Saturday, November 23, 2013

Why the obsession with time travel stories?

We admit it -- we're both sluts for time-travel stories.

It probably started with the old 1960 movie version of The Time Machine, based on H.G. Wells's novel. As little kids, our imaginations surrendered into the futurescape struggle between the Eloi and the Morlocks. And our obsession only intensified through the years by scenes from episodes of  Dr. Who, by the entire  Terminator franchise, by 12 Monkies, Donnie Darko, Source Code, Midnight in Paris and, yes, even by Hot Tub Time Machine.

If it's got time travel, we can't resist.

And that's not even mentioning the marvelous series of books by our friend Connie Willis -- To say Nothing of the Dog, The Doomsday Book, Black Out, and All Clear. We equally love the intellectual conundrums of Charles Yu's How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe and the page-turning suspense of Stephen King's 11/22/63.

We outed our obsession in two of our novels this past year -- Mark's Strange Attractors: A Story About Roswell and our just-released co-written third book in the Silverville Saga Series, The Magicke Outhouse.

Funny how different they turned out.

Both  revel in conundrums and paradoxes, and both play the "What If?" game of confronting knowledge from both past and future that influences the present. But that's where the similarity of themes pretty much ends.

The Magicke Outhouse is comedy (the mixture of Kym and Mark's brains always tends to follow that path). And the story circumvents all the dither of physics and science by making the "time machine" a psychic experience -- an uncoupling of body and consciousness brought about by a combination of supercharged, intersecting ley lines and a whiff of mysterious fungi brewing from the cauldron (or maybe we should say, bowels) of a humble outhouse privy.

With a premise like that, the only "plausible" direction for a storyline is funny. No problem there. Our hapless characters stumble into experiences in Ancient Egypt, Puritan New England, the Wild West, and Medieval Germany, and with nary more than a backside splinter while characters sit perched atop the one-holer. Well, except for the clients who don't make it back alive. But c'mon, there are kinks in every new enterprise. It's not like the operators of Ka Catchers wouldn't refund the cost of the trip if those clients hadn't returned as near zombies.

On the other end of the spectrum is Mark's hard-science time-travel story, Strange Attractors. [Kym's aside: Mark did way too much research into Quantum Physics and Special Relativity for that project. Lighten up, for chrissakes!] This story braids threads of causality into a tale where the future influences the past and creates the present.

But at least it has a creepy little kid, a government conspiracy gone awry, and a neurotic but likeable protagonist who's trying, with the help of her shrink, to make things right in all three time-frames.

What both stories also have in common is a twist at the end that makes you think. If The Magicke Outhouse invites you to enjoy the ride and laugh all along the way to the surprise ending, Strange Attractors invites you to second-guess how Fractal Geometry, Jungian archetypes, Japanese Oragami, and the mystery of the Roswell Crash all fit together by the final page.

For us, both books were a way to indulge our ongoing fascination (now there's a more polite word for "obsession") for all things time travel.

And we're sure we're not the only ones. Who else out there loves time travel? And what are your fave stories in this ilk? We'd love to know.