my favourite time-travel paradox

James Tiptree Jr, 10,000 Light Years from Home

My blogging record this last month has been grim, because of school holidays, poorly children and poorly me, so I threw a question out on twitter asking for a topic and the lovely Elin Gregory came back with the subject of this post.

I love time-travel when it’s done properly. It’s like magic though, in my opinion, and there always has to be a price to pay for it. I think that the best known paradox story in time-travel fiction is All You Zombies by Robert Heinlein. He crams it all in there… being your own mother, your own father and your own recruiter to the Time-Travel Bureau.  The price the protaganist pays seems to be loneliness. So it works for me in that it fits my criteria. But it leaves me with a sad, empty feeling afterwards and I’m not sure I like that.

My absolutely favorite time-travel story, in fact probably my favorite short story of all time, is The Man Who Walked Home, by James Tiptree Jr, in her short story collection Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home. There has only ever been one attempt to send someone through time and essentially it blew up the world. I come back to it again and again and I can’t really tell you why:

On this spot there appears annually the form of Major John Delgano, the first and only man to travel in time.

Major Delgano was sent into the future some hours before the holocaust of day zero. All knowledge of the means by which he was sent is lost, perhaps forever. It is believed that an accident occurred which sent him much farther than was intended. Some analysts speculate that he may have gone as far as fifty thousand years ahead. Having reached this unknown point Major Delgano apparently was recalled, or attempted to return, along the course in space and time through which he was sent. His trajectory is thought to start at the point which our solar system will occupy at a future time and is tangent to the complex helix which our earth describes around the sun.

He appears on this spot in the annual instants in which his course intersects our planet’s orbit and he is apparently able to touch the ground in those instants. Since no trace of his passage into the future has been manifested, it is believed that he is returning by a different means than he went forward. He is alive in our present. Our past is his future and our future is his past. The time of his appearances is shifting gradually in solar time to converge on the moment of 1153.6 on May 2nd 1989 old style, or Day Zero.

The explosion which accompanied his return to his own time and place may have occurred when some elements of the past instants of his course were carried with him into their own prior existence. It is certain that this explosion precipitated the worldwide holocaust which ended forever the age of Hardscience

Thank you, Elin for the question! It ties in nicely with my own time-travel shenanigans. Lew and Mira both get dragged back in time at the beginning of Lost in Time (hence the name, doh!). It’s not an easy bit of magic and although it will happen again in other books, there is always quite a big cost. For Lew and Mira it’s extremely dangerous to try to get home. It’s not a safe process and they need to make a choice.

I don’t much like time travel stories that just have people whizzing about through stone circles and whatnot like trap doors in to the past, although I know a lot of people find them great fun. I think that’s possibly because I like all my stories with a lot of angst, so easy time-travel immediately becomes a super-power rather than something to be tortured about.

Next week I’m talking to Elizabeth Noble about writing life and her re-released series, Sentries, so do pop back if you want to get to know her better.


Note: I know that for some people, the Tiptree/Sheldon narrative has become problematic because of the manner of her death (CW: Suicide/Murder) in the same way Heinlein’s politics makes some of his writing difficult to stomach for some people. Whether art should stand independent of the creator is a whole other discussion on it’s own. In their specific cases, I think their work transcends that, but I’ve included the links above for completeness .

character sketch: Ella Fortune

“Ella and I met in France. She was driving an ambulance and I was stringing for the Picture Post. We decided that after the war we’d strike out on our own. I was fed up with the censorship and she’s always been a bit wild as far as I can make out. She’s the Duke of Walton’s eldest daughter, always had her head. Oxford, Bloomsbury and all that.” He coughed again. “Don’t think Walton knew what to do with her. She married Fortune without her father’s consent a couple of years before the war. He went West pretty early on, Mons I think. She’s a good lass. Flying from Cairo to Cape Town at the moment. Trying to set a record.” Another harrumph. “Supposed to be sending me back pictures.”

Callum McGovern, speaking to Alec Carter in Lost in Time

Ella Fortune is a shadowy minor character in both Lost in Time and Shadows on the Border. She’s the co-proprieter of the Pictorial Examiner, the paper where Lew Tyler works.

When I started writing Lost in Time, I thought Ella was going to have a larger role than she does. However, after helping pull Lew out of the Thames and setting him up with a flat and a job at the paper, she went off in her aeroplane to fly down the spine of Africa. I think she’s actually now going to have her own adventure.

