Monday, November 24, 2014

Time Travel

“If you could go back in time, would you kill Hitler?” That’s a question pondered by many people who discuss the concept of time travel. But is it even possible to journey through time?

Most scientists would probably tell us that time travel is nonsense, an impossible fantasy. Then there are those who believe that it might be possible, but using the required worm hole to arrive at our destination would kill us. Hollywood has given us movies where devices were created to take us on that journey instead. However, there are a few films that suggest it’s possible through other means.

For example, in The Butterfly Effect, the character focuses on photographs which allows his mind to carry him back to a specific point in time. By doing so, he soon discovers that whenever he changes something, it has unexpected results. He then tries to fix those problems, but with each attempt, a new problem arises, sometimes much worse than the original.

Several things make this particular movie worth watching. The character doesn’t build a time machine (no disrespect to H.G. Wells, one of my favorites). He’s not a temporal agent assigned to prevent crimes. He doesn’t try to assassinate historical figures. He doesn’t try to become wealthy by winning the lottery. Instead, he’s just a regular guy trying to make a better life for himself and his friends. He just wants them all to be happy. And, most importantly, he travels using the power of his mind.

There are other movies that suggest a machine isn’t needed for time travel, but The Butterfly Effect is possibly one of my favorites because it feels the most realistic. The character’s issues with controlling his talent are eventually surmountable; whereas in other films, the ability tends to be completely unmanageable and ultimately the character’s undoing, like in The Time Traveler's Wife.

Using the mind to transport yourself somewhere else or to another time has always fascinated me, so it’s only natural that I would explore this concept in my books. Some of my characters use their thoughts to accomplish this seemingly superhuman feat. It is a gift, a talent, a skill. It is something they are born with and learn how to use and control. It’s as natural to them as walking.

Other books, like Outlander, suggest that portals can hurl people to other times. This is also more plausible to me than using anything man-made. It’s certainly an intriguing notion and one that fits neatly with string theory or the idea of a multiverse where separate universes might overlap. Do portals exist? What about other universes? Hollywood has definitely handled this possibility much better than time travel, like in the wildly popular Stargate franchise, where safe wormhole passage has been mastered.

Timeline is one of my favorite movies that does use a machine to travel through time. A wormhole is discovered that connects to a fixed location and time, and a group of archeology students are sent through it to 14th century France so they can rescue their professor who's trapped there. This story shows the consequences of using such a device, it has a nice plot twist, and the characters have to rely on their knowledge of historical events in order to survive.

Of course, there are movies that offer a humorous take on the misadventures of time travel, like Hot Tub Time Machine and the classic Back To The Future trilogy, which are just for fun. Another favorite of mine, despite the cheesy acting, is a serious love story where the character also travels back in time using only the power of thought: Somewhere in Time. Mixed in with the drama and the comedy are what I consider the bad action movies that fail miserably in their attempts to incorporate a time travel theme, which is pretty much the rest of what’s out there.

So what if we don’t need devices or worm holes to travel through time?

What if we all have that ability and we just don’t know it? Maybe one day we’ll discover this hidden gift. If we do, will we hone the skill and use it for good or for evil? Would temporal agents become a necessity? Would it change our perception of reality or would we perhaps all merely begin living in our own unique realities?

Where would you go if you could travel through time and what would you do when you got there?

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