Time travel in fiction

Speaking of the Doomsday Book, which I read twice, whatever happened to Connie Willis? I love that woman. She introduced me to Jerome K Jerome (did you know there have been multiple movies made of Three Men in a Boat? I saw one last week on cable that starred the Dad from Mary Poppins.) Oh and I have her book of Christmas short stories laying around here somewhere, that I’ve been saving for…Christmas. Oh, its Christmas time to find book…See ya later bye :cool: End of wine driven stream of conscious posting.

I have my user mode set to white background, black font so I just hit the user mode button on obnoxious sites like this and get normal pages.

Assuming “time travel in FICTION” means fiction movies, too…

One that got it completely wrong was the recent Denzel Washington movie Deja Vu.

During the movie, I was involved and interested, but after when I started to think about it, the story completely fell apart. Is there a single thread of time, or are there multiple universes (and affecting the past creates a new “branch”)? They couldn’t make up their minds. Sometimes they used the single thread of time idea, sometimes the multiple universe one – just based on what they wanted to happen next in the story, not on any internal logical consistency basis.


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban gets time travel right. Harry goes back in time, but his efforts don’t actually change anything.

I thought it was pretty funny. If you did have a time machine, why couldn’t you go back in time and leave yourself useful items?

It was certainly more entertaining than A Sound of Thunder, a turkey that was recently shown on cable TV. Time tourist steps on butterfly, chaos ensues.

I was going to mention this one and you’re right; trouble is that it appears pretty much as a Deus Ex Machina in the plot.

You could leave yourself items (like the keys), but how would you suspend a garbage can and time it so that it falls at just the precise second? That’s the part the OP was addressing.

Well when you have a time machine, you can take years to figure that out. Hell, they could wait until they were like 80 years old before they finally figure it out. Then they can go back in time and do it.
Are you telling me that you could never figure it out? They could rig an intricate system of motors and false ceiling that has a timer… then the section of the ceiling opens up and a trash can falls.

12 monkeys is, by far, the way I see time travel actually working.

serious unavoidable spoiler alert:

I read a short story with a pretty similar take on it. The character travels to the past to kill a guy who started a religion. He travels to an approximate date (they didn’t know the exact date in his future), checks the obituary on the paper for the details, travels further back and kills the guy. He is aprehended and lynched by a mob but gets to deliver a speech before he dies where he claims to be god. Few days later, there he is buying the paper and everybody goes crazy and the religion he was supposed to squash gets started because of him travelling to the past to kill it.

Does anyone know the title and author of this story? I read it as a teen and been looking for it for the longest time.

Gaming also has a few gems involvong time travel:

Continuum is a neat little RPG, that deals with time travel in a fixed universe.

Or there’s the classic Timelords by Greg Porter, which allows you to create a time travelling character based on yourself.

I’ve heard the same about the movie. The original short story by Ray Bradbury is pretty good, though. I also highly recommend Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies…,” which Charlie Tan mentioned upthread. Probably one of the most devilishly complicated but well-crafted time travel stories ever.

Jerry Yulsman’s novel Elleander Morning is also a favorite of mine. A young Englishwoman decides to prevent WWII by traveling back in time to kill a starving artist in 1920s Vienna. You may have heard of him? Fella named Hitler. Although the method of time travel is iffy, to say the least, the story is consistent and hangs together well. Plenty of unintended consequences.

The Van Damme movie Timecop is a guilty pleasure; an elite corps of police officers protect the timeline from those who would use it for plunder or power.

Can I really be the first to mention the Star Trek episode “City on the Edge of Forever”? A true classic, and deservedly so.

This reminds me of why the early Heinlein novels about time travel work (The Door into Summer, Time Enough for Love)–his first assumption was that there was only one timeline. Period. Anything a time traveller does in the past is set in stone, and it’s up to the author to make it rational and consistent.

Let’s just not talk about The Number of the Beast and the ones that followed it…

I’ve never been a big fan of the Bradbury story. It’s more fantasy than SF, because I really can’t buy that killing the butterfly results in those extremely limited and specific changes in the present. I don’t think Bradbury did either – he was just trying to make a point. For my money, I’ll take L. Sprague de Camp’s answer to “A Sound of Thunder” – “A Gun for Dinosaur” – in my choice of time-travelling dino0hunter stories (of which there have been a lot, although Bradbury’s is the earliest I know of).
As far as “All you Zombies”, I’ve never liked the “So where did it come from?” aspect of it. And as far as “devilishly complicated”, it can’t hold a candle to Heinlein’s other effort I mentioned ealier, “By his Bootstraps”, which is the most convoluted yet consistent time-travel story I’ve read.

Just another vote that Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure did time travelling right.

You are my hero! I love time travel stuff.

Back later. I have to read the rest of the thread now.

Well, jeez, you all didn’t have to stop the thread and wait for me.

Anyway, the single timeline theory doesn’t work for me. Instead, time only needs to be consitent from the traveler’s point of view. In this sense, *The Time Traveler’s Wife *generally gets it right. IIRC, the traveler had no choice about when he jumped, but he could have changed his behaviour if he wanted to.

Ask yourself the question, what would happen if I went back in time and killed my father before I was conceived. Would you cease to exist? I don’t think so. So, the time travel fiction that deals so much with paradoxes gets a litte tiresome for me. They tend to fall into a rut thay denies free will.

A physicist friend of mine tended to agree with me on this. He had a complicated explanation about causation and quantum physics. Frankly, I couldn’t entirely follow him, but it made be feel better about my assumptions.

BTW, I didn’t find Doomsday Book depressing, but strangely uplifting.

I will resurrect this thread into a zombie just to add further necessary upvotes for Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures. You wouldn’t expect it to be a very clever movie, but it and 12 Monkeys are the two best depictions of time travel I’ve ever seen out of Hollywood.

“All You Zombies” is the second-best time travel story ever, but it still falls short of “By his Own Bootstraps”. It’s not true, though, that Heinlein’s early time travel stories were all good: “Elsewhen”, for instance, is terrible.

Bill and Ted was pretty good, as movies go, except for the part about them still having a deadline. They demonstrated that they could travel to a day (or presumably, a few days or a week) before the assignment was due, so why not do that, spend as long as they needed writing up their report, and then turn it in? Yeah, if they went back to “the present” from there, they’d be a day late, but they don’t need to do that part (or at least, not until the report was finished).

And I cannot praise 12 Monkeys highly enough. Ignore all of the marketing-- Despite what you’d think, the movie is excellent. Just don’t try to watch it in the background, or while you’re falling asleep: You really do need to pay attention.

Stephen King’s recent book 11/22/1963 is pretty good about the time travel thing. It answers nearly all the “yeah-but” questions usually thrown at a time travel story.

Yes, alas, that’s true… Still, one such flaw is way above the average for the amount of thought that goes into time travel in movies usually.