beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I realise it is unproductive to yet again get stuck wondering
which butterfly got stepped on
but I have spent the day reading so much on fire safety (so much. the Guardian coverage alone is extensive, and I found myself checking other papers, as if there were secret nicer timeline news out there instead)
and it's equally unproductive in the end, but worse for my mental health.

so, butterflies, and time travel.

Read more... )

I'm kind of seeing time traveller retired ladies, pillars of the bake sale and horticultural society, always ready with a quiet word, and knowing who to speak it to for most relevant effect.

But maybe time traveller little old ladies who used to be space marines. So they can train local forces, if something too outre turns up.

... and maybe can still fit into the power armour, on special occasion...

Trouble with writing this stuff is I maybe might be able to pull off time travel as heists, working around the eyes of history to improve the timeline nobody sees, but I'm woefully uninformed on how... actual people work? So all this stuff with being part of a community, I'd not know where to start with that. I mean, I watch films where people hit problems until they go away, I'm just reasonably certain it's no damn use in the vast majority of circumstances. Cathartic though. So I keep defaulting to that.

But what you really need are good planners who can get people organised and moving, and even more, people that know how to listen.

These movie sorts that charge in reckoning they know best are dramatic, but the ability to listen to the right warnings and learn from other people's plans is the only way to be better than one single human in a wilderness.

Sometimes I feel I should get more involved in actual politics. Try and get real things done. But that would involve talking or otherwise communicating with real people, and working in groups, and people wanting to choose me to work in their group, and just being able to work in the first place. And even fulfilling all those conditions, the worse the problem is, the harder I bounce off into talking science fiction, because there's only so much I can even.

So then I think I should just write up the fiction. Get people moving that way.

... and then I see my recent word count and just kind of feel bad.

But. Butterflies.

Small maybe works, for to start.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I've been watching Continuum and Doctor Who, and reading about Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash, so I've been thinking about time travel morality.

And it absolutely depends on the physics of time travel, in ways that seem sincerely difficult to determine for certain sure.

It's always about free will and self determination vs assorted definitions of the greatest good for the greatest number.

Read more... )

That's a very long way to say it
if a story does not give us the rules of time travel, we can't tell if the consequences of a travellers actions are good or bad, and we can't evaluate them in a time travel context.

If the rules aren't consistent it gets worse.

And seeing as we don't have time travel or any ability to know what happens elsewhere in the multiverse, we're pretty likely to evaluate actions in a simple way, where saving people is a good thing.

Even if it overrides their choices.

Or might butterfly all of history so whole family trees don't get born.

We can't know all that, we can't even call it a short term long term problem, so we're just going to sit there and sulk that someone could be saved so they should have.

My favourite thing that Legends failed to do? The approach I'd take with that crew? Play as much as you can in the gap between history and happened. Treat all of time as a heist where you have to avoid the cameras. Steal people out from under. Crew a ship with ghosts, whose only impact on the timeline thereafter has to be just as secret as their rescue. Steal the Acheron and make the name mean something.

Then you consider changing history to be a risk, but changing time to be a challenge.

But there's also the time traveller's dilemma, Reverse Flash edition: history says you did it. Do you change things and risk a paradox, do you fight fate and find out the hard way how it herds you, or do you consider the record to be sufficient reason to go ahead and do it? Read more... )

Time travel stories at the simplest ask: Even if we could know for absolutely certain what the consequences of our actions are, do the ends justify the means?

But time travel stories are not on the whole that simple.

So they pit free will against fate and choice against survival maths and generally get messy enough you can't tell if they've done good, and neither can they.

... putting them right back in the fog we linears have to live in anyways.

I get hung up on what we could go back and change, and should probably take a holiday from time machine stories to practice the here now a bit.

But they do allow explorations of possibilities not much available elsewise.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I watch time travel shows. From my first and longest fandom, Doctor Who, up to the latest I may be falling out with, Legends of Tomorrow, I have watched a whole bunch of time travel shows. And a thing that bothers me is that somewhere in their decisions about the physics they make a whole lot of ethical decisions, often without meaning to, and the ethics of time travel is then held up as an entirely distinct thing from everyday ethics.

Time travel is the ultimate in the ends justifying the means.

