Could I… Would I… Travel in Time?
By Jeff Salter
Though I was not the one who suggested this topic, I’m pleased to see it crop up right now because I’m within a few weeks – I hope – of the release of my newest title… and it deals with TIME TRAVEL.
My characters aren’t even aware of where / when they’re heading, so they have no choice in the matter. The hero (Hunter Weston) didn’t even know he would be traveling in time. The heroine (Rose Roamer) realizes she will have to travel in time if she is to be with Hunter, (with whom she has fallen in love over the course of the story).
But enough of my fictional title. Let’s get down to cases. Our topic: If I could travel to any time period for research purposes or for sheer enjoyment, where/when would I visit?
As often happens, I look to the post of our Monday Fox – Patricia – and could almost steal her entire column. I won’t do that, but let me lift this particular paragraph:
My short answer is that as much as I enjoy reading about history, I really wouldn’t want to go back in time and live in any era of the past. For one thing, I really, really, enjoy my creature comforts, including all the gadgets that are such an integral part of my life. For another, I enjoy health at an age when women in the past were long gone or well on their way out. Modern medicine and a better understanding of healthy habits keep me going.
In fact, Patricia’s paragraph above is startlingly close to what my character, Rose (in my forthcoming title) says when she’s faced with the prospect of leaving 1985 to go to some unspecified time, presumably in the past. Then she lists the many things she doesn’t think she can exist without. To that, Hunter replies (paraphrasing), “Aren’t there any years between [ancient time] and your present day which have most of those features.” And then Rose suggests a few decades in which she THINKS she might survive… even though it would mean no microwave oven!
But all that said – by Patricia and by my characters – I do have a few thoughts about how I might utilize time travel for myself.
Time Travel for Research
For research (on writing projects), I would love to be able to zip back to a particular time and place and poke around long enough to get the SENSE of the period. Historical writers can Google topics all day long and all they’ll have are maps, photos, and perhaps descriptions. To really get a feel for that event, they’ll often travel to the site… even though that site has certainly changed in the intervening decades (or centuries).
Interviewing the living individuals who actually participated in the event can certainly add context and sensory elements. And that’s about as far as a modern day researcher can go. UNLESS he/she could hop into my time machine and zip back to the event as it is happening.
Even though it would involve danger and trauma, I think I would want to be an eye-witness to some of the most fascinating mysteries of the past two centuries. Sort of like true immersion in a cold-case file. For example:
- I’d like to poke around Atlantis, see WHERE it was and what it was like… and WHO those people actually were
- in Whitechapel while Jack the Ripper was running amuck (1888-91). NOTE: while I would NOT wish to actually witness the Ripper violently murdering one of his victims, I WOULD like to be at the end of the alley when he tries to escape — so I’d get to see his face and what carriage he gets into.
- with my great-grandfather Robinson when he spotted a UFO – cigar-shaped – in southwestern Alabama (1896-1897). NOTE: nobody knew about it back then, but exhaustive research has since revealed that there were military / government tests of “flying machines” – i.e., motor-powered dirigibles, apparently – during that period.
- at the Lindberg home when their baby was snatched (1932). NOTE: they guy who was executed for this kidnapping was apparently involved in some way (since he was found with some of the ransom money), but he didn’t snatch the child and didn’t kill the child.
- on the correct island in the Pacific when Amelia Earhart’s plane went down (1937)
- in Roswell NM, when the AAF recovered the “flying disk” (1947)
- in Dealy Plaza when JFK was shot (1963). NOTE: I would NOT want to see the bullets hit my youthful president, but I would like to be on the grassy knoll and see who was behind that fence with the other rifle.
- many more that I just can’t think of right now
Though some of those may seem a bit too gruesome to be present for, they are just a few of the long-standing mysteries which have captured my imagination for much of my life. If I could zip to a particular day and hour, I’d love to see for myself WHAT happened, and WHO did it… and settle the mystery for all time.
Time Travel for Pleasure?
I doubt I’d do much time travel for pleasure. I’d probably be tempted to go back to scenes which I remember quite fondly… and I’d worry that maybe they weren’t quite as rosy as I remember them now. OR, I’d try to go back to times when I really screwed up and try to un-do those debacles… and we all know (from movies) that this never turns out right.
For a slightly DIFFERENT look at time travel, click on my column the last time we tackled this general topic:
[JLS # 428]