Realistic Time Travel Preparation


Time travel is a big theme in science fiction stories (has anyone else seen the new Star Trek movie yet?). Last night I stayed up and finished Jack Finney‘s Time and Again, one of the classics in the time travel genre.

In this novel, the government is trying to take Einstein’s theory of time dimension and put it to practical use, sending people back in time. The narrator, Simon “Si” Morley, is one of the people to try the experiment. First they have to prepare him to go to 1882. One of the bits that caught my interest is the way Si is shown actual relics from 1882 borrowed from the Smithsonian. Then the person instructing him explains that the item (clothing, furniture, tool, etc.) didn’t look like that in 1882. He brings out a copy of the item – except in new condition. The artifacts we have now have faded and grown brittle or thin over the years. It takes a replica of the original to show Si what 1882 was actually like. It was a world full of color, not the sepia and gray tones we now see in our museums or parents’ attics.

I liked the way the preparation for the travel was handled. All too often a character is accidentally thrown back in time or goes back impulsively without enough preparation. Instead, Finney had turned it into a real sounding experiment.

This is an an example of good writing. The author thinks his premise through and remembers the details that brings the most fantastical story to life.

One Comment

  1. Comment by Aravis:

    I saw Star Trek. They did a great job with that!

    I’ve never read Time and Again, but it sounds really interesting. I wonder if that’s where Matheson got his idea for Bid Time Return (the book that Somewhere in Time was based on)? The self-hypnosis, the need to be surrounded by things from the time period in order for it to work… it sounds almost identical. I love that movie.