Monday, 28 July 2014

Resonance

In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, we appreciate not only the details of the historical periods but also the subtleties of the temporal paradoxes. Other time travel novels, including three by Anderson, ingeniously present intricate circular causality paradoxes but the Time Patrol series is the subtlest presentation of the more difficult causality violation paradox and also a unique take on this topic.

"'An incipient causal loop is always dangerous...It can set up a resonance, and the changes of history that that produces can multiply catastrophically. The single way to make it safe is to close it. When the Worm Ouroboros is biting his own tail, he can't devour anything else.'"
-Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), p. 449.

"An incipient causal loop..." must mean a potential causal circle that needs action by the Time Patrol to complete it but what is a resonance? Carl Farness visiting the fourth century Goths has been mistaken by them for Odin. Their literature relates that Odin appeared in a battle and betrayed his followers. In the twentieth century, Everard tells Carl that he must travel back once more to enact that betrayal.

If Carl refuses, then history cannot and will not retroactively change because of his refusal. He and Everard are conversing in a timeline where the betrayal did happen and was recorded in literature. However, the first consequence of his refusal would be that the Carl who did perform the betrayal will return to the twentieth century. To prevent that duplication of himself, the Carl who is talking to Everard must travel back to the fourth century in order to be the Carl who appeared and betrayed his followers.

The second consequence might be that anyone returning from a period earlier than the fourth century could arrive in an altered timeline where the betrayal had not happened. Is this potential double consequence what is meant by "a resonance"?

5 comments:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    I've been reading your comments about the Time Patrol stories with great admiration. You have paid much more attention to the nuances and implications of how Poul Anderson wrote those tales than most readers, including myself, would have done.

    Have you ever thought of editing and collecting your notes and comments about the Time Patrol into a unified whole, a book? By now, you must have written enough about the Patrol that it would be a book in length! I do realize the number of readers who might or would be interested is too likely to be small.

    Sean

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  2. Sean,
    Thank you. I am still down on the idea of all the extra work involved in planning and drafting a book and trying to get a publisher interested in it - unless, of course, this blog got a publisher interested!
    Paul.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      True, a publisher would first need to become interested and willing to take a chance with a book likely to appeal to only a few readers. My thought was such a book would also draw together in one source your commentary on the Time Patrol stories.

      Sean

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  3. Sean,
    It is a good idea. I would like to raise the level of thinking about time travel so that we don't continue to have rubbish published, like the recent X-MEN film, but it seems to be a lost cause.
    Paul.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      I would like to see some GOOD science fictional TV shows or movies! Your comment about the X-MEN film reminded me of our discussion on how a film based on Dominic Flandry's elimination of a Merseian cell on Nyanza might be a good start for a film maker to try. At least partly because it would need fairly minimal special effects and could be made at a location like the Bahamas.

      Sean

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