This month, we’re featuring the upcoming debut novel from Myra McEntire, Hourglass — which is described as a “time slip” novel. Essentially, it’s about time travel. But there’s more to time travel than a phone booth or a souped up Delorean. (Missing my pop culture references? Keep reading …) That’s why we’ve put together today’s Time Travel Primer to share with you the basics of time travel and its various incarnations in literature and pop culture over the years!
Theories on time travel are pretty much entirely based in science fiction. Though some scientists argue it could (theoretically) be possible to travel into the future, it’s unknown if traveling to the past would be possible.
In fiction, at least, time travel is usually accomplished through one of the following means:
- use of a device or machine
- use of wormholes or black holes
- traveling faster than the speed of light
Of course, the “rules” of time travel vary depending on who you ask — or rather, what piece of fiction you’re reading or watching. For example — can history be changed? What about alternate timelines or alternate histories?
Time Travel vs. Time Slip
Wikipedia gives a very concise definition of “time slip,” which may help clarify the subtle difference between these two fictional devices:
an alleged paranormal phenomenon in which a person, or group of people, travel through time via unknown means
Time travel, however, is defined as such:
the concept of moving between different points in time in a manner analogous to moving between different points in space, either sending objects (or in some cases just information) backwards in time to some moment before the present, or sending objects forward from the present to the future without the need to experience the intervening period
Time Travel in Classic Lit
Time travel has been referenced in stories dating back to the 700s BCE, but its most famous incarnations came in the 19th century. These are some of the most well-known classic pieces of literature featuring time travel of some kind:
Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving (1819)
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843)
The Chronic Argonauts by H.G. Wells (1888)
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (1889)
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (1895)
In more recent time, time travel has pervaded some of the 20th & 21st centuries’ most popular movies and TV shows. Foremost among them are:
This trilogy of movies starring Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as Doc (the man who invented time travel) remain a classic to this day, more than 25 years since first hitting theaters. I don’t hear Huey Lewis & the News’s “The Power of Love” without thinking about that tricked out Delorean.
Not only is this one of the UK’s hottest shows (and one of it’s most popular exports to the U.S.), but Hourglass author Myra McEntire is a fan! The show follows the rollicking adventures of the Doctor as he travels through time and space in the TARDIS (his time machine, basically), which appears like a basic British call box. The first TV series debuted in 1963, but has been on and off the air throughout that time. It’s currently enjoying some of its most popular following since first debuting over 40 years ago!
Remember Hermione’s Time Turner? Thanks to this nifty device from Professor McGonagall, Hermione can be in two places at once. Though she originally uses this simply to perpetuate her overachiever tendencies and attend extra classes, she and Harry later use it at the urging of Professor Dumbledore to right certain wrongs.
Time travel is used throughout this popular TV series, but most recently it was employed in the 2009 movie version to explain both changes to the Star Trek universe, and to execute a complicated but clever plot involving the main characters.
Though it was a novel first, and has since been remade as new movies (twice, including a new version this summer) — it’s the original movie with Charleton Heston that really stands out in my mind. At first, Heston’s character thinks he’s landed on another planet where apes rule over mankind. But it’s only at the film’s stunning conclusion when he realizes he’s traveled to Earth in the future!
There’s a whole mythology now that goes along with the Terminator franchise, from the various film versions to the short-lived TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It can be a bit complicated to keep track of, but here’s the gist: John Connor is destined to lead the human resistance against the machines. His father traveled back in time to impregnate his mother. Later, robots travel back in time to try and kill John — though eventually some of the robots join the good guys, and also travel back in time to help him. Catch the original two movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger to see the best of this franchise.
There are dozens of other excellent time travel movies out there, but these are just a few of our favorites.
We’ll feature time travel in literature tomorrow, so be sure to tune in for that, as well!
For the comments: What’s YOUR favorite time travel TV show or movie?