Join 3,556 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Trouble With Time Travel
June 24, 2014 7:30 AM   Subscribe

Two-Stroke Toilets
posted by the man of twists and turns (30 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
That leaded gas can't be doing their 21st-Century cars any good.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:19 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Birgit and Piotr

That timestream has better TV shows.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:19 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the link, I enjoyed the story a lot. As to the comments - you know the drill.
posted by hat_eater at 8:20 AM on June 24


No, I don't know the drill. Maybe if this was a double, I'd know.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:22 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Holy crap that's Marcos Chin on the illustration.
posted by The Whelk at 8:26 AM on June 24


Oh, I'm sorry - I meant the comments under the story, not here! Don't bother to read them.
posted by hat_eater at 8:54 AM on June 24


Kirth, in that timeline, who knows?
posted by Hactar at 9:35 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I was reminded of an old comedic SF story I read many years ago. By Asimov, maybe? It concerned a scientist who invented a time-and-space travel device that, to his great dismay, would only send you to the town's main street about thirty years in the past, and only lasted for about fifteen minutes. While he was bemoaning his inability to visit ancient Rome, his wife used the device, walked into the local butcher shop, and bought prime rib for pennies a pound.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:39 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


I enjoyed reading that, thanks.
posted by El Brendano at 9:41 AM on June 24


That was really good.
posted by mochapickle at 10:43 AM on June 24


I was reminded of an old comedic SF story I read many years ago. By Asimov, maybe? It concerned a scientist who invented a time-and-space travel device that, to his great dismay, would only send you to the town's main street about thirty years in the past, and only lasted for about fifteen minutes. While he was bemoaning his inability to visit ancient Rome, his wife used the device, walked into the local butcher shop, and bought prime rib for pennies a pound.

I would have made a bank deposit.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:28 AM on June 24 [7 favorites]


mumble... leaded petrol... mumble...
posted by Devonian at 11:31 AM on June 24


...then withdrawn it (30 years+) 1 day later, then gone back and redeposited the larger amount.

30 years compounding annually at 5% more than quadruples your initial investment. A week of running that loop once per day that turns $1,000 into $4,096,000.

...or you could just save a few bucks on meat. Whatever floats your boat.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:32 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


For a modern sorta-time-traveler novel, I can recommend The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August, which was written by some UK mainstream novellist under a pseudonym, presumably lest the dread label of Science Fiction be attached. Or they want to Prove Themselves. Or whatever.

It's worth the price of admission, even though... well, I could do a thousand-word critique of it, but I won't. Not here, anyway. (Without spoilers, I think it's really two different books bolted together, and one is much better than the other.)

But it does deal with the 'how would you use future knowledge to safely improve your life' time traveler motif quite neatly, which is to say sensibly and without mucking around making a thing of it.
posted by Devonian at 12:31 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Well, this certainly explains the global warming hockey stick, doesn't it?
posted by dhartung at 12:40 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Douglas Adams has a riff on this idea in one of the Hitchhiker's books. From what I recall, the present uses time travel to plunder resources from the past; things go awry when they in turn start getting plundered by the future, and there's some sort of trans-temporal EPA constructed, or something. Adams pursues it down his particular paths, of course, and there's something about people from the present wanting to be comfortable when they travel to the past, so they establish franchises of their own popular restaurants and such, leading to the idea that the past truly is like a foreign country, because they've got all the same crap as you've got at home.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:40 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


It is a natty illustration.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:07 PM on June 24


Comprehending that story took me a long time. Holy shit.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:01 PM on June 24


Well, that turned out darker than I expected. Great little story.

Douglas Adams has a riff on this idea in one of the Hitchhiker's books. From what I recall, the present uses time travel to plunder resources from the past; things go awry when they in turn start getting plundered by the future

Then there's the Merchant Princes series by (mefi's own) Charles Stross, where parallel present timelines are exploited for resources of various kinds. (Rapid information transmission in one world, slow but unobstructed transport of contraband in another, for starters.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:19 PM on June 24


been there, done that, bought the stephen king book.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 3:58 PM on June 24


Saxon Kane: "Douglas Adams has a riff on this idea in one of the Hitchhiker's books. From what I recall, the present uses time travel to plunder resources from the past; things go awry when they in turn start getting plundered by the future, and there's some sort of trans-temporal EPA constructed, or something. "

You're thinking of the Campaign for Real Time. The name was a joke on the Campaign for Real Ale.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:13 PM on June 24


Anywho, I liked the story, although the bit where the narrator feels existentially icky due to multiple worlds struck me as a bit too reminiscent of "All the Myriad Ways."
posted by Chrysostom at 4:15 PM on June 24


The bank deposit thing wouldn't work, because you would have an infinitely small chance of returning to a world where you had made a deposit. You would do just as well visiting a random bank just in a case another version of you had already made a deposit.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:41 PM on June 24


I was reminded of an old comedic SF story I read many years ago. By Asimov, maybe?

That's The Good Provider, by Marion Gross. The inventor is upset because all of his inventions don't quite work right ("That's the trouble, it don't take me none of the places I want to go, just Main and Center...twenty years ago!"), but it's his wife who is clever enough to rummage through her purse for old bills and go back 20 years for cheaper meat.
posted by xedrik at 8:29 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, which was written by some mainstream UK novelist

Rather to my delight, the author has turned out to be not a mainstream novelist, but someone whose real name (Catherine Webb) and existing pseudonym (Kate Griffin) are associated with, respectively, YA and urban fantasy novels. io9 has an interview with her that includes a discussion of the subject.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 11:23 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August appears to be on a daily deal for £1.50 at Amazon if you're happy with the Kindle version.
posted by pharm at 1:45 AM on June 25


Thank you, Creature! Most interesting. I didn't know the author. but I'll keep an eye out for what she does next.
posted by Devonian at 4:36 AM on June 25


(I note further that she's not yet 30, has already got 15 novels published, and has a parallel career in theatre lighting. This sort of youthful prowess cannot easily be forgiven.)
posted by Devonian at 4:56 AM on June 25


She probably wrote the stories in a future timeline.

ObSF: Harry Turtledove, "Hindsight"
posted by Chrysostom at 5:08 AM on June 25


In fact, the book appears to be set at that price. Maybe it's a promotion after appearing on the BBC Radio 2 book club?

Regardless, it's well written & a good read.
posted by pharm at 5:24 AM on June 26


« Older In the wake of England's exit from the 2014 World ...  |  Inside the Soviet Union's Secr... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments