Any author who sets out to write a time travel novel knows that he or she is entering a very crowded field. From HG Wells to Back To the Future (and every episode of Doctor Who) every possible variation on the theme seems to have been explored. Yet writers keep at it, always coming up with new twists. Recently there was Looper, a Hollywood thriller which imagined a world with no capital punishment where convicts were sent back to the past for execution. Then there was About Time, Richard Curtis’s charming rom-com in which his hero gets endless second chances to woo a girl by using previously accumulated foreknowledge.
In fact, when you think about it, the potential repercussions of time travel are as varied and as endless as time itself. Which is why I’m having a crack at it with my novel Time and Time Again. I am fascinated by history and time travel gives me a chance to rewrite it. Who hasn’t wanted to do that? In the story, a shadowy group of conspirators from the future send an agent back to 1914 in an effort to prevent the Great War. Believe me the possible causes of World War One are almost as many as time travel itself. It was only last year that Michael Gove who was then Education secretary seemed to be trying to blame the whole thing on Blackadder Goes Forth! (I’ve been accused of a lot of things in my time but the destruction of European civilisation was a first.)
Time and Time Again is definitely historical and not science fiction but that didn’t stop me having plenty of fun with the logical conundrums associated with the time travel theme. The famous grandfather paradox for instance which points out that if a time traveller were to go back in time and kill an ancestor he would never be born meaning he could not go back in time and so the ancestor would live, meaning that he would be born and thus able to go back in time and kill the ancestor…… you get the idea.
Complete nonsense of course but I did want my time travel model to be as convincing and consistent as I could make it so as not to detract from the credibility of the historical fantasy. I read a lot about the subject both as fiction and as science. (Yes, there is some actual science, at least at a sub atomic level, involving something called a closed timelike curve and quantum mechanics.)
I came up with the idea of a secret protocol hidden in Newton’s Principia. Newton of course famously described the effect of gravity on physical mass and it wasn’t until Einstein and the Theory of Relativity that anybody thought gravity might influence time. I imagine in my story that Newton made this further leap of the imagination but supressed the knowledge because he was fearful that it might cause chaos. The conspirators in my story are hoping to bring order to the 20th Century by rewriting its chaotic beginnings.
Will they succeed against Newton’s better judgement?
Only time will tell.