Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Time Crime

How does anyone become a "time criminal"? You have to live in a universe where:

time travel happens;
changing the past is possible;
there is a law against it.

In the Time Patrol timeline, future civilizations that send expeditions into the past are bound by laws enforced by the Time Patrol. In those civilizations, the Patrol operates openly whereas, in earlier periods, it had to disguise itself as firms like Dalhousie & Roberts or Engineering Studies Co. Imagine:

finding the Time Patrol in the telephone directory;
visiting the Patrol's city center offices;
maybe working in those offices in an administrative post;
applying to join the Patrol and train at its Academy in the American Oligocene.

Even as a Patrol agent, you would probably work in your own milieu without regular access to a time machine although you would holiday at places like the Pleistocene Lodge.

A time crime may or may not be similar to an ordinary crime, e.g., to assassinate the young Julius Caesar or to prevent his parents from meeting would both be a time crime - effectively the same crime: trying to change history in a particular way.

If I were in the Time Patrol timeline and were able to prevent the Holocaust, then I would feel obliged to do so. I do not believe the Patrol propaganda that I would thereby prevent my family and friends from ever having existed - although I would deprive myself of access to them.

SM Stirling's William Walker is a murderer but not a time criminal.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Would you NOT try to prevent the Holocaust from happening if you KNEW the Time Patrol's argument that doing so would prevent all the future history of mankind from happening that would lead to the Danellians was true?

    But I think you convinced Poul Anderson that, as he developed it, "nullifying" past events caused universes to split into divergent, inaccessible timelines. But even that almost certainly would not prevent the Holocaust from happening in some timelines.


  2. Paul and Sean:
    I had an idea at one time for a story (which I lacked the ability to turn into a GOOD story) about someone whose time machine operated forward, backward AND sideways, so divergent timelines WEREN'T inaccessible to him. But he would explain, if anyone asked, that trying to stop a past event only created more of those divergences. It was an exercise in futility: he'd make a reality where Hitler never existed, or became a disciple of Gandhi, or whatever ... but his old timeline would still be unchanged. And there'd be OTHERS in which he changed things, but not QUITE successfully.

    Richard Meredith wrote a trilogy in which some people didn't ACCEPT that concept. In trying to make it so there was NO reality in which their extinction would occur, they created so many temporal branches that the fabric of space-time became strained ... producing their extinction.

    1. Hi, David!

      My head hurts trying to grasp the idea of a time machine which could travel backwards, forwards, and SIDEWAYS in time! (Smiles)

      That said, I would add "Exactly!" I simply don't think we could prevent SOME timelines, such as ours, from having bad things like the Sarajevo assassination or the Holocaust. Other timelines might be more fortunate.