Friday, January 13, 2006

Time Travel

Time travel has become a sub-genre of Romance.
In fact, Romance has acquired a lot of sub-genres: suspense, western, paranormal, nookie...
Time travel is usually achieved by means of a jewel talisman, a secret portal, an enchanted mirror, an ancient activated spell or a curse, a grimoire, a magician, malignant or otherwise...
These devices are based on cultural myths, our hopes of magic, our eternal and elemental fantasies. They are part of the corpus of our imagination and the machinery never breaks down.
These are all very nice. I like them. I never get tired of them. Agents and editors might - I wouldn't know - but I do not.
But I didn't do that in The Conyers Falchion. Maybe I'm wrong.

She returned to the bed and tried to analyze the situation, gathering all the possible explanations she had ever hear or read. She knew for certain she had not gone suddenly mad or hallucinated - everything was too physical and intricate for that. And that left only - reality.
She clenched her little finger: Time machine - the mechanical explanation, scientific manipulation of physics, alien technology and H.G.Wells notwithstanding. Does not apply.
Next finger: Time gate - henges, etc., permanent, but possibly keyed only by ritual at certain times. Does not apply.
Third finger: Temporary gate - a deliberate wizard construct. Blood and need had apparently brought her here, not some wand-waving agent. Did not seem to apply.
Forth finger: Artifact key -jewels and such, a pre-tech, ancient mechanism really, she supposed, similar to item one. It would be easier to comprehend if she could blame this on something like that, but no go.
Thumb: Aliens or Multiverse Theory - Bleah. Too simple. A mentally deficient and convenient excuse. Does not apply.
She changed hands.
Other thumb: Slip/slit in Time - a discontinunity, one that moved possibly, unfixed and mobile. Possible. Implied though a one-way trip, and that pastward, or did it? Instances of mastadons, Cro-Magnons, Romans or Iceni or whoever showing up in the middle of Times Square? No. One way - horrible thought.
Seventh finger: Time loop/Worm Hole/ Quantum physics - she did not understand quantum physics.


Sela Carsen said...

I have to admit, I'm willing to suspend all kinds of disbelief for time-travel stories -- I love them!

Yeah, yeah. I know the heroine who shows up in Scotland in the 1400s with jeans, a short haircut and a purse full of Midol and condoms probably would have been burned at the stake without a second thought, but what the heck! That's why I got into this gig -- so I could make stuff up!

James Goodman said...

I love time travel. The endless possibilities, the opportunity to place "modern" thinking onto situions of the past...or the future.

This is very intriguing.

Oh, you might want to add another O to "was to physical".

R.J. Baker said...

Nookie, as a sub-genre of Romance? I thought that WAS the Romance genre, i.e. scantily clad bodies & flames on the cover.

Why does time travel so enthrall humankind? We cannot tire of it.

Never happy in the present, we always seek to change the past or peer into the future. Maybe its the mystery of it all. It certainly fascinates me - I never tire of a good time travel story.

You made me break out the dictionary for falchion. Nice title. Broadsword. One first read I thought the character had seven fingers-now there's a gal I could use...

Bernita said...

Clearly, I find them fascinating too, Sela, but I wonder if my particular "take" will she doesn't understand it and just deals with the result.

Urp...Thank you James. Fixed it.I hate that sort of dumb mistake, even when it's a hasty typo, it looks like one doesn't know the difference.

Nope, R.J. There's traditional romance, sometimes called Vanilla, and there's various forms of undress that get to Sensual > Erotic.
Thing is, this particular dragon-killing weapon exists. It's in the Treasury of Durham Cathedral now, but remained in the family for something like 700 years.

James Goodman said...

Oh, I'm sure we all know that you know the difference. These things happen, I like it when people point them out for me, so I thought I would return the favor.


Bernita said...

Believe me, I appreciate the nod, James.
Otherwise it's like walking around with a fly undone and nobody telling you.

Anonymous said...

Time travel romance...have your seen the movie Somewhere in Time? That one gets me.

Sela Carsen said...

Undone by a penny. *sniff* Yeah, that's a good one.

Bernita said...

The one with the resort hotel?...Country inn?....Hmmm.
Nuances to be explored. Sweet.

Sela Carsen said...

