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Time Travel Story That Keeps Brewing In My Head....


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It's beyond me to write it, but a story that keeps brewing away in the back of my head is the old "What if this went back in time!?" OK, so we've all seen Back to the Future 2 and seen the damage that one little sports Almanac can do.

 

But for some reason I keep wondering what would happen if you could nominate a whole CITY to go back in time. Imagine some mad scientist demonstrates a time travel field that could be projected around objects and send them back in time (and space relative to the same position on the earth of course). Imagine this mad scientist informs your favourite city that he has 'fired' the device. The time distortion field will hit your favourite city in about 6 months and then shoot it back 2000 years.

 

Would most of the city just evacuate?

 

Would the governments of the world decide it was all too risky and they'd strip it bare, not wanting to give advanced technology to, say, the Romans? Would they just nuke the city and then bulldoze the rubble even flatter, removing any evidence of modern tech?

 

Or would they take this as the next great journey into an alternate time-line?

 

Who would go for the ride?

 

What would you take?

 

What would happen to the sociology of that city thrown back 2000 years? What supply issues would it have being suddenly independent of the modern world? What would the first priorities be? What would these modern people decide to do differently? Would they avoid the whole fossil fuel era? What would they want to change in history? What ethical issues would they face?

 

What would you want to see happen in such a story?

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What would you take?

 

Assuming there are no causality paradox issues...

 

I think the most important item to pack would be a time machine to get 'back to the future' ;) Other than that, I guess a nuclear power plant with plenty of fuel would be nice since coal and oil would run out quick. The power grid would also have to be redesigned to be entirely local before the trip. On that note, it would be a good idea to move regional cell phone and land line switching boards locally, as well as water and sewage treatment facilities.

 

One possibly large problem that would concern me is the exchange of disease. I don't know for sure, but there are probably a whole bunch of diseases that we carry around without much problem that would wipe out most of the ancient world since they wouldn't have had time to slowly develop an immunity to them. Modern strains of influenza, for example, might be like smallpox was to the Native Americans. Likewise, the town's inhabitants would themselves be exposed to smallpox and polio and whatever else that would suddenly no longer be eradicated—so that would be a good thing to prepare for.

 

Experts in ancient languages would be good to bring along. Not all non-renewable resources could be gotten locally so trips to other parts of the world might end up being necessary. For example, the town's inhabitant's might one day decide that they need rubber from rubber trees or some certain plant from Asia to produce some particular medication. Language experts would be most helpful with that sort of thing.

 

More than that, I guess manufacturing facilities, farming equipment, weapons, mining equipment (for example, mining the raw materials for fertilizer might be important to sustain a large city. That type of thing can't be recycled).

 

Uhhh.... yeah, that's all I got.

 

What were you thinking?

 

~modest

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Yes to everything but why not have a glasshouse full of rubber trees? Why not think in terms of collecting all the useful biodiversity one might need before the trip, such as all your favourite meats like cattle, chooks, pigs, etc and spud varieties and wheat and rice varieties.

 

Triple redundancies of everything biological and technological. EG: If it is an American or even Australian city that is going to be shot back in time, do they have a silicon chip manufacturing plant? I guess the point is the sheer interconnectedness of the '10,000 mile supply line' that is the modern production line. Everything relies on components that come from everywhere. We've almost forgotten the word "warehouse".

 

Then as you said there is the ethical issues in disease vectors, land rights etc. It's so convenient that we only really developed a conscience about these things after they occurred.

 

So I guess the book hinges on this one question: are the city war-mongering Nazi's that want to expand out as fast as they can and impose ORDER on the ancient world, and for the first time achieve a global government, whatever the cost? Or are they more peaceful traders that want to empower the ancient world with promises of god-like future technologies and medicines, if only they will sign up to some kind of non-aggression accord?

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I love your concept.

 

It's not easy coming up with an idea that stretches ones imagination, so full credit to you for doing that. Maybe there's a writer in you somewhere.

 

If you do give it a go, I'll put you on to a site where people can help you.

