Monday, 31 July 2017

A Few More Details In The Time Machine

See A Few Details In The Time Machine.

One detail that I missed before was the detailed description of the model Time Machine:

"The thing the Time Traveller held in his hand was a glittering metallic framework, scarcely larger than a clock, and very delicately made. There was ivory in it, and some transparent crystalline substance."
-HG Wells, The Time Machine (London, 1973), Chapter 2, p. 13.

On closer inspection, that description is not very detailed but it gives that impression. It is appropriate that this hand-held Time Machine is compared to a clock, that it contains an exotic substance, ivory, and that the transparent crystalline substance remains unidentified. We know something of what the Time Machine looks like but not, of course, how it works.

But every description in The Time Machine is appropriate:

the substantial-seeming full-size Time Machine is unstable, swaying like a branch in the wind;
the model looks "'...singularly askew...'" (p. 14) and one part of it seems unreal;
the ruddy sunset sets the Time Traveller's mind on the sunset of mankind (Chapter 6, p. 37).

Another detail is the eclipse in Chapter 14, "The Further Vision." The day darkens as a concavity grows across the curve of the large red sun which is now motionless on the horizon:

"'Either the moon or the planet Mercury was passing across the sun's disk. Naturally, at first I took it to be the moon, but there is much to incline me to believe that what I really saw was an inner planet passing very near to the earth.'" (p. 94)

But Mercury would have to pass very close to cover the entire swollen solar disk as it proceeds to do. And what inclines the Time Traveller to believe that this was not the moon? Earth now has one face to the sun so maybe that is enough to indicate that the moon is not there any more? Here, the experience of Poul Anderson's Martin Saunders closely parallels that of Wells' Time Traveller:

"Saunders looked out on a bare mountain scene, grim as the Moon - but the Moon had long ago fallen back toward its parent world and exploded into a meteoric rain. Earth faced its primary now; its day was as long as its year. Saunders saw part of the sun's huge blood-red disc shining wanly."
-Poul Anderson, "Flight to Forever" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 207-288 AT p. 284.

Wells wrote about the Time Traveller and his Time Machine. Wells' successors, including Anderson, write about time travellers and their time machines. Heinlein wrote the Future History. Heinlein's successors, including Anderson, write future histories. (Of course, Wells and Stapledon also wrote future histories but on a different model.)

One more detail:

the Time Traveller fancies that he sees a black object flopping about on the beach of the salt Dead Sea;
rereading, we remember that there was such a flopping object;
then he judges that the object is motionless and is a mere rock;
we think that we were mistaken to remember a moving object;
then, after a while, he sees that it is indeed moving, like a tentacled football;
it is the last thing that he sees before he returns home.

Did Wells deliberately write that passage in such a way that anyone reading the text for a second time would think that he had been mistaken but would then rediscover the fitfully hopping object, " against the weltering blood-red water..."? (p. 95) Probably not.

Interminable Voyage

The text in this image is an abridgement of lines in HG Wells, The Time Machine (London, 1973), Chapter 2, pp. 13-14.

" was the Psychologist himself who sent forth the model Time Machine on its interminable voyage." (p. 14)

When Time Patrolman Keith Denison is captured by some locals in ancient Persia, he kicks his "brazen horse"/timecycle into time-drive and later explains to his Patrol rescuer:

"'That's why the search party didn't find the thing. It was only a few hours in this century, then it probably went clear back to the Beginning.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Brave To Be A King" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 55-112 AT p. 83.

Thus, both the model Time Machine and one Time Patrol timecycle are launched on an "interminable voyage." Neither can return because neither has a passenger able to control it. However, when the Time Machine travels from one Thursday in 1895 to a day in 802,701, it passes through every intervening time whereas a timecycle disappears at one set of spatiotemporal coordinates and appears at another so I think that Denison would have had to punch in a specific destination although he might not have noticed what it was.

On p. 14, the Time Traveller points out that "'...this lever...'" sends the model machine into the future whereas "'...this other...'" lever reverses its motion. He says that he will send the model into the future, then guides the Psychologist's hand to press the appropriate lever. However, on p. 15, he is not sure whether the model has gone into the past or the future.

The model Time Machine resembles the Time Patrol message shuttles which can be sent to specific coordinates.

The model:

"'...looks singularly askew...'" (p. 14);
has an oddly twinkling bar that seems somehow unreal.

Somehow unreal because it is not fully present in the here and now or because the notion of time travel is unrealistic? One of James Blish's names for an FTL drive is "the Imaginary Drive."

Round Trips II

See Round Trips.

The Time Machine is an inexhaustible text. See recent posts on this blog and on Poul Anderson Appreciation.

If I travel from Lancaster to York and back, then that is a "round trip" and its distance has to be exactly twice the length of the one way trip in either direction, whereas, if I travel from Lancaster to Lancaster around the circumference of the Earth, is that also a "round trip"? It is both round and a trip but not a "round trip" in the sense of to another destination and back again. In fact, it is considerably longer. And a round trip from Lancaster to Lancaster and back again would be twice the circumference of the Earth.

I ask this because time travel fiction presents both kinds of "trip." The Time Traveller visits the far future and returns to the late nineteenth century whereas Poul Anderson's Martin Saunders in "Flight to Forever" travels from 1973 to 1973 around the circle of time. Anderson goes further than Wells: not only to the transformation of the sun into a red giant and to the end of all life on Earth but also to the end of the universe and even beyond that. "Flight to Forever" and other time travel works by Anderson should be read after The Time Machine.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

The Day After The Second Dinner

Even a single, apparently straightforward, temporal round trip can generate complexities. On the day after the second dinner, the Time Traveller is simultaneously present in his laboratory three times.

(i) The Time Machine bearing the Time Traveller is invisibly present in the south-east corner of the laboratory, "travelling" into the future.

(ii) The Machine bearing the Traveller is invisibly present against the north-west wall on its return journey. The Traveller says, "'...where you saw it...'" (p. 96) but surely the guests at the first dinner saw the Machine only before its departure?

(iii) Until about midday, the Machine is visibly present against the north-west wall. The Time Traveller, carrying a camera and a knapsack, enters the laboratory, mounts the Machine and departs for a second time into either the past or the future but he never returns. If he travels into the past, then an invisible Machine is present during the earlier part of the day whereas, if he travels into the future, then the invisible Machine is present during the later part of the day.

It is Time Traveller (ii) that glimpses "Hillyer." See here.

Friday, 28 July 2017

A Few Details In The Time Machine

HG Wells, The Time Machine (Pan Books, London, 1973).

Present At Both Dinners
the Time Traveller
the outer narrator
the Medical Man or Doctor
the Psychologist

Present Only At The First Dinner
the argumentative Filby
the Very Young Man
the Provincial Mayor

Present Only At The Second Dinner
the Editor ("Blank")
the Journalist ("Dash")
the Silent Man ("Chose")

"'Where's - ?' I said, naming our host." (Chapter 3, p. 18)

"'Has Mr - gone out that way?' said I." (Chapter 16, p. 100)

Thus, the characters name each other but not to us.

"'...I seemed to see Hillyer for a moment...'" (Chapter 15, p. 96)

We deduce that Hillyer is the outer narrator. See here. Thus, we know the names of only two of the ten men, Filby and Hillyer.