She’s a thoroughly emancipated woman with a background in the Suffrage movement who drove an ambulance for the Red Cross in France during the First World War. She’s lucky enough to both have money and be an ‘Honourable’… the daughter of a Peer. So she can pretty much do as she likes, particularly because she’s a widow. I’m not sure yet whether her marriage to Oliver Fortune in 1912 was a marriage of convenience or whether they were truly attached to each other. She’s in her thirties and has no children by design.

She flies an Avro 504k (as a lot of people did after World War 1- more than eight thousand of them were built during the war), but her long distance flying takes place in a Vickers Vimy, which has been specially modified to take bigger fuel tanks. She’s her own mechanic and navigator but she does sometimes fly with a co-pilot.

I’m not sure what sort of adventures she’s going to have yet, but watch this space!

character sketch: Alec Carter

Alistair Carter, one of the two main protagonists from Lost in Time and Shadows on the Border, is a Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police. I imagine him as looking quite like the chap on the left on the cover of Shadows, although with a raincoat and a Homberg hat.

He’s in his mid-thirties at the start of Lost in Time in 1919, which means he was born in the late 1880s, to quite a well off middle class family who were pretty upset when he joined the police instead of becoming a solicitor or another professional. He was in the Military Police in the war and served on the Western Front. Afterwards, he came back and took up his old job with the department and works out of the Poplar area of London, at Wapping Police Station, on the Thames. He was promoted to Detective Inspector when he came back from the army and is quiet and insightful and good at working out what people mean from what they don’t say.

His brief, abortive marriage to Kitty has left him with a big empty house next to Hamstead Heath and a lot of guilt. He married a woman because it was expected of him and he could have made it work if they’d become friends, but she was really only interested in being a trophy wife and by the time she died, although he was devastated, there was also an element of relief because he was so unhappy.

He’s cross most of the time for reasons he can’t really put his finger on. Unsettled in his skin. And that only gets worse when he meets Lew Tyler during the course of a murder investigation. He isn’t unused to finding men attractive and has had liaisons before and one particular person he was very drawn to, but no-one as strongly as Lew.

Alec is probably my favorite character from the two books. He’s grumpy and defensive and not at all in touch with his emotions. It makes him really interesting to write.

character sketch: Lew Tyler

This is the first in a series of occasional character sketches I’m going to do.

Lew Tyler is one of the main characters in both Lost In Time and Shadows On The Border, books one and two of the Lost In Time series. I think he’s probably going to pop in and out of future stories as well.

Lew was born in the UK in 1983 and when we first meet him at the beginning of Lost In Time, he has just been jettisoned back in time from 2016 to 1919.

One of the things I wanted to do with the story is contrast the experience of someone age thirty-three in 2016 with the experience of someone of a similar age in 1919, and I was quite happy with how that worked out.

Lew is a rather reluctant magician who can manipulate the fabric of time and space and the void between the worlds. He gets sucked back through time as part of his search for his friend Mira, who Lew assumes is missing because she over-reached her magical abilities. Lew tried to use his own magic to track her and ended up in London just after World War One. It took him a while to find his feet – he was very lucky – and he ended up with two jobs that overlap – a journalist and photographer at a small weekly London paper and as a police crime-scene photographer. This allows him to poke around London quite easily in his search for his friend and his unexpected bequest of a motorbike early on in the book helps that a lot too.

He’s not actually a very good or knowledgeable magician. He and Mira met in foster care after his parents died when he was in his early teens. Although his father was a magic user, Lew didn’t have enough time with him and neither he nor Mira have had any kind of mentoring or training. They’re flying blind and that’s why things have gone wrong.

Lew is a kind and open person. But he’s also scared of people finding out his secrets – both that he’s from the future and that he’s gay – and he feels very alone at the start of the books. As the series goes on, he settles in to himself, but I can’t say too much more about that without spoilers!

What does he look like? He’s five foot ten, with high boned cheeks, long-ish fair hair that he tries to keep slicked back from his face, but that usually falls in to his eyes. He’s sinewy rather than built. He’s got dark brown eyes that are shot through with lighter hazel and when he’s pulling power, the hazel bits take on a golden colour. He’s quite empathic, probably because of the magic, and finds it difficult to filter out other people’s emotions unless he’s concentrating hard. That can be helpful if he’s working magic, but a nuisance the rest of the time.

I really like the overall feel of the artwork JMS has done for the series. I feel that that they give a good feel for the characters and the world. In my head, Lew is the man at the back hiding under the rather large hat.

 

 

 

Shadows On The Border

Sequel to Lost In Time

Shadows On The Border, #2 in the Lost In Time Universe, is now available from  JMS Books and all major booksellers. You can find the right format for your eReader on the Queeromance Ink page, including Kindle, ePub, B&N and Google Play.

