Monday, November 17, 2008

Manic Monday Apocalypso: Time Machines

Yes, I've said that H.G. Wells Time Machine isn't really apocalyptic or even post-apocalyptic, as it's so far into the future that it's simply a new reality. But I'm only mentioning it as a segue into the real subject.

First of all, I didn't really care for the book. Or for War of the Worlds. I read H.G. Wells in Junior High and I was probably out of my depth, but I found him dull. So imagine my surprise when I saw the George Pal movie a few years ago and found it was great.

Rod Taylor is handsome and heroic and Yvette Mimieux worthy of rescuing, and the whole thing is a lot more engaging than I would have suspected with the rather thin plot of the book. (War of the Worlds is also thin on plot, but the George Pal movie is also better.)

But what we fear about apocalypse is written on the smaller "ends" that we experience throughout our life. Deaths. Growing up. Sexual awakening. All the various acquaintances we make with the universe where the universe goes out of its way to educate us on who the winner is to be most of the time.

We're all in a one-way time machine, with little apocalypses in the form of cell death and senescence.

Cheery thought for a Monday, eh? Yet, the cell death is really just a form of reminding us of what has passed--or is it that we long for what has passed because we were younger then?

Spider Robinson had an early sci-fi story called "The Time Traveller" that took place at Callahan's Saloon. It concerned someone who had been locked up for about 20 years, from about 1960 to 1980, I think. And the world was so different, he's a modern Rip Van Winkle.

And yet, you could draw a line from, say, 1988 to 2008 and again not recognize the world. And while I'd argue that the world is a much better place now then it was then (overall and with plenty of caveats), I wonder about the next 20 years.


  1. In 1988, I had never touched a computer. Also was much slimmer, more dark on top, and had perfect vision. Also, broke, and had no grandchildren. Got a job with computers in it in '91. Clearly, computers lead to weight gain, grey hair, and glasses. And more money, or after tuition, maybe not.

    Time travel: Lore Sjöberg explains all the possibilities. Just saw this today, so that it fits with your post makes a nice case of synchronicity.

    One of those possibilities explored all the way to the end, and maybe past it: Heinlein's "All You Zombies."

    Another possibility taken all the way: Alfred Bester's "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed." Text apparently not on line, but a nice essay here.

  2. Have you seen the HG Wells-meets-Jack-the-Ripper movie, "Time After Time"? It's one of my favorites.

  3. I followed Lore religiously when he was one of the Brunching Shuttlecocks. For whatever reason I haven't been able to re-engage.

    Liked this bit, though: A classic "rating" thing. He's got a book of those.

    That RAH story is almost Dickian.

  4. knox,

    'deed I do know that movie, very well. Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen hooked up on that set, I believe, and were together for a decade or more.

    I'm trying to remember if Richard Matheson (of "I Am Legend") wrote that one. He wrote a later one which I also liked, even though it was much less popular, called "Somewhere in Time" with Chris Reeve and Jane Seymour.

    In "Somewhere", time travel is accomplished mentally, which was an interesting angle.


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