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac (sp?) Island. Gorgeous setting. The only reason I can think of to go to Michigan. (I'm sick today so I'm loafing/bloghopping.)

Dennie McDonald said...

Somewhere in Time

Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymore

I will stop whatever I am doing to watch that movie when I find it

Rick said...

Well, I'd be hooked not by the - deliberately undefined - mechanism but by the unabashedly sharp and pragmatic protagonist.

Surely in realism she'd be obsessed with how she got there, in order to find a way back. But this is presumably Romance - not just in the narrow girl-meets-boy sense, but in the broader sense, in which finding yourself in the Middle Ages or aboard an interstellar tramp freighter, or entering an abandoned warehouse with .38 in hand, is both terrifying and exhilarating instead of just plain terrifying.

What struck me in the first section of your post, though, is that a time machine is not listed as among the common means of travel. Is this because time machines have boy cooties?

It is well known that certain fictional genres - notably hard SF and technothrillers - avoid girl cooties like the plague.

Does romance (in the narrow sense, aimed at an overwhelmingly female audience) likewise avoid boy cooties? Such as Cool Gadgets, based on the somewhat understandable fear that the male lead might sometimes prefer fiddling with his car / square-rigger / atmosphere shuttle / time machine to fiddling with his True Love?

Your protagonist, though, is obviously not afraid of boy cooties, since she considers not only a time machine but quantum physics.

archer said...

There is a story by Ray Nelson in which the time-traveller's joystick is just that. Many men have experimented with this approach, reportedly to little or no avail.

Bernita said...

Yes, I think they tend to avoid those "cooties."
Thank you, Rick.
Yep, she is exactly that sort of person.
And yes, it intends to be a "romance" in the larger, older, adventure sense.Mind you, there is reticent but developing hots for the hero - who is not the guy in the past.

Bernita said...

What's this, Archer?
An euphemism?

~ hand over Bonnie's eyes~

"Backward, turn backward,
O time in thy flight.
Give me a hard on just for tonight?"

Ahem. Little glitch there.
We now return to our regular persona.

Rick said...

No comment on "joystick!" ;) Though I just did comment on it, didn't I?

Bernita - It is odd that we no longer even have a usable word for Romance in the original, broad sense of high adventure, the word now being understood as "love story." Which is an integral part of the tradition - at any rate in Western lit for the last 850-odd years - but not the only part.

It is too bad, too, because Romance in this sense is the common thread of all "the genres," and for that matter a good proportion of what is sold as commercial mainstream fiction. It really hampers critical discussion to have no handy word for such a basic concept!

Bernita said...

I so strongly agree, Rick.
It's not so much a bad thing as an inevitable, even organic thing, I suppose.
It certainly caused me much perplexity when I was trying to find the necessary term to describe my novel and settled for the clunky - and possibly deadly - "cross-genre romantic adventure."
Of course I didn't (and still don't) quite grasp exactly what is meant by "commercial" and main-stream" fiction, either.

archer said...

What's this, Archer?
An euphemism?

As I recall the story, which was well done and quite unapologetically graphic, yes. Orgasm breaks down all sorts of epistemological barriers, the time traveller explained; it was necessary only to choose the right fantasy.

Rick said...

Bernita - The boundaries are fuzzy, and all the definitions a bit hazy. (In SF-oriented blogs they've lately been having another round of "what is science fiction?")

After all, any fiction people read, including litfic - and for that matter, fictional memoirs - is an escape from readers' own real lives. I still think there's a meaningful distinction between Romance and Realism, but perhaps more a spectrum than a hard-and-fast line.

"Cross-genre romantic adventure" - hasn't Diana Gabaldon done something broadly comparable? It doesn't seem to have landed her in the poorhouse. In Hollywood you see those combos all the time; "romantic adventure" and "romantic suspense," etc., are well-established film genres.

Bernita said...

You're the second person to mention Galbaldon. After Gabriele did, I rooted out a copy from a second-hand store and re-read the story - with some relief, I might add.
Her modus is a henge - which makes it easier to "travel" forward, she writes in first, and the focus is almost entirely the culture shock and adjustment to Scotland of about 200-250 years ago.
But there are some broad similarities,besides the time travel, a genealogical connection for one. Necessary logic, one could say, a blood tie operates as "cause" and explanation for an impossible event.

