The Time Traveler

I’m working on a new novel that relies on time travel, which may or may not be possible, but no one has done it yet. But my character needs to go back to his childhood to save a little girl who died in part because of him. I decided not to get too hung up on the method of getting him back in time, and to instead work with the paradoxes. For instance, a time traveler couldn’t go back and kill his father before the time traveler was conceived. But there are other considerations having to do with cause and effect.

If you think about where you are right now and then consider how you got there, the answer is more complicated than you might first admit. Say you’re at a restaurant. Why this particular one? What is it about your history that led you to this city, this restaurant, and to order the fried clams instead of the haddock? You might begin by explaining a painful bone in the haddock you ate many years ago, and you might say that you liked the name of the restaurant because it reminded you of one in your home town. You get the point. Cause and effect goes all the way back, so who you are and where you are, what beliefs and attitudes you have now are in part the result of your past experiences.

What this suggests, of course, is that changing even one small thing in the past is likely to have consequences well into the future. It is this chain of cause and effect that turns an otherwise series of events into a story.

But this story I’m working on involves time travel, and if it follows the laws of physics we say it is a science fiction story. If, on the other hand, it breaks those laws as we know them, it becomes science fantasy. In science fiction, astute readers point out any flaws in logic or design by saying, “That’s not possible.” But science fantasy has no such requirement. It’s more of a what-if kind of story: What if we could travel back in time? That’s what I’m writing, just enough fantasy to send me back to my childhood.

Copyright 2021 by Philip Tate