Bewildering Stories Discusses
with the Review Board and Don Webb
Two members of the Review Board discuss time travel.
“Taking Notice” and “Don’t Get Noticed”: A different approach to time travel. If I understand it rightly, according to Don, time travel is a somewhat blunt research tool.
Yes... or perhaps a knife without a handle; that is, something to be used very gingerly, if at all.
If a time traveler “gets noticed,” is a new time line created? Is that so, Don?
Yes, that’s it.
That’s why the time travellers have to be very careful not to be discovered. Interviewing Thomas Jefferson is possible, but to no avail. The result turned up somewhere else. Right?
Exactly. Going back in time and talking to Thomas Jefferson — or anybody, for that matter — may make no difference. In that case, the time traveler would return and give his report, such as it is.
But if the time traveler does cause history to be changed, he cannot return to his own time. He will remain in the new timeline at the point where it was created, where it “branches off,” so to speak.
I do not share what I see as Isaac Asimov’s aversion to time travel stories. He wrote three, as far as I know. In a comic article in Astounding Science Fiction, “Thiotimoline,” he makes it a joke; in Pebble in the Sky, he uses time travel as a once-only dramatic device; in The End of Eternity, he demolishes — as I see it — the whole concept by taking the well-known “grandfather paradox” to absurd lengths.
My solution consists in combining two principles: the elimination of paradox and a modified form of the “many worlds” hypothesis:
Paradox: When a time traveler goes back in time, he is a newcomer or outsider in the past. Therefore he can kill his own grandfather without affecting his own existence. He would create a paradox only by returning to his own time.
Many worlds: If a time traveler has “gotten noticed,” he can never return to his timeline of origin; he must remain in the one he creates. Thus, if a time traveler murders his grandfather, the paradox principle prevents him from escaping back to his own time; he has to stay and face the consequences.
The theory has an interesting corollary. A time traveler can go back in time and kill a younger version of himself. Even if he successfully hides the body and covers up all evidence of the murder, he may still have some explaining to do, such as why he’s suddenly older from one day to the next. In any event, a time traveler who carries out a nefarious scheme has to live with it; he’s stranded in the new timeline he’s created by changing history. And his colleagues in his original timeline will never know what he’s done.
Whatever, it was great reading, the academic setting is very clever.
Thank you for the kind words. As for the setting, chalk it up to “professional deformation.” Academia is sometimes a little too easy to spoof. I played it straight because I have other fish to fry.
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