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Is That a Delorian in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?
by Megan Larson

Throughout our lives, we are constantly reminded of the past or how our every decision will affect the future. Consequently, it makes sense that we dream of seeing how people lived during the Dark Ages or what advances society will have made in one hundred years. These ideas are constantly found in literature and come to life in film as the creators seek to understand the mystery of time travel.

Time travel was present in early books such as Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward and Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (both written at about the same time) but H.G. Wells became the most famous of the time travel authors. When Wells wrote The Time Machine in 1895, he set the ball rolling for exploring time travel in literature, as well as contributed to the rising science fiction genre. Ironically, this “man who invented tomorrow” also rejected science later in life and tried to warn of the harm it could do.

Despite Wells’ efforts, the development of science and time travel continued to be an important topic of discussion to this day. From to the Wrinkle in Time series, to Timeline by Michael Crichton, time travel has been a common trend in literary exploration.

Films, too, have attempted to explain the complexities of time travel, if only for entertaining purposes. For the most part time travel is presented as a completely absurd concept, such as the souped up Delorian in Back to the Future or television’s Quantum Leap’ing. However, there are some films that attempt to be more serious about the subject matter. For instance, Donnie Darkoi, which has a cult-like following, tries to explain the metaphysical aspects of time travel.

Whether or not the plausibility is explained, throughout film and literature dealing with time travel, there seems to be three key methods of traveling back in time. There is the inanimate machine, the moving machine, and what we can simply call “by accident”, or what is often referred to as a wormhole.

The inanimate machine is present in such books as The Time Machine and Timeline, as well as in television shows, such as Professor Peabody’s “way-back” machine in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. This machine generally has a lot of levers or buttons, and the users may attempt to explain time travel through science and quantum physics.

The moving machine is perhaps best shown in the Delorian from Back to the Future, a car that uses nuclear fuel (and trash) for power. The key to getting these machines to work seems to be driving really fast in order to disappear in tracks of flame.

Finally, time travel often happens by accident. In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and its subsequent retellings, people fall asleep and wake to find themselves in another time.

While time travel has become a cheesy way to tell a story, its beginnings were essential in building the science fiction tradition. As we move forward into the twenty-first century, it can only be expected that authors will continue to explore time travel possibilities, especially with the continuing developments in science. Besides, who wouldn’t want to find out if all those history books are correct?


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Beam Me Up, Scotty: Teleportation in Science Fiction

Is that a Delorian in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

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