Subgenre Study: Time Travel

Squiders, I am bringing this to you even though I have overdosed on candy and may die.  That’s how dedicated I am.

Time Travel is generally considered a subgenre of science fiction, but there’s been some controversy lately.  You see, Einsteinian physics state that time travel is impossible.  No can do.  You’d have to destroy the universe to do it, and that’s just not worth it in a lot of people’s eyes.  (Those fools!)  As such, some people are now clamoring that Time Travel be considered fantasy, since it’s not scientifically plausible.

Those people are tools, by the way. As we discussed in Hard Science Fiction, not all science fiction has to be scientifically applicable.  (You know what else is theoretically impossible with current physics? Faster Than Light travel, the backbone of Scifi series all over the place.)  Intent and feel, as always, are important when determining genre.

So, Time Travel, a common trope that science fiction writers love to exploit over and over and over…whether you can slingshot around the sun to rescue some whales, fly through time and space in a police box, or whether your genes determine that you can puncture the fabric of space-time.  (I’ve read a couple of books now where people are genetically predisposed towards time travel.  It’s like the best of scifi’s two favorite tropes, time travel and genetic modification.)

Time travel can involve people from the past going into the future, people from the future going into the past, or people from the present going whichever way they want.  They can bounce around in their own lives or visit the span of human history.  They can influence events or merely watch.  They can go by machine, ship, genetics, or their own minds.

Often time travel is mixed with alternate history and alternate universes.  (All of which are awesome.)

And for those of you that are sad that science says it’s impossible, well…Einsteinian Physics has some problems, and some of the new physics show that it might be possible.  (New Physics also like multiple universes.  New Physics is awesome.)

What are your favorite time travel tales, Squiders?  I highly recommend the rather excellent The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger if you haven’t read it.

9 responses to this post.

  1. Buts we wants the subgenre. Give it to us precious. We wants it…


  2. I believe the antidote for candy overdose is actually more candy. Have a Milk Dud. .I think a time travel tale could also belong to the genre of historical fiction or romance, depending on the overall feel of the piece


  3. All Dr. Who fans feel they own this particular sub-genre. Even though I’m only a part time fan, I must admit they handle this theme quite well. I’d also mention a fairly good take on this in the book TimeSplash, by Graham Storrs. It’s a fast paced thriller about young people running away with Time Travel technology. And then there’s Star Trek. With so many good shows based on this. The City On The Edge of Forever stands out as a great one.

    The list goes on-and-on-and-on….


  4. Whether you consider time travel to be a science fiction idea (which it is) or a fantasy idea doesn’t really matter to me. It annoys me either way. Time travel inherently creates a paradox. If you go back in time to fix a problem, the problem no longer exists in the future which means you had no excuse to go back in time. And then if they didn’t go back in time, the problem still exists.

    Going back in time does nothing except create continuity problems and essentially split the world into two separate timelines. If time travel is one of the major plot points in a story, it just annoys me and really ruins the book for me. I can overlook a lot of things in a story, but the hand-waving required for me to buy time travel just doesn’t work.


    • I’m a sucker for time travel and alternate universe stories. Don’t know why, but I find them very appealing.

      As for the paradox concern, some time travel stories do manage to handle that – it turns out the person (or persons) going back in time HAVE to be there for ‘normal’ events to occur. They go back to solve a particular problem, but only by doing so do they ensure the ‘correct’ events.

      I’m probably not explaining that very well. Alas.

      Also, there are now theories under serious consideration (put forth by actual scientists and such) postulating multiple universes, branching off at points on a decision tree.

      I find it awesome that science is (finally) starting to catch up with science fiction. 🙂


  5. […] Subgenre Study: Time Travel « Where Landsquid Fear to Tread Time Travel is generally considered a subgenre of science fiction, but there's been some controversy lately. You see, Einsteinian physics state that time travel is impossible. No can do. You'd have to destroy the universe to do … Source: […]


  6. Dang it, a glitch in the space-time continuum interrupted my reply. :/

    I wanted to add that 20/20 Vision by Pamela West is one of my favorite works involving time travel.

    I also remember a book I read as a kid where a bunch of teenagers go forward and backward in time via misuse of a government project. They were trying to stop another teenager who went forward to a Dying Earth future, then back to kill the then-president, causing the Dying Earth future. It seemed really awesome at the time, though I suspect a re-read at my current age would disappoint. Except I can’t remember the title, so that isn’t gonna happen.


  7. […] SCIENCE FICTION SUBGENRES Subgenres within the Science Fiction genre Cyberpunk  Dystopia/Apocalyptic Fiction Hard Science Fiction Military Science Fiction Space Opera Space Western Time Travel […]


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