see the TV movie The Last Dinosaur, though.

I think we have to distinguish between “time traveling” and “one-way trip.” The former has all the conundrums. The latter is just straight-forward story-telling. That puts All You Zombies and The Cross-Time Engineer in different catagories completely.

Obligatory nod to Connie Willis, who has written several books based on on the idea that time travel technology exists, but is of insufficient economic value to be practiced by anyone other than a poorly-funded Oxford University project. I quite liked both To say Nothing of the Dog and The Doomsday Book, despite being considerably different in tone from each other.

Time Rider is a fun romp that doesn’t derail too badly due to the unavoidable conundrums.

For good time travel tales, I would recommend The Virgin and the Dinosaur by R. Garcia y Robertson. It logically covers most paradoxes such as where are all the time travelers an the Grandfather paradox in creative ways while telling a compelling and entertaining story.

For a bad example, read (or not) Michael Crichton’s Timeline. It denies that time travel is possible by explicitly stating that they are moving into parallel universes that just happen to be offset in time by whatever amount (they end up in medieval France, so maybe 800 years), but then the plot turns on finding artifacts in a present day archeological dig from the “dimension travelers”. How can any author let that slid? Your entire story hinges on your central premise being wrong.

Despite his popularity and credentials, Crichton was not that good of a writer or fact-checker.

He wasn’t that bright either, IMHO.

…to say nothing about how well-written they both were. Brilliant stuff.

I caught a few minutes of the film adaptation but wrote it off when one of the students asked, paraphrased, “why are we taking marines with us?”

Dummy. You’re being dropped into the middle of the Hundred Years War. The correct question isn’t “why do we need marines?”, it’s “why don’t we have more marines?”

Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates, despite having many fantasy elements, has a very neat, tightly-wound set of time-travel paradoxes at its core. And is great fun on top of that.

(“Ihay endanbray, ancay ouyay iggitday?”)

“Outlander” (and sequels “Drums of Autumn” and “Voyager”) is still one of my my favorite series.

There are a few weird timeline issues, but overall you just learn to accept them and move on with the story.