Monday, 31 December 2018

Time Travel And Two Future Histories

An early birthday present is The Sky-Blue Wolves by S.M. Stirling, published 2018. I commend the title.

Whereas Julian May wrote a time travel tetralogy and a future history both set in a single timeline, Stirling wrote a time travel trilogy set in a timeline divergent from that of his Change/Emberverse future history. The Pliocene Exile influences the Intervention whereas the temporally displaced Nantucket cannot influence the Emberverse.

We have come a long way from Volume I of the Nantucket Trilogy to Volume XIV (?) of the Emberverse, Stirling's longest series. We have already been told that the current Black Chamber alternative history is a trilogy.

We look forward to further volumes and series in 2019 and the years ahead when the Earth of our timeline will definitely go through some changes. 

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Time Travel In Future Histories

(i) I do not accept Time Enough For Love as an addition to Heinlein's Future History.

(ii) Olaf Stapledon's Last Men time travel mentally and one narrates the history.

(iii) In Poul Anderson's There Will Be Time, time travelers visit the period of the Maurai History.

(iv) In Larry Niven's Known Space future history:

"'...that funny religion on Altair One. They thought they could travel in time.'
"Yes sir. When we landed the infantry they were all gone.'
"'They must have all committed suicide with disintegrators.'"
-Larry Niven, "The Warriors" IN Niven, Tales Of Known Space (New York, 1975), pp. 135-151 AT p. 145.

Sunday, 8 July 2018


It was 2025 and the current international crisis was approaching its crescendo. Everyone was glued to the TV above the bar:

"This country stands ready to defend its rights..."

Not everyone. One guy sat further back, grinning, apparently amused by our excitement. Puzzled by his response, and because there was nowhere to sit at the bar, I moved back to near where he was sitting.

"It won't happen," he confidently informed me. I waited for him to enlighten me. At last, he vouchsafed:

"This crisis will not escalate all the way for another twenty years."

"How do you know?"

"I've been there."

That was all. He had been where? He had lived through such protracted conflicts before? All of us had done that. Then:

"I must make a call."

He stood up and walked toward the phone booth at the back of the room. There was a burst of excitement from the bar. I glanced that way, then looked down at the table where I noticed that the mysterious stranger had left a coin. It was dated 2026. I looked quickly at the phone booth. It was empty.

Twenty years.

Monday, 2 July 2018


My phone buzzed. "M will see you now."

Ascending to the eighth floor of SIS HQ, I walked down the long corridor between the muted hum of Communications and the distant burr of the Armory. (Most of the Armory is in the basement but some new weapons are tested up here, where few enter.)

Because the red light was on above the door marked "Time Travel Section: Director," I walked in and sat facing M who was as usual seated behind a transparent bullet-proof screen and was masked. I had never seen his face. I also suspected that I was the only current agent of the Section although I might have glimpsed one or two from the future - who could have included myself, of course.

Looking up from his computer screen and addressing me by my Section number, he said, "T.T.1, your first three missions have been experimental but successful..."

In each case, I had traveled only a few months into the past. Careful neither to be recognized nor to affect what happened, I had discovered the explanations of some mysterious events. For example, we now knew who had burgled a house in Knightsbridge. In future, we would be able either to take action against that individual or to feed him disinformation. But I knew that the Section was intended for something greater than these minor investigations.

M continued, "Your next mission will be harder but is guaranteed to succeed. You will travel back thirty years and will engage in actions that will affect the course of events..."

I interrupted, "Thirty years ago, there was no Time Travel Section..."

On my previous missions, I had had the option, if I encountered difficulties in the past, of ringing an emergency number at the Section. I had not been told in advance whether I had needed to do this and in fact I had not needed to. Nevertheless, Section members had known from the outset that they might have to help agents from the future and procedures were in place, starting with the unique password that I would use, with the letter "f" among its digits.

"You will have to operate without backup - unless someone from further ahead helps you..."

He paused to consider this possibility. Then:

"There was no Section then. Your mission will be to found it. You'll need this."

Taking off his mask, he passed it under his bullet-proof screen.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Communicating Through Time

HG Wells' Time Traveler sends the small model Time Machine into either the past or the future. He does not know which. There is no way for it to stop or return. Poul Anderson's Time Patrolmen communicate between years by tiny robot shuttles with automatic shunts to prevent them from arriving together.

Manse Everard sends a shuttle from his New York apartment in 1954 to the London office, June 25, 1894, and, a few minutes later, receives a typed note from J. Mainwethering, inviting him to attend with a qualified British agent at 12:00 midnight on June 26, 1894. Getting an ok (by phone?) from his immediate superior, Everard sends a note to Whitcomb in 1947 and Whitcomb agrees.

Going to the Patrol warehouse, Everard gets a timecycle, like a motorcycle without wheels or kickstand but with two saddles and an antigravity propulsion unit. He departs to a warehouse in London, 1947, when he is joined by Whitcomb, and they depart for Mainwethering's gas-lit office in 1894.

Like Wells updated.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Me, You And Timeline 2

Here (maybe) is a subtler alternative history. Call our history timeline 1, then imagine timeline 2 diverging from timeline 1 only at the moment of my conception. (Everyone substitute "your" for "my.") The two cosmic histories are identical until that moment. Genetically, I am the same individual. However, for some (possibly random) reason, as soon I begin to form as a psychophysical organism, different neural connections occur within my brain. My timeline 2 personality is the opposite of my timeline 1 personality. Here, everyone has to imagine a different scenario for themselves. In Indian philosophy, this would be explained as the inheritance of a different set of karmic consequences.

In timeline 2, I would be extroverted, confident, ambitious, focused, directed, successful and influential. My life and career would diverge completely although, at least initially, global history would proceed exactly as in timeline 1. In timeline 2, I might or might not, over time, have a global impact.

An additional fictional premise could be a mental transference between the two versions of me. The timeline 2 persona, maybe owning and directing an international corporation, seems to have a mental breakdown because suddenly he has acquired the memories and sense of personal identity from timeline 1.

I am aware that my life would have been different if I had been different even if everything else had been the same. A point of such fiction would be to reflect on that. Also, we cannot change our personalities by an act of will. A lifetime might be necessary just to understand the limitations and blind spots of whatever personality we happen to have. Also, a hypothetical being with control of our genes and neurons could have brought it about that we were completely different people from the beginning. By doing this, He would in no way interfere with any free choices or decisions that we were going to make as soon as we became able to do so but He could nevertheless have brought it about that we were the sorts of people who would never even consider any actions that were violent, uncompassionate, dishonest etc. Thus, the "free will" theodicy is inadequate. I did not set out to make this point but one philosophical concept always entails others.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Alternative St Paul

Continued from St Paul.

Example (ii): St Paul converts Gentiles but also accepts that they must become Jews before they become Christians.

Result: A smaller Jewish Christian Church that would not be able to unify the Roman Empire unless it had a further split. Every alternative generates others and I cannot imagine the timeline beyond that point.

Example (iii): Paul believed that Jesus' return was imminent. How might this idea be used in fiction? A fantasy novel in which Jesus did return? That would be an alternative history and definitely not a time travel story.

Causality violation can transform time travel into alternative history, e.g., in two installments of Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series. However, many alternative histories are independent of time travel, especially those in which magic works or the supernatural exists, e.g., in Anderson's two Operation... volumes.