Someone who knows The Future from a particular point, someone who knows who lives and dies, who by the conceit of this fiction is absolutely sure of the outcome because they've walked around in it, has two distinct categories of choice ahead of them.

Compliance and defiance.

They can either go along with what is, or say fuck it and try for what should be.

Read more... )

I'm with Terry Pratchett and Sam Vimes on this one. You do the job that's in front of you. Doesn't matter if you time travelled to get there, you save lives and stop bad guys.

But that leaves a writer in a shared universe an insoluble problem where they'd logically be changing history out from under their peers every single week. Or, of course, the choice to make good endlessly futile, and hope someone still wants to watch that.

And it leaves someone who can deliberately chose their destination in time with an infinite task, somehow choosing the best of all possible worlds, attempting to build heaven right here.

Heaven, or the afterlife and souls and so forth, is the other ignored and entirely writer dependent variable here. Read more... )

It's tempting to solve it by keeping theology out of one's science fiction, but DC very clearly does not do so. I mean they're using the Spear of Destiny, they're being religious, but I haven't seen it to know if they're doing so with clear theological underpinnings.

But a theological lens brings one set of consequences into sharp focus. It doesn't just matter who lives and how long, but how, right down to the details of their state of mind. And granted, many people are not religious, but if this whole being alive thing matters, if this thinking thing matters beyond its survival utility, if we are the universe seeking to understand itself? I choose to believe every last drop of understanding matters. Every last thought.

So a time traveller changing someone's understanding is also huge.

Read more... )

The time travel shows I stick with are the ones that choose life and freedom, the ones where you can make a difference, and the writers actually let it be a good difference when you do a good thing. Sure it can take you on a dance through consequences, but if the story tries to argue for choosing death and compliance with destiny, it loses me. We have to look at the world as it is right now in front of us and choose the best thing we can think of. We can't know the consequences, so we do the best we can with ethical rules we have, the ones that say free will and the time to use it are what really matters in life.

Yes that leaves time travellers in a never ending battle, but how does that differ from your average superhero?

So I want the show where the heroes are shown the book of destiny and say

There's always a way out
There are no strings on me.

And then somehow when they act out of kindness and love and protect others, they work their way through the consequences to a better world.

Because the other thing, the one that says you've got to give up and let it happen?
A tragic hero gets ground down when they stand in the way of fate, but we don't have to only write tragedies.

A hero defies destiny to make things better.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
today I discovered I did not understand as much as I thought I did about genetics and meiosis and recombination
which, given my a level grades, is not a surprise, but remains slightly frustrating.
but now I have a dozen tabs open to learn more and replace my wrong knowledge, which is always a nice opportunity.

... all this in aid of figuring out exactly how much of the world a time traveller from the 25th century would be related to, and how likely he is to grandfather paradox himself on accident if he's a serial killer.

... except the TV version of the flash says he's born 136 years into the future, which is a very different number of generations (and like 64 or 32 ancestors to memorise? 128 if all super eager?). And comics version gives multiple different dates of origin in quick succession according to web pages that claim to know, so who knows how many generations. so it's not entirely useful even in fanfic terms, it's just what I was wondering.

Because if you kill your grandfather you're clearly screwed, unless there was secretly a slightly different ancestry than you were aware of. But if you go far enough back we could have more ancestors than there were people, but don't because of marrying in your village and so forth, and people who do clever math reckoned an English child would be related to 80% of Britain a thousand years ago, or possibly not depending on which what where who and what you believe. So does that mean that a time traveller from far enough forward would have an 80% chance of a grandfather paradox if he killed any random person, or would it only matter if their specific genetics made it down the line to you?

But then that's more likely than I'd at first understood, because recombination, so you probably need a really large percentage of your ancestors for a bunch of generations. But there's one page has fancy graphs to show you're probably not related to all your ancestors at ten generations out. So could you just kill the ancestors you weren't carrying genes from, and because Time Wants To Happen, it'll all work out somehow anyway? Different ancestor swaps in instead, but washes out the same way? Seems unlikely.

Best just to say that time travellers trying to kill ANYbody far enough back they're unclear on their ancestry are risking a grandfather paradox, and that therefore time travellers should not dare be killers, and killers really must be stopped from time travel.

