Friday, 23 September 2016
Literature And Time
Natural time is cyclical but a human life has a direction. Volume I of Poul And Karen Anderson's King of Ys Tetralogy begins:
"At noon upon that Birthday of Mithras..."
-The King Of Ys: Roma Mater (London, 1989), I, 1, p. 13.
Very near the end of Volume IV, the ex-King of Ys exclaims:
"'Today is the Birthday of Mithras...it seems to me as though this, everything that matters to me, it began that selfsame day, five-and-twenty years ago. I stood on guard on the Wall...'"
-The King Of Ys: The Dog And The Wolf (New York, 1989), XXV, 2, p. 497.
Science fiction can show us the death of the universe. Time travel fiction can show us a character visiting and returning from the death of the universe. In fact, to travel too far in either temporal direction is to enter realms that are increasingly alien and ultimately uninhabitable. We will demonstrate this with two examples from Poul Anderson and two from those most quintessentially British of time travelers, the Time Traveler and the Doctor.
(Before it is objected that the Doctor is neither British nor even human, I will reply that:
(the feature film Doctor Who, played by Peter Cushing, was indeed an English inventor, like Wells' Time Traveler;
(the incarnation of the Doctor whom I will cite, played by Christopher Eccleston, when asked why he had a Northern accent (this matters in England), replied, "Every planet has a North!")