#SoCS: The pros and cons of time travel

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/08/14/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-aug-15-2020/. This week’s prompt is “pro/con. Talk about the pros and cons of anything.

Some of you may know that I’m revising my first novel, a time travel romance called Vanishing, Inc. It’s about a young teacher who flees across the country to escape an abusive husband and lands in a tiny mountain town in Arizona. She finds what she thinks is the perfect home, a turn-of-the-last-century stone cottage. It comes with an overly-friendly landlady–and a visitor from another time.

So, since time travel has been on my mind lately, let’s explore its pros and cons:

Time travel: the pros

  • It makes for entertaining reading and story possibilities, especially fish-out-of-water stories. There’s a whole Wikipedia page devoted to time travel in fiction. Maybe one day Vanishing, Inc. will be listed there. Maybe I have delusions of grandeur.
  • It would be fascinating to visit another time and see how people really lived, rather than filtering what we know of the past through modern sensibilities–or the sensibilities and biases of the people who wrote history (and the people whose stories are recorded–hardly a representative sample of everyone).
  • You could undo mistakes and correct for your biggest regrets. I really wish I’d started writing fiction when I was young. I could go back to the mid-80s and fix that. (Which would be great, as long as I resisted the urge to layer my hair again. Ugh.)
  • You could try to change history, though that generally didn’t work out well for the cast of Outlander.
  • You could get rich “inventing” things before the actual inventor was born. This is my husband’s retirement plan.
  • You could hide from your present-day enemies. This is a temptation for Alex Collins, the main character in Vanishing, Inc.
  • Travel is always educational, mostly because it broadens our perspectives. Time travel would amplify that experience. Imagine the different perspective you would have on history, on human nature even, if you could visit the past. Just as travel to other places helps us better understand our own place, travel to other times would help us better understand our own time and how we got to where we are.

Time travel: the cons

  • Let’s start with the biggest con: it hasn’t been invented yet, so we’re all stuck with 2020. Sorry ’bout that. Now where did I leave my mask and hand sanitizer?
  • If we could travel back in time, we humans would find a way to screw up the world even more than we already have.
  • As individuals, we’d find a way to screw up our lives even more than we already have–which would be easy to do if we could change the past. One of the more well-known examples of this idea is the grandfather paradox, in which a hapless time-traveling human creates inconsistencies by, say, killing their own grandfather. I also imagine that if I could travel back in time, I would try to undo something I regretted, not realizing that action had unforeseen consequences, and end up undoing something precious. Like, for example, if I decided to go back and not date my first boyfriend, I wouldn’t have gotten dumped the day before Valentine’s Day in 1986, and I probably wouldn’t have been alone and sad in my hometown on the night after Valentine’s Day when a cute guy I met the previous summer heard I’d gotten dumped and called me and asked me to meet him at Chuck E. Cheese (yes, really) and we’ve been married for almost 29 years. You know, little things like that.
  • No birth control. That’s a deal-breaker right there.
  • No antibiotics. Another deal-breaker. And don’t even get me started on anesthesia. No romantic view of the past can compensate for the lack of modern medicine. That idea plays a part in my novel.
  • Here’s another one that plays a part in my novel: women’s rights, or the lack thereof. I’m not sure I would want to travel back to a time in which I would be property or, at best, a second-class citizen. Same issue for people of color or LGBT folks. The past was no picnic for those who weren’t straight, white males.
  • And finally, it would be incredibly frustrating to know things the people around you did not–and to know you couldn’t tell them without them locking you up in an asylum or burning you at the stake. I have a big mouth. I’d probably get burned at the stake in my first month.

How about y’all? Would you travel back in time (or, what the heck, forward in time) if you could? Why/why not? What time would you like to visit?

8 thoughts on “#SoCS: The pros and cons of time travel

  1. We’ve been married 40+ years and I would love to go back in time and undo all those stupid things I did as a newlywed. And as a mother of teenagers. I’d be so much more patient. And I’d be a better daughter. But! As you so wisely pointed out, I’d probably mess up on all the other stuff I actually did right at the time.


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