Monday, January 3, 2011

Is Time Travel Right For You? (Part Two) "Somewhere in Time", "Frequency", "After the Fact", etc

"The time travel motif also has an ideological function because it literally provides the necessary distancing effect that science fiction needs to be able to metaphorically address the most pressing issues and themes that concern people in the present. If the modern world is one where the individuals feel alienated and powerless in the face of bureaucratic structures and corporate monopolies, then time travel suggests that Everyman and Everybody is important to shaping history, to making a real and quantifiable difference to the way the world turns out."
—Sean Redmond, Liquid Metal: the science fiction film reader (2004)
(to right: the cover of prolific science-fiction author Fred Saberhagen's "After the Fact", one of two "Pilgrim" novels concerning time travel.  In this one the "Flying Dutchman of Time"--Jerry Flint-- has to try and save Abraham Lincoln from assassination at the climax of the Civil War. Other good  good time travel novels I recommend include "The Book of Kells" by R A McAvoy (a story of Viking marauders versus the early Celtic Christian civilization in medieval Ireland, and the modern young man and woman who find themselves in a time portal to the midst of the trouble) and "Time Frame" by Michael Creighton (concerning a American billionaire who creates a way to travel back in time and how difficult it is for a group of young people to get out of the forests, castles and  battlegrounds of  14th Century France alive)  These books are  entertaining because they are also good history.    
Sean Redmond's comment on the "motif" of time travel does go a long way I think to explaining its hold on many millions of people. No matter what we believe about how and why we are existing at this time on this planet, we all strive at some points in our lives to matter, hopefully to matter in a way  to make our family/friends/society  better for our being here.
There is always the question of "what if?"  Whole religions like Buddhism are focused on resolving that which is flawed  within us and getting us off the wheel of existence. But many simply would prefer some more time with a lost loved one or a chance to rectify an old problem and redress it now that we as individuals have the wisdom to do so.
To travel back in time to fix a bad situation or cure a longing for something the modern world doesn't provide can be seen in two of the most memorable time travel movies I recall.  The first is a crime story within the time-travel motif called "Frequency" (2000). The story is explained by the movie trailer below.  There is no time travel in the film per se, but there is communication between father and son in 1969 up and back to 1999.  Thanks to a flare-up of sun spots and an old ham radio link-up, a serial killer might be stopped and a family life altered for the better.  This film is a  good suspense yarn also.      
One of the best things about the movie to me is how the character of the Son in 1999 gets his father to realize this is not a hoax is by giving him the details of the New York Mets improbable "cinderella" victory in the 1969 World Series over the juggernaut Amercian League favorites, the  Baltimore Orioles:  a shared passion for some great moments in  sports unite a family for a larger purpose! 


Twenty years before "Frequency" came "Somewhere In Time" (1980) starring Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer.  Based on a Richard Matheson short story, the film followed a young man who meets an older lady at a theatre party and  longs to discover  how she ever knew him.  This film became a true "cult film" in the best sense of the word, and even today generates a fan base that makes a pilgrimage to the grand resort hotel in Marinac, Michigan, where the film was shot.  Whereas most time travel stories concerned crime or spectacle, this one has a story which penetrates the heart, a unique film that even I, not exactly an arch-romantic, nevertheless find this little film somehow more moving each time I've viewed it.   John Barry's marvelous score---featured on the clip--is just one of the many great compositions he has done in cinema.   


My own version of a time travel novel was something I finished about ten years back and redacted it a bit in 2007.  I flogged about the agencies and book conventions for awhile.It never got a publisher so I did it myself with a great measure of help from Shirley  

It's something of what I liked best in all these novels and films and concerns a detective investigating his friends' murder, a task which takes into the world of modern theater and, later, to the time of Shakespeare's London. "Cursed Spite" is the name of the work and if you like stories of history and imagination, I'll be happy to send you a copy, gratis, since my wife would love to get more of these copies we printed out of our garage :-) 

I also think personally it's a good tale. You can get "Cursed Spite" by contacting me and leaving a mailing address at my e-mail: 




For more on the book, here's the website listing.

For those who perused and/or commented on the last "time travel" blog and stopped by for its sequel here,  I thank you! 


  1. Mmmmmm, there is something rather scary about my body mass being taken apart and put together again in another time.

    I think the film "Back To the Future," showed me the pitfalls of going back in one's own time and being the same age as your parents. However, given an anaesthetic first, I may try other forms of time travel. My friends will say, "there goes that Cassandra going all metachromasis," as the process tries to stop my change in colour running while I metamorphosis through changing light.

    I'll wave as I see your parts whizz by, ready to be Doug again.:-)

    I'll have to come back to look at the videos, because I have to go out soon.

  2. I have this book of yours and Doug I never was much for non fiction nor am. However two years ago when sent to me it was something that I opted to read as I really wanted to see what was all within. Here now two years later I am taking an hour out of my day each evening as I am doing somethingn within non fiction. Yet I recently rendered a editor thank god as you can write and your grammar is very rare. One would think that you have a very high education within the manner that you write Doug.

