Book Reviews





Time Travel Paradox

Let's talk time travel...

This past weekend had a bit of a theme in my house. We watched Looper, Time Crimes (aka Los Cronocrimenes) and (no laughing in the back) an episode of Star Trek Voyager in which the ship was fractured into different parts of it's own past timeline.

They all featured time travel, and the ONLY ONE that made timely sense (to me anyway) was Star Trek.

Time travel has always been quite a mind bending thing to read, watch and understand... Science fiction by it's very nature is varying and complex but time travel carries with it a web of confusion unparalleled by anything else. If you do it simply, it's quite straight forward: person with non-murderous intent (and therefore no likelihood of killing an ancestor) time travels back so far back that they do not exist yet, and so never encounters their past self. Timelines never cross, and adventures ensue. When films/books try to be clever, however - and why not? I'm all for pushing boundaries and mind-f***s -  they often fall into the Time Travel Paradox. And this is where both Looper and Time Crimes ended up.

"What is the Time Travel Paradox?!" you ask? Here's the definition from the fount-of-all-untrustworthy-knowledge, Wikipedia. But I can vouch for this definition's truth ;)
Temporal paradox (also known as time paradox and time travel paradox) is a theoretical paradoxical situation that happens because of time travel. A time traveler goes to the past, and does something that would prevent him from time travel in the first place. If he does not go back in time, he does not do anything that would prevent his traveling to the past, so time travel would be possible for him. However, if he goes back in time and does something that would prevent the time travel, he will not go back in time. Thus each possibility seems to imply its own negation - a type of logical paradox.
Ok, that in itself is a bit of a maze for your brain so let me try and paraphrase...

Time Paradox is when a person time travels back in time and interferes with their own time line in a way that means they will not end up time travelling. Meaning, if they had never travelled back in time, they would probably end up going back in time...

Geddit? No, probably not. I was only introduced to the principal myself this weekend, so I'm probably not coherent in time-speak. If only Stephen Hawking could have guest written this post!

Anyway, we don't need that exact definition, because Time Crimes had kind of a reverse going on. The time traveler ONLY TIME TRAVELED IN THE FIRST PLACE because their TIME TRAVELED SELF made them do it.

Now, surely, at some point in this time loop of affecting selves, there was an instance in which there was no time travelled self to cause the time traveler to time travel?!

Oh god, my head hurts...

Looper, on the other hand, affected a FUTURE self, after past and present come face to face. ***SPOILER*** Past-self shoots himself, so that future-self doesn't exist. So, did any of the last hour and a half of film ever actually exist?!

ARGH! Brain melt...

The point of this post is that beyond Star Trek, that featured a convenient if contrived memory loss clause, I have not had the joy of encountering any time travel stories that seem to have expertly dodged the paradox. If you have watched either of these films recently, and would like proof that time travel CAN work in stories, like I do, I want to be able to help.

So here's the call: Have you read/watched/heard of any stories that dodge the paradox? Can they even exist?!

(As for the Looper and Time Crimes... In all other respects, they were OK films if you look beyond the paradoxes, though I far preferred the lower budget Spanish film over Looper. Bruce Willis just bugs me.)