Monday, 5 September 2016

Time Travel: CanCon 2015

I learned about the Conference on Canadian Content in Literature in 2013. I blogged about it that year, and then again when I returned in 2014. I went in 2015 as well, again got distracted by life, and started this post in February of 2016 (between Semester 1 and 2). Didn’t get very far... so now I’m back at it less than a week before CanCon 2016.

Let’s see how much I can pull together from the schedule and my cryptic handwritten notes. This post will be the panel “Why Do We Love Time Travel Stories?”, partly because I separated out the CanCon Time Travel panel in 2014, partly because it was the only panel I attended on the first day (October 30th, 2015), but largely because Time Travel always deserves it's own post.


PANEL: Matthew, Cenk, Su, Agnes and Christina

The panelists were Su Sokol, Cenk Gokce, Matthew Johnson, Agnes Cadieux, with Christina Vasilevski as moderator. The post will be split up according to the questions that were addressed... since that's how I recorded them.

1. Time Travel as someone ‘then’ experiences modern day?
-Depends on when and where. Middle ages was symbolic. Things happening for a reason.
-Consider our mental technology (framework) to see the world. What’s the PURPOSE of technology? “Internet is like a library” seen as less so to others if stories are more of an oral tradition.
-Structurally, humans didn’t look the same in other times. Shorter, different bone structure, heavyset. Didn’t have medical interventions.
-To future from our time, you’ll likely be an idiot. (“Wall-E” movie, floaty blobs)
-Small details may be overlooked. “Time And Again” (Jack Finney, 1970) a story where future tech was fine, but silhouette ART was puzzling.

2. Time travel models?
-More realistic time travel is “the slow way”. People waiting for the travellers to arrive. Changed biology.
-A single story is easier to be consistent. No way that “Doctor Who” can be consistent (many writers too). “Time travel is only as consistent as the story needs it to be.”; follow the rules you set down.
-SU: Time travel isn’t always using technology. There’s genetic, like “Time Traveller’s Wife” (2003). Tech mistakes are distracting - give me an entry I can accept, then do the story.
-AGNES: We think we know more than we do. “Farscape” sucked a human into an unknown situation. (“Einstein” character.)

3. Parallel Universes: A way to “get out of jail”?
-AGNES: Quantum Physics; there’s something there. More to discover too.
-MATTHEW: The problem of alternate timelines is that it removes the stakes. Can’t change your history - so you can still have adventures, but the travel is no longer the engine. It becomes a portal to fantasy.
-The “Great Man Theory” of history becomes a fallacy. Hitler events could happen with someone else.
-Metaphor: Is time a river that corrects itself, or a road with branches?

4. We can’t know major events until they happen - or can we?
-See Connie Willis (“Doomsday Book” and more) for exploring the past.
-Can’t be “close” to something significant. What determines that? Is it natural? Future people deciding it?
-Is time circular? Linear? Omnitemporal?

5. Conservation of mass. New matter in the past?
-Entropy: Movement of universe is towards chaos/disorder. The disorder moving forwards, it can’t cause as much entropy?
-IRA (in audience): Too much multiverse travel, cause/effect breaking down, things happen for no reason. Complexity must also balance out.
-SU: Were things “there all along”? Universe accommodates itself.
-Teleportation has a similar mass issue.
-CHRISTINA: Time travel itself is against (backwards) to our known physics. Don’t eat before you time travel, it gets left behind? Nails and hair are dead cells, they still time travel.
-“Time Travel” takes a science fiction approach, even though it’s closer to science fantasy. Classic Mystery; is time travel simply enabling the story.
-Ref to a ‘Challenger Disaster Story’, where people trying to stop him from changing the past are from the alternate future he made by doing it.

6. The grandfather paradox. (Killing your grandfather, are you born.)
-“The Men Who Murdered Mohammed” (1958), the only affect is YOUR timeline, not other peoples’. Their personal past causes them to be Shades, preventing other time travellers?
-There are no paradoxes. Killing Hitler might be as bad as killing your ancestor - people don’t leave Germany to meet/fall in love? Less tech, including your time travel tech?
-Human fascination with “What If”. Many alternate histories can be just a thought experiment. No travel, more fantasy, less scifi. (Eg. What if... 'longer lifespans'? 'magic'? etc.)
-Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Years of Rice and Salt” (what if Black Death killed all Europe).
-Time travel still has roots in a “PRESENT” somehow, which is what brings in causality.
-Authors recoil from “fate” and “fatalism”, prefer fighting against (Doctor Who)
-Connections to ‘Chaos Theory’ and ‘Butterfly Effect’. “Sliding Doors” (Peter Howitt). “Run Lola Run”.
-Outside of SciFi mainstream, “Slaughterhouse-Five” (Kurt Vonnegut). Easier to do things there, less bound by conventions. Again “We know less than we think we do”. “12 Monkeys”.
-“End of Eternity” by Asimov, minor alternations have huge effects. Stifles human race, we are becoming a society that doesn’t take as many risks (for safety, health, etc.) What worked in the past won’t now.
-We all go through life thinking “maybe I could have” or what got away (love, career, pet). Limbic System in brain, “one fleeting moment”.
-CHRISTINA: If Henry Ford is killed instead of Hitler? Or Thomas Edison, then Tesla flourishes?

7. Microbiology problems.
-We’re vulnerable to their diseases, and them to ours also. Danger of bringing back polio (or smallpox) from past! Getting into ALL such issues may slow the story down. Connie Willis (again).

8. Morality: Lotto win 'Okay' but 9/11 'too big'?
-Bringing objects from the ancient world to fence to people? Exchanging goods & services. Heidi Heilig.
-Changing one person’s life changes a lot. (Quantum Leap) So it’s ALL “too big”.
-My Thought: Possible connection with size of jump allowed? (Quantum Leap within 50 yrs; Stargate 1,000 yrs)
-History written by the victor. Are you killing the bungling general who took CREDIT?
-MATTHEW: Is there a moral difference between killing someone and preventing a birth?
-Question of reincarnation?
-“Our Town”, an art play where can’t affect things. Or “Outlander”, hits mainstream.

9. Last Remarks?
-Allure is the unknown - hope we don’t uncover it?
-SU: Time travel goes both ways. What should we do NOW?
-Time travel won’t happen as it hasn’t happened.
-MATTHEW: “Thanks for coming from your respective futures.”


There's more "Time Travel" related posts on this site, or if you want fiction, I've been writing a time travel serial for some time now - find it at "Time & Tied". I'd love to know what you think.

Thanks for reading, more CanCon 2015 content coming over the next couple of days: Day Two (Oct 31) and Day Three (Nov 1).

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