Thursday, 11 September 2008

Time after time after time


(This one's not about perfume!)

I'm re-reading the strange and deeply wonderful "Time And Again" by Jack Finney, whose take on time travel is this: if you put somebody into the clothes of, for example, 1890, in a room authentically furnished and gas-lit as it would have been in 1890, with a view that is exactly what one would have seen in 1890, then a combination of self-hypnosis and "spirit of place" will send them back to 1890. When they get up from the chair they are sitting in and walk out of the front door, they will indeed be back in 1890. Or 1410, or 1972, or whatever date they're trying to get to.
I love this idea - after all, when are you ever going to be able to disprove it? You may be in a National Trust property where a Tudor bedroom has been lovingly recreated, but how likely is it that you'll be alone, wearing Tudor clothes and not seeing a National Trust van or gift shop outside the window?
I had lunch with my family last week, and was reminded once again that my grandmother and I share the same (somewhat naive) view, which is "Isn't it great that science hasn't yet disproved everything?" (ie ghosts, the afterlife, some form of deity, etc) - my stepdad, on the other hand, is a fervently rational atheist and was just starting to (mildly) use words like "twaddle" when I reminded him that of course he would say that, because he's an Aquarius.

11 comments:

mantua maker said...

My Dad is an odd combination of rational and spiritual - not sure what he really believes. But he told me that he does believe in ghosts - even helped performed an exorcism once. Now that freaks me out - if *he* thinks that people's spirits have to go somewhere when they die and are around us all the time, then it must be true...

I heard somewhere that if you went back in a time machine, to a London street in the middle ages say, you would die from the smell. (Sort of perfume-related comment?)

Lucy Fishwife said...

I don't think I'm quite as woo-woo as my grandmother but I certainly don't rule anything out - whereas my stepdad is so ZEALOUS in his disbelief it is pretty much a religion for him! If you want to wind him up, just say "I wonder if the Hadron Collider will open a gateway to Hell?"

If you've ever inhaled deeply in the bedroom of a younger brother, medieval London would hold no fears for you.

Brother Tobias said...

Is that an Aquarian characteristic? Could explain a lot; I share his skepticism...although it took time and determination to overcome a good, sound Anglican/Episcopalian upbringing (but I still touch wood when no one's looking, and drop coins into lochs and the forks of trees).

Lucy Fishwife said...

All air signs (Aquarians are often mistaken for a water sign but aren't) are motivated by the rational and the intellectual (although Geminis are completely mental, as anyone who has Gemini friends with one will tell you). Superstitions are perfectly acceptable - I throw spilt salt over my shoulder, say "Morning Mr Magpie" to single magpies, cross my fingers when I see a hearse, etc etc... but then I'm a Pisces and we're profoundly gullible...

Steve said...

You're quite right, what a dull, boring, unlivable existence it would be of science one day disproved the existence of anything remotely fantastic... thankfully I can't see that day ever dawning. I think science will just prove that the world is more wonderful and un-pindownable than we ever dreamed. Great idea for a novel... may have to swipe me a copy...

Reluctant Blogger said...

I am so logical and rational at one level (I'm a mathematician) but I just love the idea of time travel. It has always captivated me. And I would love to - really would. Although I often think that confronted with the option I would chicken out if I was not sure I could get back.

I will definitely read this book - right up my street. I'll be prowling into period places in costume won't I?

I want to go back to Victorian London.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I'm donning my bustle as we speak! Particularly looking forward to the nicer architecture and better manners, though might have to come back for the veggie food & internet access!

Lucy Fishwife said...

Steve - luckily there will never be a time when EVERYTHING has been disproved - or at least that's my fervent belief!

RB & Laura - take me with you! I quite fancy the end of the Victorian era, when people were fascinated by and open to all the scientific developments that were being made, and writing speculative fiction about them - a good mixture of progress and tradition!

Rol said...

Wow. How have I not heard of this book? I have to read it very soon.

Lucy Fishwife said...

Hi Rol - Jack Finney is intermittently available, but last published in the cover I used, in the Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks series. Always available on Amazon (cough)! When you're reading an anthology and a story reminds you of Ray Bradbury but slightly less serious, that's Jack Finney. He wrote a sequel and a whole bunch of very sweet and funny stories about exhausted 1950s ad execs accidentally getting on the wrong train home and ending up sipping lemonade on a leafy 1890s porch in the suburbs. He also wrote "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", that much-remade hymn to Fear Of Communism.

Rol said...

I've added him to my list.