 

I am currently researching scenarios for my sequel to 'The Perfects', which is set fifteen years into the future(after the fall-out), It's the same premise as yours except it's 2027. Man is gradually coming to the surface to prepare for a new world.

 

I am looking at where they would start...maybe building energy plants, water purification plants, gardens for growing herbal plants etc etc...It's fascinating stuff because they already have the knowledge and the know how, they just have to start from scratch and make use of the resources available to them after complete nuclear wipe-out.

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Hi Eclipse Now,

 

Would the governments of the world decide it was all too risky and they'd strip it bare, not wanting to give advanced technology to, say, the Romans? Would they just nuke the city and then bulldoze the rubble even flatter, removing any evidence of modern tech?

 

Here's how Plato would have put it.

 

and Solon/Socrates talked to the ancient Spanish priests after wandering in the desert and they told him that if his states motto was 'En Dios Confiamos' and he had the option of either travelling back to the time when the son was killed and not do anything, or eat the poisoned desert and wait for the comet, he should probably take the poison.

 

I prefer the Red Dwarf (English cult comedy series) version like in the episode 'Who shot JFK'. The Red Dwarf crew went back to the past and accidentally tipped Lee Harvey out the window before he could assassinate JFK and, despite many attempts, couldn't make history re happen again. The solution was brilliant, they kidnapped future JFK and showed him what would happen to the world if he wasn't killed (something like what we have now actually) so the man on the grassy knoll was JFK and he walked off straight after.

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Would most of the city just evacuate?

I imagine most of the people in the city would evacuate. People tend to be cautious, and how many people would take a mad - or even a sane - scientist's assurances that the TTM will work as claimed, rather than just horribly annihilating everybody withing its field?

 

Some people, however, will jump at the opportunity to travel back two thousand years. For some historians, the chance to directly observe what really occurred then will be irresistible (think Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man). For some humanitarians, the chance to prevent great human suffering will compel them to effort (think L. Sprague de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall). Fair Hordes of people who feel they were born in the wrong era (think SCAdians) will be champing at the bit for the chance to be a real gladiator, legionnaire, wandering minstrel, or what have you.

 

And there are bound to be some entrepreneurs drawn to the prospect of the vast unclaimed lands and resources of a world with only about two hundred million people in it - or, if they're targeting the Americas, perhaps only a few tens or hundreds of thousands.

 

People concerned with overpopulation may start thinking how many people and provisions could be crammed into the city just before departure, and among people facing a future of poverty, lack of nutrition, and overcrowding, there'd be no shortage of volunteers for a trip to a nearly empty world.

 

All these motives, you'll note, preclude staying put in the city from tomorrow after it arrives in AD eleven-ish (assuming the story is set in the present to very near future). The city is less of a dwelling place than a vessel, to be disembarked from upon arrival.

 

Would the governments of the world decide it was all too risky and they'd strip it bare, not wanting to give advanced technology to, say, the Romans? Would they just nuke the city and then bulldoze the rubble even flatter, removing any evidence of modern tech?

Being a time travel story, of course there's a paradox here.

 

History couldn't fail to record the appearance of a well-prepared modern city in the First century AD, so if the powers that be stock up the city with personnel and material, it's a near certainty that the past into which its going isn't ours, so the whole happening is guaranteed grandfather paradox proof. On the other hand, a very carefully demolished and denuded modern city would appear indistinguishable to history from a empty swath of land. Assuming the mad scientist won't tip his hand and give lectures on the detailed physics of his machine, there's sure to be a frantic effort to comb the environs of the to-be-zapped city for some anachronistic relics - say the remains of a two-thousand-year-old iPod, or something less dramatic, like a two-thousand-year-old ball point pen or Yale lock key. Along with this effort, there's bound to be some people doing there best to produce a convincing forgeries of an anachronistic relic, and people doing there best to catch such forgeries.

