Thursday, June 16, 2011
Guest Blogger! Melissa Jarvis
TIME TRAVEL: OR WHY KISSING THE WRONG GUY COULD END THE WORLD
The possibility of time travel is extremely enticing and has sparked imaginations for centuries. Imagine being a Civil War buff and watching the Battle of Gettysburg in person. Or having a passion for Elizabethan England and meeting the Queen in person. Or going back and warning the President about Pearl Harbor. Or waltzing the night away with a Regency Lord in those amazingly tight pants. Whoops, those are some of my fantasies.
However, just as there are consequences for our actions today, like forgetting to bring another pull-up when you go out with a potty training four year old, time travel has implications far beyond just picking up your grandmother’s cameo and transporting to the Wild West or falling asleep like Christopher Reeve did in Somewhere in Time.
In writing Past Her Time, I wanted to show time travel from a scientific viewpoint. I grew up with sci-fi writers like Anne McCaffrey and Robert A. Heinlein. Little did I realize it would lead me to study quantum physics (this from a person who took math for poets in college) and test out Einstein’s space-time bed sheet theory while folding my laundry.
What I’ve learned: there are two major theories regarding time travel. The first is the river flow theory. Essentially it’s like casting a stone in a flowing river; it will cause ripples and affect the flow of the water, i.e. the timeline.
Now Hollywood has given us numerous examples of that theory in action, such as Star Trek’s “The City on the Edge of Forever,” where by saving a woman’s life, Kirk and crew ultimately allowed the Nazis to win World War II. The only way to fix the damage? Kill the woman Captain Kirk loved. Beware of a kiss!
The Simpsons have also taught us many things, but one of my favorite lessons came from Treehouse of Horror V. Called “Time and Punishment” (love the play on words and the not so subtle book reference) Homer travels back in time and alters the future; i.e. a world ruled by Ned Flanders, an insect family and oh the horror, no donuts; and upon failing to restore the future/present, he settles for a reality somewhat like the one he left.
This also illustrates another popular theory related to time-travel called the Butterfly Effect, where small things, such as stepping on a butterfly in a rainforest can cause relatively large events or changes, like tornadoes or earthquakes. There was even a movie with Ashton Kutcher about this!
If you’re still wondering how one little kiss with that cute guy in a kilt in Highland Scotland could cause the end of the world, there’s another rule to keep in mind: the Law of Strange Attractors. Sounds like a dating manual right? It would explain a lot. However, what it really means is that there are certain people or objects that seem to attract more chaos or change to them. Like Napoleon, who I briefly referenced in Past Her Time, where my heroine narrowly avoids an encounter with him. Or Hitler. Or the State of California. Think what would happen if Napoleon had fallen in love with you instead of Josephine. No great, tragic love story. No comfortable empire waist gowns. And it’s unlikely that the Napoleonic Empire would have ever come about, since he’d be happily on his honeymoon with you.
The second theory about time travel is that of parallel universes. If you change something in the past, it will create a new timeline and world, and not have any effect on the world you knew. I find it interesting that the Back to the Future movies showed both theories of time travel. In the first, Marty changed his future by taking his father’s place. And if his parent’s had never met, no kid right? That creates a paradox by the way, which I’ll touch on briefly. I’m not Einstein, despite my attempts to solve that pesky theory. The sequel showed Biff creating an alternate 1985 when he stole the sports book. Remember Christopher Lloyd’s cute little drawing explaining it? And the third went back to the river flow theory. I really wish Hollywood would make up its mind.
Star Trek the Next Generation, unlike the original, used the parallel universe idea a lot and it’s even featured in the new reboot with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. Unfair to make us choose between them, the dashing Chris/Kirk or the intellectual burn the books Zachary/Spock.
Now for paradoxes. It’s the problem every time-travel writer fears, especially those who use the river flow theory, which I did in Past Her Time. I created very strict rules for my agents to follow in order to try and avoid having to deal with that, because it becomes a chicken or the egg question, and frankly, I’m not up to debating that since I always lose arguments with my husband anyway. Sometimes this is called the Grandfather paradox, described by the science fiction writer Rene Barjavel in his 1943 book Le Voyageur Imprudent (The Imprudent Traveler). Suppose a man traveled back in time and killed his biological grandfather before the latter met the person’s grandmother. As a result, one of the time traveler’s parents (and thus the man himself) would never have been conceived. Yet if he were never conceived, how could he have traveled back in time at all and killed his grandfather? But then the grandfather would still be alive, and the time traveler would have been conceived, allowing him to travel back in time… and you know the rest. The parallel universe theory helps diffuse this; the man would have simply created an alternate timeline where he was still born, and in the one he came from; his lineage would be dead. Are we confused yet?
For those of you wondering, Einstein’s space-time bed sheet theory is that a mass object placed on a flat sheet would cause it to bend, thus allowing for time/space travel where the two points of the sheet met. After folding many sheets, I can’t tell you if this would work, but it did give me an idea of how to make time travel possible in my book. Hopefully I haven’t scared you off from reading it!
Past Her Time
Agent Alex Raines takes no prisoners—in her job or in her personal life. But all of that changes when the time travel organization The Lineage sends her to 1793 Revolutionary France. Used to a "get in, get out," modus operandi, she finds her heart and will tested by local English nobleman Lord Gabriel Huntington, whose reasons for being there are as deceptive as her own.
In the midst of revolution and betrayal, can these two learn to take off the disguises and trust each other? Or will the fate of the world and time travel rest on Alex's ability to betray the one man she has come to love?
A mild-mannered Public Relations executive by day, and action-packed writer by night, Melissa Jarvis lives in celebrity-friendly Southern California with her husband and son. For over 14 years, she has worked in the public relations industry, doing press releases, bios, newsletters, media campaigns and more for clients ranging from the Playboy Jazz Festival to the Los Angeles Mission to JVS. And she's survived with most of her mind intact! An active member of RWA, she writes both paranormal romance and urban fantasy, as well as spicy paranormal under the name Melissa L. Robert. She is currently working on the sequel to Past Her Time, featuring agent Banderan's story. Catch her and more about the Lineage and its agents at www.melissajarvis.net.