Gabriele C. said...

I'm not that fuzzy about an explanation for time travel as long as it fits the story. After all, I never had a problem to accept that only the fire of Mount Doom will melt the One Ring or that Avalon is hidden in the mists and there ar FTL drives in ScFi.

As far as we know, time travel isn't possible at all. So give me a machine in a more SciFi oriented book (Timeline) and a henge in a romance adventure novel with a Scottish setting (Gabaldon's first three were a fun read, then she got too long winded) or have the heroine just "deal with the result."

Since I don't know a thing about quatum physics, either, I'd probably come up with that explanation should I ever find myself on a strangely well kept Hadrian's Wall surrounded by Romans in muscle cuirasses and pteryges. The more pressing problem at hand would be that my Latin is in worse decline than the Wall, and I don't know if time travel would change that. :-)

Bernita said...

Thank you ,Gabriele.
Liked that neat "Latin in worse decline" bit.

Rick said...

Gabriele - Good point about fitting the gimmick to the atmosphere. A modern time machine with digital readouts would likely be needlessly jarring. (Though I'd argue that an elegant Edwardian time machine is ... timeless.)

In creating the willing suspension of disbelief, simplest usually works best. One of the synopses run through Miss Snark's crapometer illustrated this.

The story was a fantasy Regency. The author had a rather clunky SF mechanism to explain why it was all happening some 10,000 years in the future, and her explanation produced a longish thread arguing about the effects of Earth's magnetic field reversing.

To me it was all unnecessary. It wasn't related to the plot, and even a well-oiled mechanism would lack the Jane Austen flavor, while an implausible one would just call attention to irrelevant problems. The author would be better served to just give us a Regency-flavored world that we can accept on its own terms. (When I said so, the author said she might relegate the back-story to vague legend, which would be much better.)

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Love time travel...and yes Jason, Somewhere in Time is a great movie! I always liked Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour. It ended so sad. I cry everytime I see it.

Sinus are really bad today so, I'M FUZZY!

Robyn said...

Joystick...doesn't have the same ring as Sword of Love.

Anyway, time travel stories are among my favorites. Quite frankly, I like it better when we don't figure out how it all really works. I like a bit of magic, a doorway that is respected because it is not totally understood. More troublesome are the explanations of how language barriers are broken, i.e. grandfather insisting the protagonist learn Gaelic, student of ancient languages, etc.

Tsavo Leone said...

... *pant, pant*... Sorry, have I missed anything?

I was wondering when The Conyers Falchion was going to reappear: how goes that tale m'lady?

Re: Romance in the old sense rather than as a collective genre title. Personally I tend towards the notion that old-school romantic fiction is best described as just that: Romantic Fiction. Yes, it covers a lot of ground, and so it should. How else are we to enlighten the masses (and Harry Potter fans)? *g*

Unfortunately, like everything else in 'Dumbed-down World', those that have the power have seen fit to try and uniquely label everything (lest we mere mortals become confused). As I recall (though I may be wrong) once upon a time a Gothic novel was considered part of the Romantic Fiction canon, whereas most people nowadays read Gothic as meaning Horror...

I've always wondered, if you build a time machine, would you be able to travel any further back in time than the manufacturing date of the newest gizmo in your machine? Though, as Stephen Hawkin once said, time travel will never happen because, if it does then why hasn't anyone come back and told us?

Bonnie, avert your eyes.
Nice thought concerning the temporal qualities of an orgasm: could prove rather amusing in a Simpsons kind of way (the toaster story. "Dammit Harold, every time we have sex we end up somewhen different!")... and beats the old 'did the earth move for you hon' bit as well!

Bernita said...

They say snorting coffee helps, Bonnie.

The language problem didn't need any too special an explanation for mine, Robyn. Observe, for example,
a 13th Norman French poem:
"Quant je voi yver retourner.
Lors me voudroie sejorner....Que ust porc et buef et mouton, maslarz, faisans et bon fromages en glaon." which demonstrates that if my heroine understood modern French she could manage Norman French.Phonics rules!
Latin and sometimes Greek were still part of the normal curricuculum up until, what,45-50 years ago? Younger readers would consider a proficiency in those more arcane than older readers.
But yes, some language capabilities seem just a little too, too contrived.

Rick said...