 

Whatever will happen?! :)

 

It'd be a poor student of present day history who imagined law and money wouldn't figure in the story. Assuming a militarized government or three don't suspend regular civil law and (try) to take over, the combination of all those people who own property in the City and don't want to go and those who don't and do make for a seller's market like none seen before. There will surely be speculators - people who buy City property with the intent to resell it - some of whom will make fortunes, some lose them, all with an interest in keeping the government out of their business.

 

What would you take?

That would depend on what my plans were, and I hope I've made a decent case that peoples' plans could be pretty diverse. Regardless of my motives, though, a big decision has to be made, whether to attempt to maintain something like our present day technical/industrial base, with electronics, communication, and the like, or whether to plan for something more modest. Where the City is makes a big difference - if it's in North America, it's reasonable to suppose we wouldn't need more than a modest army (and pragmatic moral sensibilities) to keep the few locals from coveting and somehow getting our nifty stuff. If it's on the Italian peninsula, and taking a sizable fraction of a modern nuclear-armed military is off the table (or perhaps even if it isn't), some careful diplomacy will be required. Regardless of the continent, we'll need not just stuff - medical stuff to handle germ troubles, manufacturing stuff to establish whatever industrial base we plan, and, of course, a hundred or so copies of everything ever written up to our time of departure on some dense but sturdy media - but superbly trained, flexible-minded people, soldiers, diplomats, administrators, and who-knows what other professions.

 

Setting aside all these thoughtful musings, my personal must-have list would include a ocean crossing-capable aircraft, something built along the lines of a powered sailplane but with room for 6+ and gear, all the photovoltaic power possible, and a wonder-of-modern-technology lightweight steam engine capable of burning anything that can burn. Though tooling about in such a thing in the first Century is likely as not to wind up getting me burned, the romantic adventurer in me couldn't live without it. :)

 

What would you want to see happen in such a story?

I'd like to see the City land in first Century central America, and forearmed with its knowledge of the utter calamity that befell indigenous Americans from the 16th through the 20th century, make contact with the old world on utterly equitable terms. I'd be guilty of plagiarism if I didn't mention a time travel story (no whole traveling City in this one, just the usual few "time agents") with essentially this plot: Orson Scot Card's 1996 (and IMHO greatly under-appreciated) Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus.

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Hi CraigD,

People concerned with overpopulation may start thinking how many people and provisions could be crammed into the city just before departure, and among people facing a future of poverty, lack of nutrition, and overcrowding, there'd be no shortage of volunteers for a trip to a nearly empty world.

 

All these motives, you'll note, preclude staying put in the city from tomorrow after it arrives in AD eleven-ish (assuming the story is set in the present to very near future). The city is less of a dwelling place than a vessel, to be disembarked from upon arrival.

You've put it so well! That's the call isn't it — a massive, unclaimed, unspoilt world.

 

History couldn't fail to record the appearance of a well-prepared modern city in the First century AD

I like you're thinking. If New York were the target city about to "depart" would archaeologists discover ancient iPod's if they went to dig there? Great sideline. But here's the thing... if the city does jump back with modern science, who is to say that the 'present' as we know it wouldn't suddenly change in the blink of an eye to reveal enormous space elevators and a colonised solar system, maybe even a Dyson sphere?

 

Unless of course one is a fan of the multiverse as displayed in the mind-bending sequel to HGWells Time Machine!

(Not quite sure what this cover has to do with the actual plot, but there you go!)

 

It'd be a poor student of present day history who imagined law and money wouldn't figure in the story. Assuming a militarized government or three don't suspend regular civil law and (try) to take over, the combination of all those people who own property in the City and don't want to go and those who don't and do make for a seller's market like none seen before. There will surely be speculators - people who buy City property with the intent to resell it - some of whom will make fortunes, some lose them, all with an interest in keeping the government out of their business.

I just don't think in such terms, and yet it is the sort of detail that 'rings true' for the 6 months before departure. Awesome! This is where some epic stories need multiple inputs. But now that you've opened up this line of inquiry, my brainstorming has kicked in and asked about the world economy. Would panic set in? Would world stock-markets crash? Would this create an existential debate about the viability of this entire time-line?

