Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Time Machine And There Will Be Time

Poul Anderson's There Will Be Time bears comparison with Wells' The Time Machine - and, of course, acknowledges it with a reference to Wells.

(i) Wells creatively imagined what has come to be called a "time machine," which is rather archaic terminology. We no longer speak of "flying machines" although I remember a friend's grandfather doing so. Anderson creatively imagined time travel as a psychic power not needing a machine.

(ii) Wells' Time Traveler demonstrates "time traveling" by making a model time machine disappear in front of his dinner guests. Anderson's Jack Havig demonstrates his own chronokinesis by disappearing and reappearing in front of Robert Anderson.

(iii) The Time Traveler colorfully describes day and night passing like the flapping of a wing, the Sun as a ring of fire across the sky, trees shooting up like green rockets etc. Havig describes a shadow world with a flickering for day and night.

(iv) Both characters try to account for their experiences in terms of their current scientific understanding.

(v) Both give an account of the future of mankind, with concern about immediate prospects followed by longer term perspectives:

devolution into Morlocks and Eloi, then the Further Vision;
a peaceful and pastoral but high tech future with "Star Masters" visiting Earth and time travelers moving forwards, then backwards, along the world lines of slower then light interstellar craft.

(vi) Anderson adds a historical dimension which The Time Machine lacks, although, of course, Wells also wrote The Outline Of History.

(vii) Anderson surpasses Wells by describing a community of time travelers, instead of just a single "Time Traveler," and by elaborating the paradoxes at which Wells merely hints.

This one work of Anderson's is a considerable achievement. I also regard his, very different, Time Patrol series as a direct successor to The Time Machine because the Patrol's timecycles are like high tech descendants of Wells' elaborate nineteenth century contraption and because the evolution into Danellians parallels and contrasts with the devolution into Morlocks and Eloi.

The Time Machine and There Will Be Time are two short novels whereas the Time Patrol series is two long volumes. Uniform editions of these four volumes would make a good "Introduction to Time Travel."

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