And it makes no sense to pack a ship full of vigilantes and murderers to go assassinate someone who started living four thousand years ago, and then treat their violence as trivial. It would be quite difficult to be sure of a four thousand year old man's descendants, even if he tried to keep track. And it would be impossible to be sure of the identities of all the people they've opened fire on, let alone their descendants.

Ciolence whilst time travelling is very likely to be terminally unwise.

Unless you are dealing with different species and an isolationist home planet, in which case you'd only have to make sure not to go home again. Unless of course you're a hybrid...

but, genetics. more complicated than I remembered even. which was quite complicated enough.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
So, it is past midnight and I'm still reading GURPS Infinite Worlds.
Yup, this is dumb.

But it started talking about Time Agents.

There's a bit about paradox. The DWverse is... well, I don't think anyone ever aimed at consistency, so you can't really knock it for not doing what it weren't trying for. But it do get a tad bit confusing. If there are Rules then they're a bit difficult to figure, and always subject to change when someone has a Better Idea.

I still maintain that Father's Day was *not* a better idea for that 'verse. Is very very annoying.

But, there was an interesting bit in the GURPS book about the Observer Effect. Basically, a Time Agent isn't causing paradox when he changes stuff *unless* that stuff has been observed by a Time Agent. Because history, as we know, is just stuff that got written down. A lot of it is about as factual as Shakespeare by the time it gets to us. It don't seem particularly unfair to just ignore History and get on with the doing of things. And even when things are writ down, they often get the particulars wrong enough they're safe to ignore. Nobody wrote that aliens started a fire in London, but if aliens did, then it was True, and not a paradox at all.

But if a time traveller sees something, that something is then beyond changing, because having been observed, it cannot be effected.

It goes on under a heading of I don't want to know!:
Agents hate to observe the death of a friend. Sometimes an agent will walk away from a wounded ally, rather than risk checking and finding out they are dead. If the death isn't reported, there is a chance that help might arrive in time.

Under that rule, Rose's father wasn't actually definitely cat out of the box dead until Rose had to go back and watch it happen.

The Doctor doesn't tend to go back and visit companions he dropped off a while back. Because, you see, as long as he doesn't, there isn't anything to say he *can't*. For personal timeline centuries there was in fact every possibility that the Doctor went and picked up Sarah Jane a couple of weeks after he dropped her off. Maybe a bit more, if you count that Five Doctors thingy. But the only time it could become *definitely* true for the pair of them that he never went back would be if he bumped into her really late in her timeline and she said he didn't.

Which would make such an event a bit of a tragedy really.

As for rushing to the rescue and instead finding a corpse... big time tragedy. Observed, has happened. Cannot be changed.

Might make you a bit hesitant to do the rushing thing in the first place. After all, if you sit back, get a bit of a plan together, grab a time machine and give yourself a bit of a run up, you're bound to have a better chance at it. Right?

OTOH, if nobody does hang back from rushing, if they're always the first to check, then either this isn't The Rule or they don't reckon they could time travel in to change it anyways.

Can't risk doubling back on yourself once in a timeline. Not if accidental contact can lead to wiping out that whole reality. So once you're there, time is as urgent to a time traveller as it is to everyone else.

But leaving something as needs seeing to across town while you pop out across time is not in fact a problem, because you can always pop back (a couple of minutes) later. Sometimes a half dozen incarnations later on your personal timeline, but who's counting? As long as it gets done.

Time travel makes my head hurt.

Just as long as it isn't Crime Traveller style. They set up this 'verse where the whole rule was based around the physical impossibility of creating paradox, however hard you tried. Everything that happened first time around would happen when you travelled back too, just sometimes from a different perspective. It was so... totally limiting, and futile, and they kept on coming up with new refinements to make even more things impossible. They basically wrote themselves out of having any more stories.
Also, it was very bad. But that was a whole seperate problem.

Time travel to be fun at all, changes have to be possible. Otherwise you have to stay home and watch it on trans-temporal TV, which while diverting rather lacks that 'travel' aspect and ends up being about echoes and knock on effects instead.

No fate but what we make.

Or there's not much point trying.


beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)

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