Lovely, wonderful Michael got me his post well on time. The fact this is happening on Sunday instead of Friday might possibly have something to do with me spending a weekend at the lake without any kind of internets.
Anyway, gorge the eyestalks.
You know what’s awesome? Time travel is awesome. I love time travel stories! When done right, they can offer an in depth look at a setting and its characters from multiple perspectives in a short amount of in-universe time.
Groundhog Day is a great, light hearted introduction to this style of story. If you aren’t familiar with the movie, basically Bill Murray’s smarmy character is trapped in a town during Groundhog Day and forced to relive the same day again and again. Not even death is an escape for him, as he simply wakes up in bed the next day.
Why does he repeat the same day again and again? How does this time loop work? Why is it centered on Bill Murray’s character? We never get the answer to these questions in the movie; and why should we? Those questions aren’t what the story is about. The movie is really about the growth that the setting forces on Bill Murray’s character and the people he meets and gets to know along the way.
Part of what I love about Groundhog Day is how over the course of the movie, you see Bill Murray interact with several minor background characters who you might not give much thought to if you saw them walking down the street, but Bill Murray has all the time in the world to get to know the personal life stories of everyone in town and so do we as the viewers.
But finally we come to my favorite sort of time travel story: the structured time travel story. Now, don’t take that to mean that other time travel stories aren’t structured, but rather it’s the type of story that spends an (often non-trivial) amount of time laying down the rules of how time travel works before the characters go and muck things up and then either have to deal with the consequences of their actions or figure out how to work within the rules to set things right. One example of this is the 2004 movie Primer, which I adore, but it’s a very difficult movie to follow specifically because of how it doesn’t hold your hand as characters are bending the fabric of space-time to their whims. Therefore, I won’t spend more time on it other than to recommend it to you.
Another lovely example of this sort of story is Steins;Gate, a visual novel (which itself is a topic I could easily write a whole blog post about) and the inspiration for this post. In this game, a group of friends accidentally invent a time machine and spend the first half of the game experimenting with it and learning the rules of the system only to find themselves in a horrible trap of their own design.
Time travel stories are captivating and have so much more to offer than what I’ve written about here. If you’re usually turned off to Sci-Fi involving time travel I hope you’ll be intrigued to seek out recommendations of stories that are lighter on the time travel and bigger on character driven interactions. If you’ve never thought about using time travel elements in your stories before, then consider it as a specialized tool for certain settings that let you show similar (or even the same) events from an evolving perspective as your viewpoint character learns more and more about the plot of a story. Time travel, I submit to you all, is awesome.