Thursday, 24 September 2015

Problems With Tenses

I continued to read KW Jeter's Morlock Night partly because of its lavish style and partly because there is always the hope of an original contribution to time travel fiction. In the latter case, it would have been possible either to compare or to contrast this new work with the major contributions of Poul Anderson and of others who have been mentioned.

However, I cannot take Morlock Night seriously either as a sequel to The Time Machine or as any other kind of time travel novel. It was written as part of a projected series about successive historical reincarnations of King Arthur yet this fact is concealed in the blurb.

In the text, Merlin, no less, states:

"'The year 1892 has become the hole through which the Sea of Time is leaking away. Even as we sit here the events of the years before and after this date are blurring into our own time. If the process is not halted and reversed, soon all Time from the Earth's beginning to its end will run together into one year, then contract into a single day, a minute, second, then - like that! Blink out of existence. Leaving that dark, timeless desert you found yourself in.'"
KW Jeter, Morlock Night (Oxford, 2011), p. 70-71.

Poul Anderson mentions some "...blink[ing] out of spacetime..." ("Delenda Est" IN Time Patrol, p. 204) but nothing on this scale:

"...1892 has become..." (my emphasis). 1892 is a period of time. But we are supposed to accept that there was a time before it had become a hole and that this conversation is occurring at a time after it has become a hole.

" we sit here the events of the years before and after this date are..." (my emphasis). Thus, at this moment, events that occurred before this moment and events that will happen after this moment are undergoing a process.

How can events from earlier and later times "blur into" the present time? Along what temporal axis does this "blurring" process occur? 

Need I go on? (I cannot read any more.)

1 comment:

David Birr said...

In a way, what Jeter describes reminds me of the situation in Ian Wallace's *Dr. Orpheus*, in which a certain event makes the next five years of Earth's history SO very predetermined that in effect, they take place simultaneously -- five years pass on Earth while for the rest of the universe, including a space fleet orbiting Earth, it's still the day that the events began.

What's the saying: "Time is what keeps everything from happening at once"? In *Dr. Orpheus", it DOES all happen at once -- but only for people on Earth.

Wallace wrote stuff that could really mess with your head. I read *Croyd*, to which *Dr. Orpheus* is a sequel, and thought it was complex and mind-bending. Then I read *Dr. Orpheus*, and realized *Croyd* was (by comparison) very straightforward and easy to understand.