Friday, April 25, 2014
Theory and Practice
Warning: this post may contain spoilers for Millennium Crash (though hopefully not for future books in the series) and I recommend reading the book first.
Also be warned that this shows the ‘sausage-making’ aspect of writing the book, which some of you may not want to know about.
Having developed the future world the time-travelers came from, I needed to understand how that time travel worked, both the underlying theory and the mechanics of it. Both would play a large role in their stories. (This is a part of the environment, or economy, of Watchbearers.)
For the theory, I simply went with what I think – that should time travel be possible, there would be no difference between traveling into the future or the past. Because the so-called arrow of time is merely a product of our limited perception.
Time doesn’t move at all. It’s a fixed geography just like space. (It’s not called space-time for no reason.) This means paradoxes and causal loops are a fundamental part of the structure of these stories – which makes them difficult to write.
Then there were the practical aspects. Some of how the time travel devices operate has yet to be revealed. (And obviously some of it will never be, because it’s fiction, not reality.) But essentially, the main travel devices (the professor’s and the leaders’) create an alignment between two different points in space-time and also a field that allows the wearer to slip from the one point to the other. (Not in the blink of an eye –it happens much faster than that, but it takes a lot longer for human senses to process the transition.)
Since this was a research expedition and different people had different levels of responsibility, it made sense that the different devices would be programmed to reflect that. While the professor’s watch allowed him to establish a connection between any two points in space-time, the three leaders’ devices were programmed to materialize them in the same physical location they left from, and limited to three years’ travel in temporal distance. And the helpers’ devices were programmed only to generate a sympathetic field that would travel them to co-ordinates set by another device.
Other functions of these travel devices flowed from what the travelers would need.
Since their intention was to spend most of their time in the decades preceding and following the year 2000, the devices were made to look and operate like digital watches. To be unobtrusive. And since they expected to spend a fair amount of time in one location, the watches were made to recharge slowly off the natural electrical energy generated by the wearer.
Another important function of these devices was the locator app that could ping off other devices to help the travelers find one another. And one key capability programmed into these watches was an app that could generate a daily alphanumeric code allowing the research leaders to access contemporary funds to finance their work.
Knowing how things had been prepared to deal with expected difficulties, I then had what I needed to start the story off right – with things going wrong in spectacularly unanticipated ways.
Next: Part 3 – Starting Right