 

Remember that sense of 'what's the point' after 9/11? Many of my Australian mates report this bizarre sense of being disconnected from their work in the weeks after 9/11. How would an existential threat to the WHOLE WORLD play out?

 

EG: Would nations go to war over owning this 'spot' on the planet before departure to ensure THEIR way of life and culture ruled the world? Would they send spies in, like the ultimate sleeper agents? Would there be last minute invasions of crack-troops?

Setting aside all these thoughtful musings, my personal must-have list would include a ocean crossing-capable aircraft, something built along the lines of a powered sailplane but with room for 6+ and gear, all the photovoltaic power possible, and a wonder-of-modern-technology lightweight steam engine capable of burning anything that can burn. Though tooling about in such a thing in the first Century is likely as not to wind up getting me burned, the romantic adventurer in me couldn't live without it. :)

In that case, a few nuclear powered battle-groups and a core of engineers to quickly create airstrips around the globe!

 

Thanks for sharing Pastwatch. I've long been a fan of Card and the Ender's Game series. I'll have to check it out. But just as when I used to play Civilisation the evil Nazi in me calls out to see the modern world explode exponentially across the ancient world. I've been captured by this idea ever since historian Geoffry Blaimey said that the Ancient Greeks had everything they needed for an Industrial Revolution except the need, as they used slaves to provide their manpower. The Sci-Fi geek in me immediately asked, 'What if they had Industrialised? Would Alexander and his descendants have conquered the globe? Would we have Fusion by now? Would we have the solar system?'

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If I understand Chaos and Catastrophe Theories properly:

 

They say that a Butterfly in Jamaica can flap its wings and cause a Hurricane in South Carolina.

 

That is misleading.....

 

It isn't that some Butterflies are fortuitously located on Extreme Cusps, and thus able to greatly effect the Future.

 

No, No!

 

Things are always so precariously balanced that moving a single Butterfly; or Grain of Sand or even a Single Atom--so much as a Hair's Width--will set an entirely new Time Stream into motion--and you won't have to wait that long either.

 

Climate won't change rapidly, but the day-to-day expression of Climate will.

 

Consider the people "Fated" to be born in your Timeline.....

 

Billions of Sperm Racing to fertilize one Egg.

 

If you can move either Parent as much as a Millimeter at the instant of ejaculation, another Sperm is almost certain to win.

 

50% of the time, you'll change the Sex of the Child, when another Sperm wins. In all cases, you'll have a different individual.

 

He will cry on a different schedule, have different favorite foods, make different friends.

 

And remember--even one tear drop has more than enough "Juice" to cause whole Future Empires to rise and fall--given the leverage of centuries or millennia to operate.

 

A Time Traveller who went back twenty years and only stayed long enough to Spit on the Sidewalk, Throw a Brick into the Ocean--or just impede the flow of air momentarily--would return to a very different World than he'd left.....

 

Though he should recognize it.

 

Go back 120 years, or 1200 years and Spit--and you may very well not recognize the World of 2012. If you went back 1200 Years, there may not even be a recognizable English Language when you return to 2012.

 

There are a few Theoretical ways around this:

 

#1} Paradoxes simply can't happen--Takes much of the Phun out of Time Travel Stories.

 

#2} Time has a sort of "Gyroscopic Stability"--you can throw it off course briefly, but within a few years of the disturbance, its somehow returned to its "Destined" Path.

 

How Nit-Picky is "Destiny"?

 

The English Language and the United States of America {Just for Instance} might be "Destined"--you and anyone you knew may not have been. Your new 2012 "Home" may have all the 50 States; your hometown may have all the same Streets.....

 

But William Howard may be on the Dollar Bill--he was the first US President; the streets--and States--may all have new names--and like I say, 2012 is proceeding with a Whole New Cast--none of whom have ever heard of you.

 

#3} There is 5-Dimensional Time as well as 4-Dimensional Time.

