Monday, 31 July 2017

A Few More Details In The Time Machine

Copied from the Logic of Time Travel blog:

See A Few Details In The Time Machine.

One detail that I missed before was the detailed description of the model Time Machine:

"The thing the Time Traveller held in his hand was a glittering metallic framework, scarcely larger than a clock, and very delicately made. There was ivory in it, and some transparent crystalline substance."
-HG Wells, The Time Machine (London, 1973), Chapter 2, p. 13.

On closer inspection, that description is not very detailed but it gives that impression. It is appropriate that this hand-held Time Machine is compared to a clock, that it contains an exotic substance, ivory, and that the transparent crystalline substance remains unidentified. We know something of what the Time Machine looks like but not, of course, how it works.

But every description in The Time Machine is appropriate:

the substantial-seeming full-size Time Machine is unstable, swaying like a branch in the wind;
the model looks "'...singularly askew...'" (p. 14) and one part of it seems unreal;
the ruddy sunset sets the Time Traveller's mind on the sunset of mankind (Chapter 6, p. 37).

Another detail is the eclipse in Chapter 14, "The Further Vision." The day darkens as a concavity grows across the curve of the large red sun which is now motionless on the horizon:

"'Either the moon or the planet Mercury was passing across the sun's disk. Naturally, at first I took it to be the moon, but there is much to incline me to believe that what I really saw was an inner planet passing very near to the earth.'" (p. 94)

But Mercury would have to pass very close to cover the entire swollen solar disk as it proceeds to do. And what inclines the Time Traveller to believe that this was not the moon? Earth now has one face to the sun so maybe that is enough to indicate that the moon is not there any more? Here, the experience of Poul Anderson's Martin Saunders closely parallels that of Wells' Time Traveller:

"Saunders looked out on a bare mountain scene, grim as the Moon - but the Moon had long ago fallen back toward its parent world and exploded into a meteoric rain. Earth faced its primary now; its day was as long as its year. Saunders saw part of the sun's huge blood-red disc shining wanly."
-Poul Anderson, "Flight to Forever" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 207-288 AT p. 284.

Wells wrote about the Time Traveller and his Time Machine. Wells' successors, including Anderson, write about time travellers and their time machines. Heinlein wrote the Future History. Heinlein's successors, including Anderson, write future histories. (Of course, Wells and Stapledon also wrote future histories but on a different model.)

One more detail:

the Time Traveller fancies that he sees a black object flopping about on the beach of the salt Dead Sea;
rereading, we remember that there was such a flopping object;
then he judges that the object is motionless and is a mere rock;
we think that we were mistaken to remember a moving object;
then, after a while, he sees that it is indeed moving, like a tentacled football;
it is the last thing that he sees before he returns home.

Did Wells deliberately write that passage in such a way that anyone reading the text for a second time would think that he had been mistaken but would then rediscover the fitfully hopping object, "...black against the weltering blood-red water..."? (p. 95) Probably not.

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Your commentary on Anderson's "Flight To Forever" makes me think BETTER of that story. I had hitherto thought this early work of his interesting but not one of his best stories. But I realize now there is MUCH to be found in that piece. Also, "Flight To Forever" now comes across to me as being very "Wellsian," as have been influenced by H.G. Wells works.

    Sean

    ReplyDelete