||A Brief History of Time Travel:
I’ve always loved Time Travel stories and movies such as Twelve Monkeys or Looper. I love the paradox and all the complexities. The Butterfly Effect was a pretty good attempt at showing just how impossible it all can be to go back and ‘fix’ things, and more importantly they didn’t obsess about the machinery to do it. He just focused his mind and suddenly was there. Quantum Leap and Time Tunnel (not to forget The Philadelphia Experiment) spent a great deal of time on the mechanics of getting there. As Bruce Willis as Old Joe says in Looper ‘I don't want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we're going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws’.
For every Time Traveler’s Wife there’s a Hot Tub Time Machine (I'll skip the awful No 2) – equally valid, one definitely funnier than the other. We can blame H G Wells and Mark Twain for starting this trend, but I suspect there were other stories well before that and let’s face it who hasn’t wished they could go back and change one thing. The girl you never said hi to, or the boy you wished you never said yes to, or the two job offers that came in and you absolutely know you chose the wrong one. Of course there's now Project Almanac - once you try to change time - it's hard to change everything back as the Butterfly Effect proved and indeed the German TV series DARK!
The Terminator is time travel of course and it’s takes a contortionist to work the plot as bad robot becomes good robot and meanwhile the fate of humankind is in the balance against the machines and Ai. Most of travel to the future is pretty bleak. Burned out worlds, over population, climate change, zombies.
||It’s no wonder we prefer to go ‘Back to the Future’… It offers us a chance to put things right or show how different (and primitive) earlier times or situations were. Funny to think we have actually gone past Marty McFly's future of October 21st 2015 (from Oct 26th 1985). Just slightly disappointed there are no flying cars and the UK has declared hover-boards illegal, in case anyone has one.
|Can't believe that movie over 30 years old! But even the older ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ which they modelled it on, reveals how fragile we all are and scared of whether we ‘matter or make a difference’. Then as now it seems everything is about evil bankers and dodgy savings and loans. Jimmy Stewart's finest 90 minutes. It is good to know how both those movies (especially Back to the Future 11) are held in such affection and still shown on TV all the time.
Rebecca Stead wrote ‘When You Reach Me’ about sixth grade kid, Miranda in New York who gets a message from the future that says ‘I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own. I must ask two favours. First, you must write me a letter…’ More notes keep coming and Miranda knows something really bad is going to happen.
Alex Scarrow writes TimeRiders using kids who should have died in the past (Titanic etc) and are perhaps cynically expendable and they are meant to stop a maniac with a time machine who has joined forces with Hitler who then conquers America. Like many time travel stories it throws up more questions than are answered I think, but hey, kids like it. TIMELESS on TV follows the same theme as the bad guy tries to change history and destroy the USA.
Time travel is a key element in my new novel Mission Longshot - the story about the first light-speed flight that goes just a bit wrong on the test flight. It's also about how far would you go to save one life? Especially if that life might cost your own...
What is important to realize that time travel and history work best if kids are actually taught history in school, sadly kids can opt out of learning it all too easily. We risk not being able to get the point if they don’t know why something is important.
And then there’s Steampunk,which really relies on history, but not as you know it. An example being the grim, but fantastic The Dead Gentlemen by Mathew Cody. An evil villain in 1901 who hates living creatures and a boy who steals a mechanical bird but then is trapped for a hundred years in the basement until a girl called Jezebel frees him. Time travel, monsters, the undead, what’s not to like.
I’m writing this on Groundhog Day. The idea of a man stuck on one day and having to stay there until he finally learns the one important thing is a great one. Bill Murray’s best hour and a half probably. Kids still love Time Bandits and who wouldn’t like little people, worm holes in a Time Map, Satan, God and throw in some classic hero’s such as Robin Hood and a small boy called Kevin, brilliant.
