Saturday, 25 July 2015

Space Travel And Time Travel

HG Wells described a single round trip to the Moon in The First Men In The Moon. Robert Heinlein described the financing of the first trip to the Moon in "The Man Who Sold The Moon," then went on to describe regular interplanetary travel in The Green Hills Of Earth.

Wells described a single round trip to the far future in The Time Machine. Poul Anderson described the consequences of the future discovery of time travel in "Time Patrol," then went on to describe regular time travel in the Time Patrol series.

However, regular time travel is considerably more difficult to describe than is regular space travel. There are many space-based series but few time-based series. Substantial though Anderson's Time Patrol series is, it barely scratches the surface of its subject. Time Patrol Specialists spend years or decades in unrecorded periods. Unattached agents travel to whenever they are needed. But what of those later and higher civilizations that send scientists and tourists into the past? We would like to read a series of novels set in such a civilization, when journeys to 1,000,000 BC are as routine as are journeys to Mars for Heinlein's Space Patrol.

The Time Patrol is the police force of several successive time traveling civilizations so there must be stories to be told about those civilizations where, presumably, the Patrol is able to recruit openly instead of approaching prospects discretely and obliquely as it has to do in the earlier periods when the fact of time travel is kept secret.

We could also be told about the interstellar civilization in which the Nine discovered time travel, about the Nine themselves and about the Danellian intervention that prevented the Nine from changing history and established the Patrol. However, this is much more than any one author could have written and I think that experience shows that group approaches to writing sf series do not work well. This would be even more the case with a subject matter that needs to be as finely tuned as time travel, especially in a variable timeline.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree, it would be very difficult, and more likely than not to fail, to have a group of authors writing time time travel stories or other kinds of SF in the same "timeline." I do think some multi author SF series have worked, such as the stories using Larry Niven's Man/Kzin wars "universe." But that was probably at least in part due to Larry Niven being able to supervise how they used his Man/Kzin wars world. Writers who have died, such as Poul Anderson, could not do that.