Graham Storrs lives in rural Australia with his wife, Christine, and an Airedale terrier called Bertie. He has published three children’s science books and scores of articles and academic papers (in the fields of psychology, artificial intelligence, and human-computer interaction). He recently turned his attention to science fiction and has since published over 20 short stories in magazines and anthologies. Timesplash, Graham’s debut novel, was published by Momentum in June 2013. Truth Path: Timesplash 2 releases this month.

Sci-Fi and the Physics of Time Travel

by Graham Storrs

Physicists don’t make it easy for sci-fi writers, not those who want to write about time travel, that is. Yes, they allow us a few, measly possibilities – you could drag one end of a wormhole off on a near-lightspeed round trip (if you could build a wormhole and if you could find a way to drag one end of it), you could build a contraption that exploits frame dragging by rotating laser cylinders (if you had near-infinite amounts of energy at your disposal), or you could try transferring information through time with tachyons (if such particles even exist), but that’s about all the options you get.

Yes, you can wave your arms and talk quickly about the missing singularity in loop quantum gravity, hop into a black hole and Bob’s your uncle, but, if you want to stick with real physics, even the wildly speculative stuff, time, my friend, is a bitch.

And yet we love the knots that chrononauts tie themselves into as the paradoxes pile one upon the other. We love the idea that, if you could just go back and do that one thing differently, or go forward and see how it all works out, our lives – everybody’s lives – could be so much better.

Time travel is about abolishing regret, righting wrongs, avoiding terrible mistakes. And if that means a journey in time must defy the laws of the Universe, then punch in the destination, throw the lever, and let’s be off.

For those unencumbered by any knowledge of physics, time travel is as easy as pie. There are countless stories of magical transportation between the ages. These paranormal “timeslip” stories with their magical objects, portals, or “gifted” people don’t get hung up on temporal anomalies, focusing instead on the Roman legionnaire’s oiled muscles, or the Byronic curls of a Mr. Darcy lookalike’s untameable hair. (I mock it, of course, but for a really good timeslip novel, try Daphne du Maurier’s The House on the Strand.)

Science fiction writers have only three ways of coping with the miserable paucity of physically plausible time travel methods. The first is to just suck it up, drag that wormhole, fly through the black hole (with your despaghettification shields on max), and reply with “quantum weirdness” whenever awkward questions are asked on fan forums. My all-time favourite SF novel in this category is Gregory Benford’s Timescape, wherein a future scientist warns us of the catastrophic ecological mistake we’re all about to make, by sending messages on a beam of tachyons. Sadly, we now know that even 10,000 climate scientists yelling “Don’t do it!” at the tops of their voices for two decades isn’t enough to avoid an ecological disaster, let alone a few time travelling tweets in Morse code.

The second technique for avoiding physical constraints on time travel, is simply to blast through them with unshakeable confidence that every problem can be solved. Of course we’ll go faster than light one day, we just need bigger engines. Brain uploads? Sure! I give it a couple of decades. Because, you see, progress transcends everything and the human spirit is unstoppable. In a world where few of us understand how any of our technology works, it might as well be magic. Science, many say, is just another belief system. And, if we believe hard enough, anything could happen. It’s how Star Trek does time travel. You slingshot around the Sun and – hey presto! – you’re flying backwards in time (see also, Superman).

The final technique is to use superscience. Superscience is like magic but not really. It’s the science of the far future, way beyond our understanding (like Michael Moorcock’s power rings in The Dancers at the End of Time), or it comes from an alien race (like the “time gate” in Heinlein’s “By His Bootstraps”, and Dr Who’s TARDIS – Star Trek also used alien portals for time travelling), or it is the work of brilliant genius (H.G. Wells’ time machine, or Back to the Future‘s de Lorean, for instance – or the “lob site” in my own series, Timesplash).

In many ways, superscience is the most satisfactory solution to time travel. In the absence of any real science, it allows us to explore this magnificent literary device while never surrendering the principle that all phenomena are, at root, natural, explainable, and manipulable by anyone with the knowledge and the equipment – in theory, anyway.


WORLDWIDE GIVEAWAY: Win an eBook Copies of TIMESPLASH and TRUE PATH by Graham Storrs!

Guess what? SF Signal has 10 sets of Graham’s Timesplash series (Timesplash and True Path) to give away to 10 lucky readers!

Here is what the books are about:

TIMESPLASH

It started out as something underground, edgy and cool. Then Sniper took it all too far and timesplashing became the ultimate terrorist weapon.

Scarred by their experiences in the time traveling party scene, Jay and Sandra are thrown together in what becomes the biggest manhunt in history: the search for Sniper, Sandra’s ex-boyfriend and a would-be mass murderer.

Set in the near future, Timesplash is a fast-paced action thriller. Filled with great characters, a sprinkling of romance, and a new and intriguing take on time travel, Timesplash is ultimately a very human tale about finding bravery through fear, and never giving up.

Highly recommended for science fiction and thriller enthusiasts alike.

TRUE PATH

The biggest timesplash ever. An orgy of destruction. A new American revolution.

It’s 2066 and Sandra has kept a low profile for 16 years, working as a tech in a quiet British university, hoping her past would never catch up with her. But it has.

When Jay hears Sandra has been kidnapped, he drops everything and goes to the U.S. to find her. But Sandra’s kidnapper is not an ordinary criminal. He’s America’s most-wanted terrorist – a man driven to to free his country from religious oppression at any cost. Sandra, still suffering from the fallout of earlier timesplashes, refuses to help create the biggest timesplash ever, which would unleash a wave of destruction that the rebels hope will kickstart a new American revolution.

When Cara, Sandra’s teenage daughter, is taken by one of the many factions on the ground in Washington D.C., Sandra’s resolve is shaken, and Jay is forced into a race against time to stop the deaths of millions or save Sandra and her daughter.

Sandra and Jay must ultimately decide between what is right for them and what is right for all in this thrilling continuation of the Timesplash series.

Here’s how you can enter for a chance to win:

  1. Send an email to contest at sfsignal dot com. (That’s us).
  2. In the subject line, enter ‘Timesplash
  3. In the body of the email, please specify the eBook format of choice: epub or mobi.
  4. Geographic restrictions: None! This giveaway is open to anyone with an email address.
  5. Only one entry per person please.
  6. The giveaway will end Friday, July 12th, 2013 (9:00 PM U.S Central time). The winners will be selected at random, notified, and announced shortly thereafter.

Good luck!

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