  3. Yes, rather like the old "Star Trek"-type shows where one "beams down" on a transporter into a floating mass of mater and light and hopefully one soesn't wind up reemerging in one's underwear at a Intergalactic traffic roundabout! :-)

    "Back to the Future" is a good example of movie where time travel is played mostly for laughs.That film and "Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986) with Kathleen Turner reprsented a longing (at least in America) for returning to the seemingly non-complex times of the 1950's and early Sixties, a time when many "baby boomers" were younger.

    I put in my book a "time sickness" problem for my protagonist, since it seems such a dramatic undoing of one's very fiber. Having one's "metachromasis" all scuffled about would be an unsettling prospect.

    Ha! Nice of you to wave as I whizz by into some distant era, Cassandra. I think I'd start by sending a few politicans or white mice back first to see if they come through the process okay ;-)

    Far better to somehow just stand in a place that a century or so before, as in Jack Finney's "Time and Again" novel, and just put yourself in a trance. Suddenly you hear the sounds of horseshoes clopping on pavement and old-fashioned claxon horns. England would afford all sorts of old hotels and cathedrals to teleport back and forth were such things possible.

  4. Glad to hear you are writing something in non fiction Jack. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

    It's really was a matter of finding something what one is enthusiastic about and, in my case, builiding a story around that. That way the research is fun for its own sake.

    There are so many useful books out there in stores or a a good-sized library to guide one through writing and avoid some of the pitfalls. Always better to learn from the mistakes of others in liife, although I find in life I still make my share ;-)
    Thanks, also, for your nice comments on "Cursed Spite" on this site!

  5. Yes, Star Trek seems to make the whole time travel thing painless, whereas, "Dr Who" makes one realise, the many pitfalls.

    Back to the future was quite an amusing film, wasn't it? Not one of the greats though. I haven't seen Peggy Sue Got Married.

    Yes there are many scary processes with time travel, metachromasis being one of them.

    I like the idea of testing things out on a few Politicians, and they needn't come back if we don't like their policies.

    I think if I choose, around midnight, I'd go into a trance at the drop of a hat. :-)

  6. I used to veer more to the backward-in-time aspect of sci-fi adventure, and as far as the two television series went, and since Doctor Who delved into the past more often, I liked that show much more. And, yes, the BBC-sponsored show did more interesting things with time/space twists and turns.
    The good doctor's adventures in the London of Dickens or at Southbank theaters in the days of Shakespeare hold more interest for me than most anything set on a far-off galaxy of either show.

    I liked "Back to the Future" well enough, but didn't bother to see the sequels. "Peggy Sue Got Married" is a good film, and starts off wonderfully (although by the second half I find myself tiring a bit of Nicholas Cage's overacting as Ms. Turner's high school boyfriend.)

    Another bad thing about time travel as you mention, Cassandra--showing up someplace with one's cells in different colors, or worse! And could one really control the place you stop? Hardly know what accessories to pack if you can't pin down the right century!

    Glad you like the idea of testing this scientific advancement on politicians. To paraphrase William Gilbert's lyrics in a song from the "The Mikado", many of these vacillating and compromising birds "never would be missed!"

    You have the same trouble I have with going into a trance: I wake up six-seven hours later, alarm clock going off, and can't remember what I was "trancing" on about! :-)

  7. Personally I have never found the prospect of time travel attractive. I would not want to change anything in the past because the 'worst' things that have happened in history are better than the 'best' things that could result from changing history with hindsight in my view.
    That is up to and including the end of the world I think Doug, I am suspicious of happy endings and would always want to know 'happy' for whom...... and why?

    So far as your own story is concerned have you tried publishing it outside the US Doug? There seems to be a lot on the net from around 2007 about publishing books for some reason including this article in the Guardian

    I have noticed a number of publishers in India, UK and New Zealand advertising for submissions on the net, have you already exhausted that avenue Doug?..... If so sorry for stating the obvious, but it seemed worth a look to me.

  8. If it were possible to visit the past and come back, I would certainly find it attractive. (More attractive than an extended vacation in Idaho, for instance, but I digress.)

    But you're right, AA--changing history would be fraught with issues off who would benefit? Just because you stop World War One in 1914, let's say, doesn't mean a crisis won't erupt in the Balkans in 1915.

    If you stop Hitler from being born, to use a familiar desire, would someone worse emerge from the streets of Vienna and Munich to lead Germany into greater sufferings for all concerned? Still, I can't help wondering about alternative histories at certain points in time. If nothing else, they remind us of how important individuals are in shaping the present.

    One of the the themes of Jack Finney's novels and stories I've read seems that, even 20/20 hindsight is no guarantee you could change things for the better.

    Thanks for the link to the "Guardian" article. I fully agree with Robertson Davies' quote on the matter.Shirley and i did send the book overseas and paid to have it presented in various book fairs in other countries. You certainly didn't state the obvious, and I do appreciate your effort and encouragement.

    Next time out if I write another book, I will try to learn from the flaws in my first two. Talent will out, as the lady says.

  9. You'd have to stop his sponsors like Prescott Bush, JD Rockefeller, William Averell Harriman and a few others from being born as well Doug, otherwise they'd have just found another patsy and nothing much would have changed I don't think

  10. Sounds like a terrific amount of work, AA, and killing folks is really not my line. The money's bad and it weights on the conscience.

    I think I'd just as soon stay home and watch the Super Bowl. Or play a raucous game of Scrabble with my blind westie terrier, Isobel.