 

Get away from the Skull-Cracking "Every Possible Timeline Exists--Many World's Interpretation"

 

Every Possible World Doesn't exist.....

 

But when someone or something travels against the prevailing direction of 4-D Time, and "Changes Things"; the Tree branches in the 5th Dimension.

 

I'm working on the idea {For a Story} that there is a kind of "Drift"; and that once you travel backwards in time, you can never return to your exact starting point.....

 

And every trip causes you to drift further from your starting point.

 

2012' May be only marginally different from your home in 2012--but every Minute; Day; and Year that goes by, the farther the (') Timeline will diverge from your True timeline--and that somehow you sense this--and feel Homesick.

 

Go back again, and not only will you never be able to get back to 2012 again; but you won't even be able to get back to 2012' ever again.

 

And 2012" will differ from 2012 even more than 2012' did.

 

The determined Time Traveller may indeed find himself in an Alternate Reality where English--or even Latin or Ancient Greek was never spoken; Where there are no Pyramids or Stonehenge--

 

Maybe even where Neanderthals exterminated Modern Humans way back when.....

 

{And while it takes longer--and changes can't, presumably, travel faster than light.....

 

Misplacing a single atom will change the whole Evolution of the Solar System; Galaxy; Known Universe.}

 

Saxon Violence

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One of my favorite Movies is based on something similar. "The Final Countdown" Starring Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen, it's about the Nuclear powered and armed aircraft carrier Nimitz being transported back to December 7 1941 by a natural phenomena.

 

Yeah, that's one of my dad's favourite movies. It has the immortal quote of Kirk Douglas standing on the bridge commanding...

 

"Splash the zero!"

 

There's no ifs or buts about it. Just splash it.

 

Now, I've been reading the Time Odyssey trilogy by Arthur C Clark and Stephen Baxter.

In the Time Odyssey series, not-so-benevolent godlike aliens start an endless mission to regulate the development of sentient life in the Universe, in order to prevent all other species from harnessing too much of its energy, which would only accelerate the inevitable entropic death of the Universe, thus rendering sentient life impossible at the end of the universe. Consequently, these "Firstborn" are destroying other intelligent species. To preserve a record of these eradicated species, the Firstborn create a new alternate universe containing the species' homeworld in different time periods. This preservation sub-universe is the main plot of the first book, "Time's Eye." Time periods in Earth's history are taken and re-assembled. The periods seem to date from 2-and-a-half-million years ago to 8 June 2037. Characters caught up in this include Bisesa from 2037, Rudyard Kipling from 1885, the hordes of Genghis Khan from the 13th century and the army of Alexander the Great from the 4th century B.C. This "patchwork" earth is later re-christened Mir, Russian for Peace and World. The second book opens with Bisesa being taken from Mir and placed in her London flat on 9 June 2037. The second book follows the building of the Shield to 20 April 2042; to the opening of the first space elevator in 2047. The last book switches between Mir - years 32 to 35 - and Earth - A.D. 2069 to 2072.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Time_Odyssey

 

In other words, in the first book Genghis Khan ends up chasing down Alexander the Great who has fortified the ancient tower of Babel, with a modern soldier studying an alien artefact that appeared right in the middle of the gold statue of the Babylonian God Marduk. Although confusing, the plot built to this grand battle between the forces of barbarianism and civilisation itself.

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One of my favorite Movies is based on something similar. "The Final Countdown" Starring Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen, it's about the Nuclear powered and armed aircraft carrier Nimitz being transported back to December 7 1941 by a natural phenomena.

