Sunday, 29 July 2012

Time Travel - A Short Guide to Not Writing About It

This week the flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig was to write about time travel.

Time Travel.

Now, to be honest, I don't like time travel stories because it always feels a bit hokey to me:

"I'm in the past, I've stepped on an ant...AAARRRGHHH!"


"But if I change the future, I won't have a past! AARRRRGGHH!"

There are more variations on these themes, but I feel I've been facetious enough; there are loads of great stories out there by incredibly talented and skilled writers on this subject, but I just don't like the whole morality play/inner revelation side to these stories.

The problem is that nobody really deals in time travel, apart from the standard sci-fi trick of I have this doodad, it does time travel, please accept this... it glows when I switch it on. It is often an idea which drives a plot or creates a problem, but it rarely is explained, explored or simply wondered at by the characters in any sort of meaningful way.

There is a thought in writing circles that pain drives story and there is a lot of truth in this, but can you imagine the sheer joy of accomplishing something as magical as time travel? It would be immense.

So, erm, yeah... I didn't meet this week's challenge.

How did it go wrong (my fictional reader asks, quirking a ficitonal eyebrow, probably from the future)?

Well, I went for good, old fashioned time dilation, a story like Ender's Game where time dilation could change the experienced flow of time. It's not new, but I was going for a twist where not only was it something that happened to a group of residents on a regular basis, but that within their environment the flow of time was changing from bit to bit.

Where did I start? With the spokes of a wheel.

My city in the sky was a huge cylindrical space station, orbiting aligned along a radial from the sun, one end orbiting around the sun at one speed, the other, due to the length of the station, moving at a faster speed, for that lovely time dilation effect.

Only problem is with the silly, silly speed of light. Well, that and having to be traveling at over 90% of it in order to experience any high order dilation effects.

So, lots of cool ideas (all pretty unfeasible), a time dilation concept (which I didn't really understand) and a demanding houseguest who was willing to be pushy about me being social.

Maybe this week, I shall kick the ass out of this challenge: Antag/Protag

If you've not indulged in the Words of the Wendigo, I suggest you click the link, explore and/or buy his books. I had trouble writing 1000 words in a week, he writes that much for his website every day...before he does his actual work!

It is his day job though, so I don't mind.

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