Thursday, 13 August 2015

"Time Patrol"

We know that "Time Patrol" is about time travel, and indeed about a time traveling organization, because of its title and because we first read it either in The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction or in a collection called Guardians Of Time. Nevertheless, when reading or rereading the story, we should disregard this foreknowledge in order to appreciate how the author introduces his theme. In Time Patrol (New York, 2006), "Time Patrol" begins on p. 1 but the explanation, "'Our real business is patrolling time...'" appears near the end of p. 5.

The first intimation is the description of Mr Gordon on pp. 1-2. He bears a "...foreignness...'" (p. 1) that was more than the sum of his incongruous facial features. "It was hard to place." (p. 2) - because it was in his entire manner which, for his job as a recruitment officer, there is no need to disguise. If the past is a foreign country, then the future must be even more so.

When Everard undergoes tests, the machines are unrecognizable and the letters and numerals on meter faces are unfamiliar. They do not look like "...anything belonging to A.D. 1945. Perhaps he was already beginning to realize the truth, even then." (p. 4) We later learn that the time settings on Patrol timecycles use post-Arabic numerals. Further, the white-skinned hairless assistant could be from Saturnian orbit in the thirty second century (The Shield Of Time, Part Six, 18,244 B.C., I, p. 296).

It is good to reread this extremely sophisticated opening story in the light of the subsequent series.

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