Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Anomalous Variations In Reality

Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991).

Guion tells Everard:

"'Monitors have observed anomalous variations in reality...These have no known cause. That is, we have failed to find any chronokinetic sources.'" (pp. 261-262)

He mentions:

the first performance of Plautus' Asinaria in 213 BC;
the abdication of the Grand Zhupan of Serbia in 1196 AD -

- and says that there are several other instances in both approximate times, some as far away as China.

Any event that happens must happen at a particular date. So far, this is not anomalous. However, the anomaly, we are told, is that the precise dates and details of these events "'...do not agree with what scholars from their future have recorded.'" (ibid.)

So surely the scholars are in error? They based their records on inaccurate accounts? If we assume instead that the scholars' records are accurate, then we might have this scenario:

in timeline 1, the Asinaria is first performed in 212 BC and is recorded as having been performed in 212 BC;
in timeline 2, the Asinaria is first performed in 213 BC and is recorded as having been performed in 213 BC.

But, in that case, Guion, even if living in timeline 2, would have no way of knowing that there "had been" a timeline 1. "...had been..." is the pluperfect tense in English but would have to be translated into a different tense in Temporal. Presumably Temporal has more tenses?

Guion seems to be saying something like: there has been a transition from timeline 1 to timeline 2; however, this transition has altered the date and some details of an event but not the record of the event. If I intend to change a sentence from "He comes" to "They come" but do an incomplete job of editing, then I could end up with "They comes." Readers would see that the grammar was wrong and would wonder whether it had simply been wrong in the first place or whether the grammatical error resulted from hasty editing of an earlier version of the text.

Guion says of these anomalies that "'...they indicate instability in those sections of history.'" (p. 262) Everard remembers that the Second Punic War was being waged in 213 BC. Time criminals altered the course and outcome of the war and, although the criminals' alterations were reversed, this also could indicate instability in that period. Guion and Everard are in a timeline that might undergo greater alterations and there is nothing that they can do about it except to be prepared to cope if they survive such an alteration.

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