That’s one of my favorites, too. I loved the aircraft photography, which captured choreographed mock dogfights between F-14s and what I believed until researching a bit for this post to be restored Zeros. (They were actually T-6 trainers that were modified to look like Zeros for a movie made 10 years before, Tora! Tora! Tora! – thanks to the internet, I’ve learned something new :))

 

When it first saw Final Countdown, in 1980, I was deep into gaming, and a community of gamers. We paid little mind to the story’s time travel themes, and more to the tactical question of if and how a single Nimitz class carrier and its aircraft could defeat the entire Japanese strike force approaching Pearl Harbor 6 Dec 1941. By any sane analysis, it certainly could (it has more advanced anti-ship missiles than the strike force has ships, and the ability to launch them without even being seen by WWII-era lookout technology) without needing any unusual tactics, but if you know gamers, you know their analysis is often something other than sane. ;)

 

As are most movies made with extensive help of a military, Final Countdown is to a large extent a recruiting film, not a serious speculative fiction. The theme’s been more seriously treated in military SF stories and novels.

 

One I’ve read is the John Birmingham’s Axis of Time trilogy, in which an entire multinational naval task force of transported from 2021 to 1942. I found it interesting, because it considers the long term-implications, such as both sides in WWII getting access to 2021 technology, the inability to immediately resupply and repair the 2021 equipment, etc., but suffers IMHO from many of the clichés of military SF.

 

Final Countdown’s wikipedia page mentions an anime, Zipang about a single present-day (but fictional, being an imagined enhancement of a real class of Japanese destroyers, the Kongo class) AIGIS destroyer accidentally traveling through time to the eve of the Battle of Midway. It’s such an interesting premise, I’ve gotta watch at least a few episodes, showing that while I’ve been out of the gaming world for decades, it’s not altogether out of me. :)

 

These movies and books differ from this thread’s topic in that they involve accidental, not planned, time travel, but the two SF sub-genres are closely related.

 

Now, I've been reading the Time Odyssey trilogy by Arthur C Clark and Stephen Baxter.

Thank’s, EN. Clark was and Stephen Baxter is a great SF author, whom I’ve made an effort to read completely, but missed these. They’re on my list now.

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That’s one of my favorites, too. I loved the aircraft photography, which captured choreographed mock dogfights between F-14s and what I believed until researching a bit for this post to be restored Zeros. (They were actually T-6 trainers that were modified to look like Zeros for a movie made 10 years before, Tora! Tora! Tora! – thanks to the internet, I’ve learned something new :))

 

When it first saw Final Countdown, in 1980, I was deep into gaming, and a community of gamers. We paid little mind to the story’s time travel themes, and more to the tactical question of if and how a single Nimitz class carrier and its aircraft could defeat the entire Japanese strike force approaching Pearl Harbor 6 Dec 1941. By any sane analysis, it certainly could (it has more advanced anti-ship missiles than the strike force has ships, and the ability to launch them without even being seen by WWII-era lookout technology) without needing any unusual tactics, but if you know gamers, you know their analysis is often something other than sane. ;)

 

As are most movies made with extensive help of a military, Final Countdown is to a large extent a recruiting film, not a serious speculative fiction. The theme’s been more seriously treated in military SF stories and novels.

 

One I’ve read is the John Birmingham’s Axis of Time trilogy, in which an entire multinational naval task force of transported from 2021 to 1942. I found it interesting, because it considers the long term-implications, such as both sides in WWII getting access to 2021 technology, the inability to immediately resupply and repair the 2021 equipment, etc., but suffers IMHO from many of the clichés of military SF.

 

Final Countdown’s wikipedia page mentions an anime, Zipang about a single present-day (but fictional, being an imagined enhancement of a real class of Japanese destroyers, the Kongo class) AIGIS destroyer accidentally traveling through time to the eve of the Battle of Midway. It’s such an interesting premise, I’ve gotta watch at least a few episodes, showing that while I’ve been out of the gaming world for decades, it’s not altogether out of me. :)

 

These movies and books differ from this thread’s topic in that they involve accidental, not planned, time travel, but the two SF sub-genres are closely related.

 

 

Thank’s, EN. Clark was and Stephen Baxter is a great SF author, whom I’ve made an effort to read completely, but missed these. They’re on my list now.

 

 

The Nimitz against the entire Japanese fleet....easy peasy... One nuclear tipped cruse missile and no more Japanese fleet....

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