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  • Writer's pictureGareth Williams

The Trouble with Time Travel

In my book, Needing Napoleon, the main character travels back in time in the hopes of helping Napoleon beat Wellington at the battle of Waterloo.

This raises a few questions. Firstly, can you have hindsight if you have travelled into the past? After all, the things you know haven't happened yet! Secondly, can you change the past? After all, it has already happened! Thirdly, if you can change the past, what happens to the future? After all, everything we experience is predicated on things that have already happened.

The short answer to these three issues is simple. If you get too caught up in all of that then you won't enjoy the story - unless you make them central to the story!

In my book, time travel is a one time deal. You can go but you can't come back. You have to live out the rest of your life in what you had thought of as the past. In addition, the only way to achieve time travel is to want it unconditionally. Think about it. You will never see your friends or family again. Travelling to the past means you accept the living conditions of your chosen era. Think about dentistry in the early Nineteenth century. Cholera. Smallpox. I won't go on. Suffice it to say, life expectancy is shorter. Now consider social mores. Women treated as property by the law. Slavery still prevalent in many parts of the world. A rigid social structure. For many, no prospect of anything but domestic drudgery, indentured service or unrelenting manual labour.

Of course, some of these things can provide excellent settings and twists in a plot.

Equally, the past provides a wonderful playground for plots. How much more intriguing if you know something no one else does?

My tenuous solution to the paradox of time travel is this. Anyone travelling back in time starts a new timeline. They and the effects of their presence create a parallel that has no impact on the past or present they previously experienced. Convenient!

In conclusion, if a time travel element upsets you, don't read my book.

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