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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Time Travel

The introduction of time travel into any plot makes nonsense of it.

The reason: Time is a symbol of eternity, rendered in a form humans can grasp. Time travel makes it a travesty of eternity.

18 comments:

  1. Ohhhhhh! Well, when you put it that way, it all makes so much sense! I thought I had to learn physics and stuff to know why it wouldn't be possible, but I guess that's not necessary when you can just reason from pleasant-sounding statements!

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  2. That's a bit harsh, surely "It's a Wonderful Life" gets a pass, no?

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  3. Silas, since your remark is so obnoxious, I was going to delete it, but then I decided it was a much better punishment for you to publish it.

    I was talking about how time travel ruins *narratives* that invoke it. In response, you mock me for not studying the *physics* of time travel! What the heck would its physical impossibility have to do with its effect on narrative structures? Someone can travel to Alpha Centauri in one year in a story without ruining the narrative structure, despite its physical impossibility.

    Not only are your forays into obnoxious mode obnoxious, they also seem to lower your IQ about 60 points.

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  4. traumeri, I've never seen it.

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  5. I can usually follow time travel plots. It's stream of conscious plots that throw me. This despite the fact the I live a stream of consciousness in my own mind every day and have never time traveled.

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  6. Is "It's a Wonderful Life" really a time travel movie?

    I guess it's possible -- if there's actually a remaining adult human with access to television who hasn't seen it, anything is possible.

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  7. Tom, I have seen bits of it while channel surfing, but not enough to comment upon it intelligently, or even know if it really contains a time travel element.

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  8. "It's a Wonderful Life" uses the same plot device as "A Christmas Story" where a supernatural element takes the main character through the past and present/future. It might not involve a time machine, but it is time travel.

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  9. traumerei, I always took _A Christmas Carol_ to be more along the line of a *vision* of the past and future rather than true time travel. (Scrooge cannot *act* in these visions, only observe!)

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  10. The main character in "It's a Wonderful Life" is also unable to act during his visit through time. I think the key elements that make the visions of the future in "A Christmas Carol" and "Wonderful Life" truly time-travel are that the visions are supernatural and the main character is transported to the actual scene.

    This is opposed to, say, a day dreaming sequence where someone imagines a future possibility or a what-if historical scenario.

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  11. traumerei: A Christmas Carol: This cannot be the *real* future he goes to, because these things are never going to happen. And, *if* it were real, it wouldn't be the future, since, for Scrooge, it would have happened already. (And this is what I mean when I say real time travel makes nonsense of any plot.)

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  12. "A Christmas Carol: This cannot be the *real* future he goes to because these things are never going to happen."

    As far as the story is concerned, that is the "real" future that would have happened had not there been intervention.

    He's transported to the past and in different places in the present as well as to the future as an outsider. He is in a manner, outside of time.

    There are always going to be inherent contradictions in any plot that utilizes time-travel, but as steve points out, they are usually easy enough to follow.

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  13. "As far as the story is concerned, that is the "real" future that would have happened had not there been intervention."

    That *would* have happened -- but it ain't going to. So it can't be the "real" future (if the phrase "the real future" has any meaning at all!) because it ain't a gonna happen.

    Therefore, that was a vision -- a true vision, if you wish -- but a vision.

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  14. And the trip into a past that did occur? A Christmas Carol makes it clear that these were not visions but that Scrooge was physically transported from his room and into the past - albeit as an observer. Would you not consider that time-travel?

    The contradiction involved in future time travel is an understandable enough objection. In that case, "nonsense" would be a better descriptor than a vision (though steve and I are still able to make general sense of the plot).

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  15. Maybe you're right, traumerei. When it happened to Mr.. Magoo and to Bill Murray it seemed like visions to me, but if you've actually read Dickens, then I have to fold.

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  16. And traumerei, I can *follow* the plot of, say, Back to the Future, just like I can follow a child's story when he says, "If I close my eyes the bad bear will disappear."

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  17. fair enough. It's been ages since I've read "A Christmas Carol" so I could still be wrong - but I'm reasonably sure that I'm not.

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