Tsavo - Romantic Fiction would be a perfectly good term, except that you'd have to explain it to everyone new to the discussion. Otherwise they'll take it as meaning romance in the everyday sense.

I would also class horror as part of Romantic Fiction. It often gets grouped with SF/F, which certainly belong to Romantic Fiction. My impression is that the Gothic novels of 200 years ago were at least ancestral to horror. Not that I've ever read any - only Jane Austen's send-up, Northanger Abbey. (Which also has the first literary reference to "base-ball.")

Gothic ... an interesting word, and what a wonderful semantic journey it has undergone, from Gaiseric and Theoderic to cathedrals, to girls wearing black, with jewelry in places that look uncomfortable.

If it hasn't already, I wouldn't be surprised if "a Gothic novel" undergoes another shift of meaning, meaning novels about (modern!) Goths, or at least with a Goth sensibility. Which would be closer to cyberpunk than horror, though no longer classed as SF.

Bernita said...

It goes well, m'lord Tsavo.
It is finished.
So now I blog, I think, I tweak.
Sent out 3 queries: One took 2 weeks to say "not on your life", one requested a partial within 3 days, and one I have heard ziltch.
Which tells me my query letter was OK.

Bernita said...

Rick, I have and believe I once read "The Mysteries of Udolpho." Ann Radcliffe, 1794. One of the first of the Gothics. Influenced Austin or she spoofed it or something.
As I remember, it was a brew of instant cliche.

Tsavo Leone said...

Rick's comment about Goth' women and uncomfortable jewellery: it's not uncomfortable, just inconvenient... oh, sorry, were you referring to the ring-chain-bracelet affairs? *g*

Oh, and cyber-goth already exists.

Strangley enough I don't actually have an issue with hybridised genre tags such as cyber-goth (which, to me, implies elements of both the cyberpunk movement and the goth lifestyle), and yet I would willing take issue with how people would interpret Gothic in literary terms which I view as being seperate to the term 'goth' which is primarily a reference to a lifestyle choice, implying a certain dresscode, particular musical tastes, etc. (FYI, Leeds is referred to as Gotham City since the goth movement has strong roots here).

"Hi, I'm a Goth..."

"Visi- or Ostro-?"


Bernita said...

" 'Visi- or Ostro-?

R.J. Baker said...


Bernita said...


Rick said...

Bernita - I believe that "Udolpho" was exactly what Jane was laying a smack on in Northanger Abbey. At least, I'm pretty sure that Catherine Morland had read it, fueling her overactive imagination. (Oddly, it's the only Austen I've read besides P&P.)

Tsavo - Uncomfortable rings, I was thinking especially of ones around the lip, which seem like they could get snagged with unhappy results. Belly button rings, OTOH, are a sin against the demitasse of Aphrodite, and should be abolished.

Cyber-goth is a very easy genre fit, since cyberpunk had a close to goth (modern sense) flavor to start with.

As for Gothic in the lit sense, I'm not quite sure that it is a "living" (as distinct from historical) term - does even Southern Gothic still apply to anything still being written? Though I suppose it does connote a mood, somewhat akin to horror but not implying specific horror conventions. Not that it has much to do with contemporary Goths, Visi- OR Ostro-.

RJ Baker - Are you referring to my mention of fictional memoirs? That's in reference to that guy who faked his memoirs and peddled a zillion of 'em thanks to Oprah.

Gabriele C. said...

my gradfather spoke Latin almost fluently, and he got along in Italy during WW2 thanks to it, once he figured out the Italian pronounciation is a bit different. If you know how languages work, esp. changes within the history of a language, you can guess a lot. I picked up Swedish in no time because I saw the patterns that distinguishes it from German. Can't remember to ever have learned a language by working my way through grammar books and memorising a set or words every week. Not even English. But I think it's a bit of a talent, like an ear for music or a brain for maths. Not everyone has it.

Thy Mysteries of Udolpho and Walpole's The Castle of Otranto pretty much started the Gothic genre, and they became cliché because they were copied so much. Udolpho is a fun read if you don't take it serious. Northanger Abbey is a parody of the entire genre.

And for your records: I'm a Visigoth. :-)

Bernita said...

Thank you, Gabriele, a real life example of my theory.
Think I'm a Remi, mesel'.

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