Newspaper reporter Lew Tyler and his lover, Detective Alec Carter, are working out the parameters of their new relationship. Meanwhile, time traveler Lew is trying to decide whether he wants to stay in the 1920s or find a way to get back to 2016, and Alec doesn’t know if he can bear the vulnerability of being in love with someone who uses such dangerous magic.

Fenn is a Hunter from the Outlands, come through the Border to search for the murderous Creature and its offspring at the behest of the Ternants, who maintain the balance between Fenn’s world and ours. Fenn strikes a bond with Sergeant Will Grant, Alec’s second in command, who is keen to learn more about his own magical abilities. As time goes on, Will grows keen to learn more about Fenn, as well.

Fenn has their own painful secret, and when they appear to have betrayed the team and goes missing in London, Will is devastated. He has to choose between following his heart or following his duty.

Moving through the contrasting rich and poor areas of post-First World War London from West End hotels to the London docklands, the men need to work together to capture the Creature … and choose who – and what — is important enough to hold on to and what they may need to give up to make that happen.


Read an excerpt:

That cloud of gold around Fenn and Mira … that was what Lew experienced all the time? It was both marvelous and terrifying. He knew, intellectually, that the only reason Mira was alive after being savaged by the Creature when it escaped in the winter was because she had been able, in some way, to Pull magic from the Border to heal herself enough to survive. It was completely another thing to actually watch it happening.

Her skin had changed under his eyes from an unhealthy grayish tinge to the radiant brown of a healthy woman. That was the thing that had been the most amazing and terrifying to watch. He was sure that other things had happened as well — it was supposed to be a healing for her damaged voice, after all — but that was the visual marker he had taken away.

Alec was terrified.

If Fenn could do that, if Lew and Grant could do that, what else could they do? Over the last few months, Alec’s main fear had become losing Lew. But over the last week, he had also had moments of being scared of him as well as for him. His emotions were all mixed up and it wasn’t a comfortable feeling.

It seemed to Alec as if all the Workers surrounding him were in the dark about the limits and boundaries of the magic they used so blithely. Alec felt like a man trapped in a darkened room with dangerous things moving around him that he was unable to see to protect himself from. And the people he cared about could see the danger. But they didn’t perceive it as the danger it was.

Alec couldn’t convince them there even was a danger. They saw it as a formula … so long as you didn’t Pull too much from The Border, you were safe. So long as you didn’t attract a Creature, you were safe. So long as you didn’t put a foot outside the complex and vague rules you had been taught by rote so long ago that you didn’t even remember what they were for, you were safe.

Alec was angry. He was angry with himself, for not being able to see what the others could see. Were their lives always lit up like the hospital room had been downstairs just now? Why wasn’t Alec’s world lit up like that all the time? How come none of them had told him how beautiful it could be? Why should Alec be missing out on that when the people he cared about could share it? Just with each other. Not with him.

And he was angry with Lew. Lew had all this power. All these abilities. Why should he want to stay with Alec? When he could use all that beautiful golden magic to travel back to his own time, to a place where he wouldn’t have to hide that he wanted to be with a man?

Alec was angry with Grant. Grant had been his friend since Alec had come home from France in ‘18. They’d had an immediate bond. But Grant had failed to tell him that this other, ephemeral world of magic existed. And now Grant seemed to be obsessed with Fenn … this fey, liminal creature who was able to act as a focus for all this power that flowed through the people Alec loved. And whose motives Alec didn’t understand and didn’t trust.

He allowed Max to steer him out of Miss Fonteyne’s room and to his office upstairs. It was a largish, comfortable room that doubled as a consulting room. Max guided him all the way with a hand in the small of his back, not allowing him to stop, opening the door with one hand whilst the other grasped Alec’s elbow and then steered him to one of the armchairs around a low table.

The room smelled of smoke — Max had a predilection for obnoxious cigars — and there was a brandy decanter and cut-crystal glasses on the table. As Alec sank in to the low chair, Max let go of him and reached for the brandy bottle. He didn’t bother to ask who wanted any, just filled five glasses with two fingers each and passed them out.

Alec watched as Fenn slumped into the armchair she had chosen. She tilted her head back and closed her eyes. Alec’s perception shifted. One minute there was the woman Alec usually saw Fenn as, sprawled in the chair, at rest. The next, a tall, elegant man with strong features and long lashes that fell against his cheek sat in the seat opposite. Alec blinked and the feminine Fenn he recognized was back again. He turned his gaze away and looked at Lew.

You can find the right format for your eReader on the Queeromance Ink page, including Kindle, ePub, B&N and Google Play.

For Lost In Time, #1 in the series, click here.