by Raymond M. Coulombe
Time travel stories are a Science Fiction staple, but what is time travel? There are some popular general categories and most writers put their own spin on it anyway. However, you need a starting point.
There are stories where even the slightest little disturbance alters the timeline with disastrous results. Our time traveler exits the time machine, steps on a bug and accidentally destroys a whole line of evolution with horrible results. The timeline is shown to be very fragile. This type of time travel story works best as short story. It’s hard to make a good book length story when the slightest mistake ends everything.
Then there are time travel stories where the timeline is much more robust. It takes real effort to seriously alter the past. The vast majority of changes get erased as the timeline moves forward. There are a lot more opportunities for stuff to happen with this type of timeline. There can be opposing groups fighting for their vision of the timeline. Poul Anderson was a master of that type of story. I recommend “There Will be Time,” of my favorite time travel stories.
Another trope in time travel is that there’s always been time travel. Nothing you do in the past changes the present. The reason no one every goes back in time to kill Hitler is that even if they tried, it never worked out.
Oh yeah, it’s become somewhat of a joke that the first thing everyone does when they invent a time machine is to go back to kill Hitler.
More recently writers have tied in parallel worlds and time travel. The idea behind parallel worlds is that every decision you make splits off a new world. Once you time travel, that splits off a new world. The timeline you create from changing the past does not affect your home timeline as it creates a new parallel world. That can be loads of fun.
Time travel stories have been a Science Fiction staple for years, but there is still plenty of good ore in that vein. Good thing as it gives History majors something to do with their degree.