Monday, 14 July 2014

A Pocket Continuum?

Robert Silverberg, "Christmas in Gondwanaland" IN Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois, Editors, Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds (Burton, MI, 2014), pp. 215-244.

"'So the five of us have been pinched off into a pocket continuum of our own,' [Everard] said. 'The whole original Patrol has.'" (p. 230)

This is the sort of statement that appears in sf and that readers think they understand but I do not understand it, at least not in this context. The original Time Patrol is not in its own "pocket continuum" but is/was in the space-time continuum of a deleted timeline whereas Everard and his four colleagues are, unaccountably, in the current timeline.

Everard continues:

"'...our world-line descends from the Alpha Point Convocation; the Patrol that's running things now descends from a different one.'" (ibid.)

Each person has or is a "world-line" extending or enduring from his/her birth to his/her death. Five people do not share a common "world-line" descending from the founding of an organization to which they belong. But at least Everard's statements acknowledge that the five agents are not the versions of themselves that were born in the second timeline as Lora Spallanzani implies on p. 229.

When Everard and Gonzalez see their younger selves, Everard wonders:

"Why didn't we see ourselves before?" (p. 237)

and answers:

"Because we weren't there before..." (ibid.)

But they were. This is time travel. My understanding of the Time Patrol scenario is that, except in certain circumstances, the current timeline always acts like the single timeline of the kind of story (e.g., three novels by Anderson, three works by Heinlein, The Technicolor Time Machine, The Anubis Gates, The Time Traveler's Wife etc) that allows for the circular causality paradox though not the causality violation paradox. In such a scenario, if a time traveler's older self sees his younger self, then the younger can also see the older. They are in the same timeline, the one and only timeline, not in different timelines.

The "certain circumstances" are when the course of events is diverted either by the action of a pastward time traveler or by a random fluctuation in space-time-energy. Then, in that case, there is an alternative timeline in which, again, circular causality is possible and there seems to be only a single timeline, except to someone who, having traveled pastward along the original timeline, returns futureward through the moment of change into the alternative timeline.

"Christmas in Gondwanaland" is rich in discussion points about time travel and I will continue to reread it to find more.

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