For Repercusssions of Tomas D the idea was staring me in the face on the beach in France. It began in Anglet. Sitting there summoning up courage to plunge into the enormous waves, right behind us stands one of the thousands of WW2 German gun batteries that still line the entire French coast. The concrete gets harder with every passing year and, despite the graffiti, they are a deadly reminder of a past that doesn’t seem to ever go away. I got talking to Tomas, the teenage son of a friend of mine and posited the question: ‘If you went back in time to 1941, knowing what you know now, what difference could you make to the world? What would be the consequences of your arrival and all that knowledge you have in your head? Who would listen to you? Would anyone take you seriously at all? And if you did change anything. What about your girlfriend, Gabriella? Left behind to fend for herself – would she still remember you? Or would it all change?’
Tomas, the boy in question was full of ideas on how he would change history. After all he knows what happened. He’s seen war movies, even if it was only Inglorious Bastards – not exactly historically accurate. But as I said to him, if a boy from the past came to your school or home and said to you. ‘I’m from 1941. Please feed me. Help me.’ You’d probably think he was mentally ill and certainly needs help, but not the kind he was probably looking for. The same thing happened to Bruce Willis in Terry Gilliam’s movie ‘Twelve Monkeys’. He goes back in time and they lock him up because he claims he’s from the future. It stands to reason. Time Travel is impossible, right?
And so it would be for Tomas. His self-assured manner would only get him so far. He’d have no ID. He’d have no friends and he’d only have to mention one small detail about the war no one else knew and he’d be locked up or accused of being a spy.
I set to the task of writing Tomas’ story. I was helped by a photograph of my own grandfather as a younger man, barely alive, buried up to his neck in rubble after a bombing raid on his house. He survived, his brother did not. Oddly enough he'd been bombed as a boy and lost his parents in The Great War. There was a photo of him in pyjamas staring out from his bedroom, unable to get down, as the stairs and front of the house has been blown away.
I sent Tomas back to 1941. May 8th to be precise, exactly at the time of vast bombing raids on London and Portsmouth. I gave him all the knowledge he would ever need ‘to make a difference’ and let things unfold. Locked up with a stranger for lack of ID, he confesses to the man that he’s from the future. He reveals secrets that only someone from the future could know, and sadly for Tomas, the only person who believes him just might be a German spy. London in the Blitz was a pretty terrible time. A million homes had been destroyed in just 18 months of continuous bombing. No wonder that some people were considering capitulation.
The girl he left behind, the bright and talented Gabriella, goes to school the morning after Tomas disappears to discover she has double German classes. Worse, she rapidly begins to realise that she’s the only person in the school who remembers that Germany didn’t win the war!
What did Tomas do? What did he say? How did this happen and how on earth can it be changed back?
1941 is a particular and unique time in English history. The Blitz on London is at its peak. A million homes have been destroyed by bombing and fires. Life disrupted, thousands dead. Although Churchill is now leader – things aren’t going well – shortages everywhere and rationing will only get worse. The Germans are making one last push to break the spirit of the English, and contrary to all those war movies I had to watch about the British pluckiness and wartime spirit - I found anecdotes from people on the ground less than happy with the situation, less than confident that England would survive. Miners were on strike; there was bitterness and resentment. The Black market in food and fuel was affecting everyone’s lives and the British troops were often badly equipped and outgunned in battle. In the elite of society there was a growing pro-peace movement that wanted to do a deal with Hitler and broker peace. Within government there were mutterings of mutiny against Churchill and those leading the war. These people were deemed the Fifth Column and Churchill railed against them. But what if they found Tomas and believed him? What then?
Researching everything from food, to ration books, identity documents, actual places where bombs had fallen – finding the right voice for all the people living in 1941 was the interesting part of research. Imaging what Gabriella’s life was like in our present, but in a world where Germany had won… was perhaps more of a challenge. My inspiration of course was 'The Man in the High Castle' by Philip K Dick and the Amazon TV version is a very superior production following the logic of the Axis victories.
I’m hoping that when people find The Repercussions of Tomas D that they will respond to it as an adventure first and then perhaps think about what they would do if they could go back in time. My guess is they wouldn’t find it as much fun as they think. As Tomas discovers when he gets to use IZAL toilet paper for the first time. Your great grandparents had to be tough – had to make do and mend and they knew better than anyone that Careless Talk Costs Lives.
Sample Chapter here - The Day after Tomas disappears
© Sam Hawksmoor 2021
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One Small Lie – Can Change History Forever
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