Recently people around me keep bringing up the issue of time travel, pros and cons, feasibility, stuff like that, so I thought, why not? As the author of three books that include a certain amount of time traveling (and busy writing the fourth), I’m as qualified to talk about it as the next useless fantasy writer with not the faintest idea of basic physics, so I might as well compile the aspects I’ve come across.
The present is easy. Hopping between here and there in the right now doesn’t pose much of a challenge, you only need to be careful if you appear out of thin air like the Walkers in my Resident Witch stories. You might give someone a heart attack.
The past is more of a challenge. For one thing, don’t expect to travel backwards in time and come home a time traveling hero. German cartoonist Martin Perscheid (Look here for his website, it’s German only, but there’s a lot of fun to be had even so) did an excellent job in explaining the entire problem in one image. That aside, anything you do in the past may have implications on the present or even the future, ranging from minor and negligible to absolutely freaking massive. In my made-up magic community, going into the past isn’t forbidden, but it’s so frowned upon, it might as well be. The Walkers know not to touch anything, talk to anyone, or even let themselves be seen, so they usually take a Witch along to keep them invisible. The rules are: Don’t change the past, don’t bring back the dead, don’t challenge fate – and yes, fate is that exact same concept it is in real life, abstract until it kicks you in the ass and shoves your face in the dirt.
The future is the most difficult destination of them all. Why? Because it doesn’t exist. Or at least, not in a solid, written-in-stone way. The future exists only as we shape it, a malleable construct of our actions (or lack thereof) in the past and present. Right now, tomorrow is only a vague idea. You might wake up at the usual time, have breakfast and a shower, and leave for another normal day at the office. Or a random cat attack during the night might kill your alarm clock, you’ll sleep in, skip breakfast, race to work with your back still wet because you didn’t take the time to properly rub yourself dry after your hurried shower, you’ll catch a cold, start sneezing halfway through the day and get sent home by early afternoon. Trivial? Sure. But. There are thousands of other variations of tomorrow that might come to pass, not just for you, but for every single one of the billions of people out there, and not just variations of tomorrow either, but of every single hour, minute, second of every day from tomorrow on until the end of the world, and it all depends on what you – or anyone – did or didn’t do yesterday, on what you – or anyone – do or don’t do today, not to mention random incidents and accidents. Intimidating? You bet.
In My Name is not Alice, I have Amy, a young, inexperienced Walker who doesn’t know the rules, make a dash into the future. Alice’s life is threatened, and Amy sees no way how to help her best friend, so races off to see if she’s still alive in the future and can tell her how she got out of danger. She finds her, and in doing so causes a time conundrum – Alice tells her that it was her own future self who saved her. What happened? Easy. By unconsciously making her way through the random strands of possible futures onto the one that still contained Alice alive and well, Amy forced that reality into existence. If Amy hadn’t gone to ask future Alice for help, there might not have been a future Alice at all, because there might not have been anyone else to save her in the present. That way, Amy also burdened present Alice with the responsibility of making sure the present, once it had become the past, would actually happen the way it did, as in, go back and save herself. Complicated much? Yes. And it gets worse in Double Double Time and Trouble, where the desperate attempt to undo a death leads to a completely altered past and a grade A chicken/egg paradox.
Long story short: If you ever find yourself in a situation where time travel becomes a real possibility… be super careful. You’re bound to mess things up big time.