Friday, July 06, 2007

Question for readers of Time Travel Tales

I'm hoping (see previous post) to properly start work on my non-Who Time Travel tale next week and I've been thinking about it a good deal in the meantime. The one thing I've been wondering is whether or not to have an object that precipitates Danny's time-travelling. My original idea was that he would not have such an object - no mechanical or magical machine that causes him to time-travel, so no TARDIS ("Doctor Who"), no DeLorean ("Back to the Future"), no Art Deco radio (London Calling), no Rift ("Torchwood"/"Doctor Who"), no bags of Time (Johnny and the Bomb), etc.

But I remembered conversations about Susan Cooper's King of Shadows, in which young Nat Field travels back to 1599 without the use of a particular time-travel device and now I'm wondering which method readers prefer ? If I choose to go for the no device option, how much of an explanation would you want for how Danny manages to travel in time ? Personally I'm quite happy without a detailed explanation (I think part of the reason I love King of Shadows is the mystery that surrounds Nat's time-travelling, but I'm curious to know what others prefer.

21 comments:

Lady S. said...

Well, I'll let you know if I come up with anything more helpful, but my first thought was that I love the not bothering to engage with details of how it happens approach of King of Shadows AND the carefully plausible one of machine in Gideon the Cutpurse pretty much equally!

This either shows that I'm dreadfully lacking in decisiveness or suggests either method will work well for your novel. Although I guess some depends on whether you're doing total fantasy or have any SF element there too.

Michele said...

Actually the tale is an historical one with SF (time-travel) elements, rather than being fantasy. At least, I tend to see time-travel as an SF thing, not a fantasy thing.

Lady S. said...

I guess I see time-travel as equally capable of being either fantasy or SF, depending on the mechanisms and explanations involved, rather than necessarily always one or the other. Although maybe it would be more likely to be called 'time slip' if it's fantasy? Is it totally distinct from 'time travel' though? No idea. Anyway, King of Shadows makes it as fantasy in my book, if only because it's in Charlie's book that way. :)

Michele said...

*grins* I see KoS as fantasy/historical - but some time-travel tales do seem more SF than F...

Mai said...

Which do I prefer? It is such an easy question on the face of it, but once I started to think about it - not so easy after all. I start to write ONE answer - of course I like no gadget BECAUSE...and immediately I think of reasons and situation where a gadget would be the perfect thing.

I think it depends a great deal on the story - and whether or not the time travel is accidental or on purpose. I think that most of the time I prefer the travel to be unexplained and have that mystery be a part of the story. There is a risk that a device can become gimmicky - and I think at times that HAS happened with the good Doctor.

Not much help, am I? I actually have been thinking a lot about this lately because it seems suddenly I've read a lot of books - in a variety of genres - that deal with time travel and they all handle it quite differently.

Michele said...

No that's OK - my fault for asking fiendish questions... :-D

Talking of "Doctor Who" - don't forget season 3 starts airing this weekend in the US !

The time travel is accidental, uncontrolled and fairly unexpected each time it occurs.

jules said...

I have no insightful time-travel tale suggestions for you, but I wanted to say good luck with the writing of the tale (and dropping in to say hi).

Michele said...

Thanks Jules !!

Jen Robinson said...

I think that I tend to like gadgets - I have a fairly scientific mind, and I like some form of explanation. But I can see the reasons not to have one - the mere existence of the explanation gives rise to questions about its validity. And when I think about time travel myself (I have a little story about what I'd do if I could time travel going through my head), I don't necessarily have any device in mind... Hmmm, guess I'm not much help either.

Sheila said...

I think it can work either way, but I think if you are writing SF, you need to give a more believable explanation, but with fantasy you can get away with less explanation of how it works. Even with fantasy, though, there should be some explanation to integrate it into the story - even if you don't explain the science. I think that's especially true if you use a device, or you run the risk that it could become a McGuffin. Where did the device come from? Why does he have it? Who made it? What are the rules and limits on its use? Not knowing the answers to these questions could also be an answer, but they have to be addressed in some way.

Little Willow said...

I really, really love time travel stories when they are well-crafted and well-told.

The means of transport and/or the reason behind the time travel should be needs-based for the character and story.

Michele said...

No McGuffins in my story... There will be some, limited, explanation of how Danny manages to time travel. One person with whom I discussed it said that having a device gaveyou the option of it being stolen, lost or damaged, giving you a race-against-time element to repair/find it again, but I pointed out I already have the race-against-time element covered in another way in the story, so I don't need the device for that...

Anonymous said...

Go with the flow, you thought first of having no gadget and I tend to agree, it adds to the mystery!
Lesley

Michele said...

Thanks Lesley, I will...

SamRiddleburger said...

Great question!
My next book has time-traveling and it has an object. But I sometimes find it a little embarassing to tell people what it is.

There is a third option: a (super)natural phenomenon.
I recall a John Christopher book which used ball lightning.
And didn't Land of the Lost have some sort of wavy place that their car fell into?

Michele said...

I'm not familiar with Land of the Lost (though I'll look it up now out of curiosity...)

Mrs. Coulter said...

The absolute best book I have ever read involving time travel is "The Time Traveler's Wife," in which the ability to time travel is a result of genetic accident, and tends to occur when the time traveler is under physical and/or emotional stress. He has no control over his destination in time or space.

Michele said...

A lot of people have mentioned The Time Traveller's Wife to me in the past few days. I've yet to read it...

L.A. Mitchell said...

Hi Michele,
I stumbled across your blog on a blog search. I write time thrillers with romantic elements and I wish you much luck with your story.

When I first began including time travel elements, I researched all the gimmicks that had been used in the past (mirrors, skydiving, clothing, artifacts) and came to the conclusion it's pretty much all been done before--sometimes very badly. The ones where the protagonist trips over an oak root and bumps her head and wham, she's back in time always annoyed me.

In the Time Traveler's Wife, the method or device is never really explained. It's such a journey for the reader, it ceases to matter what the scientific explanation for it is. In most of my novels, the travel exists as the part of ourselves science has yet to fully understand--the mind.

If you want to talk about time-travel and writing, hop over to mine. Thanks for a thoughtful blog.

Paul Levinson said...

about time travel - see also this Letter from Sierra Waters...

Michele said...

I'll check that out, thanks Paul...

And L A Mitchell, I will try to make time this week to check out your site !