Monday, December 4, 2017

Time Travel and the Never-Mind Factor

"I hate temporal mechanics!"  --Chief Engineer Miles O'Brien, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE

Lately, it seems every time I start flipping through TV channels, I come across some old TV episode that involves time travel.  STAR TREK, in all its permutations, travels through time, the CHARMED witches travel through time, some poor fool on THE TWILIGHT ZONE travels through time, etc., etc.   It’s also playing a large part of this season of AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

Time travel also seems to be one of the new spices added to different paranormal book series to spice them up a bit.  

The biggest problem with time travel, beyond the mind-numbing paradoxes, is the “never mind” factor when the author uses time travel to fix things.

Something really horrible happens to the main characters, more than a few die, evil starts taking over the world, and life as we know it is about over, then one of the good guys uses time travel to go back before it starts and stops whatever the original cause of the whole mess was.  Everything returns to exactly the way it was before the story started.

In other words, nothing really happened because nothing changes.  I always say “never mind” then something rude about the writing, and decide to find another TV show to watch the next time the writers pull out the time travel plot.

That “never mind” moment means you are cheating the reader of genuine experience.  If unhappiness, danger, and death no longer can be trusted to have meaning, the reader may stop caring when permanent changing moments happen.

The reader can also feel cheated to the point she no longer trusts anything you write, and may very well say “never mind” when your next book is out.

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