[Sci-Fi Month] A sci-fi confession

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So, as well as sharing some things I LOVE about sci-fi, I thought it’d also be fun to share some sci-fi confessions too!  This is the first of at least two conessions posts planned for the month, and it has the bigger confession, the kind that leads people to say “But then how can you be a sci-fi fan at all?”  But if I can be upfront with anyone, I know it’s my fellow book bloggers, so…

Confession: Time travel frequently confuses the hell out of me

Okay, okay, so that maybe requires a little more explanation, because that does sound like I’d have a hard time with sci fi in general.  I don’t have a problem with ALL time travel. Person A jumps into the future: fine, I can keep up with that. Zero problems.  Person B jumps into the past, probably okay.  My problem, specifically, is with time travel where an event seems to cause itself.

I have spent more hours than I’d care to admit reading about these paradoxes (usually after watching a movie that contains one or the other, trying to find someone else who agrees with me that they’re baffling!), and can’t even keep the differences straight: wikipedia for example lumps ontological paradoxes/bootstrap paradoxes in with predestination paradoxes, as do most other places (or more commonly, says that a bootstrap paradox is a variant of a predestination paradox), but a few seem to say they’re not quite the same.

So, a couple of definitions [from AstronomyTrek]:

A Bootstrap Paradox is a type of paradox in which an object, person, or piece of information sent back in time results in an infinite loop where the object has no discernible origin, and exists without ever being created”

A Predestination paradox occurs when the actions of a person traveling back in time ultimately causes the event he is trying to prevent to occur. He then becomes trapped inside a ‘temporal causality loop’ in which Event 1 in the past influences Event 2 (time travel to the past) which then causes Event 1 to occur.”

In case that’s still confusing to you (like it is to me), here are a couple of examples [Also from AstronomyTrek]:

An example of a bootstrap paradox involving information would be if a time traveler went back in time and taught Einstein the theory of relativity, before returning to his own time. Einstein claims it’s his own work, and over the following decades the theory is published countless times until a copy of it eventually ends up in the hands of the original time traveler who then takes it back to Einstein, begging the question “where did the theory originate”. We cannot say that it came from the time traveler as he learned it from Einstein, but we also cannot say that it is from Einstein, since he was taught it by the time traveler. Who, then, discovered the theory of relativity?

Predestination paradox: Imagine that your lover dies in a hit-and-run car accident, and you travel back in time to save her from her fate, only to find that on your way to the accident you are the one who accidentally runs her over.

Any clearer?!

The fundamental issue – whether we’re seeing bootstrap and predestination paradoxes as the same or not – comes when I feel like cause and effect are one and the same, or where something’s origin is totally unclear.  A few examples (which you may recognise but I’m not labelling anything in case of spoilers!):

Person A travels back in time after Person A from the future sent him instructions on how.
-> Where did the instructions come from in the first place?

Person B casts a spell because he’s already seen himself do it in the future (okay, that one probably didn’t need to be hidden, but just in case)
-> To be honest, I’ve just blinkered myself to the fact I find this confusing because not loving everything (except the epilogue) would make my soul sad.

Person C travels back in time to find the man he heard stories about as a child is a disappointment; he spreads the stories he heard as a kid whilst there.
-> I just don’t even know where to start.

I honestly keep trying, but paradoxes just keep baffling me.  No matter how many (rather ironically) circular conversations I have about it with my dad and partner, the idea that I’m thinking about it wrong because I’m seeing time as a line instead of circular just doesn’t help!  I keep watching (and reading!) stories with time travel, but paradoxes remain something confusing.  Most of the time I just find it slightly irritating – like why couldn’t there have been some altrnative explanation? Why did they HAVE to choose this way? – but in a story I’m not otherwise loving, without plenty of other redeeming features, it can completely ruin my opinion of a book or movie or episode.

This is a sci-fi confession that haunts me, and it’s a vicious cycle: even though I really want to, I just don’t get it, I don’t understand why and I’m embarrassed that I don’t get it, and then all of that pisses me off and makes me like it even less!  If you’ve got any recommendations for sci fi with time travel but without paradoxes – or better yet, with paradoxes that might help me learn to like them, feel free to share!  Otherwise, I’d really love to know, do you have any confessions of your own?
Later in the week I’ll be sharing some TV, film and books that I love despite the time travel elements, and next week I’ll have another sci-fi confessions, so check back for more embarassing truths – assuming this one hasn’t destroyed your opinion of me!

8 thoughts on “[Sci-Fi Month] A sci-fi confession

  1. Awww haha! There there Faith. *pats Faith* I can completely understand what you mean – having spent countless hours reading about Time-Travel and Bootstrap Paradoxes myself. First, I’ll start off with this, which has helped me ‘let go’ a bit. ”A Paradox is defined as: a statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.” So basically right from the start, a Paradox seems senseless, or contradictory. In situations like with Harry Potter, I feel like I can accept it because after Harry and Hermione come back, the seem to just ”be out of that loop’ and can go on with their lives. With Doctor Who…well, he’s a Time Lord. The laws of time bend down and obey him XD

    I totally know what you mean here though….thinking about the ‘rules’ or ‘laws’ of Time Travel make my head hurt!
    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday #38My Profile

    • Yes, yes, yes! Maybe that’s all I need to do next time I get stuck, just remind myself that it’s SUPPOSED to seem contradictory! You’re so right about certain situations getting away with it, like Doctor Who – he can just do whatever he wants basically, no problem! (Also, although I don’t adore Capaldi as much, I love Clara and I adored Matt Smith, and I’ll end up watching for them anyway, so I just have to let the time travel brain confusion go so I can enjoy it!)

    • Thanks Rinn! Haha I’d definitely agree it gets complicated – I don’t want to know how many hours I’ve spent reading and it certainly hasn’t made things any clearer, it just makes me more confused! The impression I’m getting from everyone else is that I should just let it go and not worry too much, but I at least feel better having confessed to my sci-fi sin now 😉

    • Yeah, this is clearly the attitude I need to adopt. When I don’t think about it too much it’s usually okay, but the more I think the more tangled I end up!

  2. I’ve often thought about this topic as well, but have to admit I’ve never looked at those entries so that was new for me. Interesting! I definitely learned something, and yes it can be a mind bender. Sometimes I think the answer is- time travel is just not possible. Problem solved! That’s no fun though… 🙂

    I personally love time travel stories, from the one I read as a kid about going back to the time of dinosaurs, to more modern stuff. Have you ever watched Continuum? That’s a sci fi show about time travel and it explores these ideas- people come back from the future to avert a certain outcome, and have to struggle with what happens if they succeed? Is their future gone? And someone does something to create an alternate timeline in S2, and then S3 takes place in that timeline. Fascinating.
    Greg recently posted…Beyond the BooksMy Profile

    • Ooh, I’ve only seen the first episode of Continuum, maybe I should give it another try and see if I can get further in to the story. Sometimes te time travel doesn’t bother me so much – especially in a story where I feel like I’m so invested anyway because of other elements that I love (Doctor Who for example hooks me on the characters!) but for films especially it can put me off hugely. I think it’s because in such a short time frame I don’t get so attached to other elements of the story, and my brain is so distracted by trying to make sense of time travel that I end up not enjoying things I might otherwise love, if that makes sense!

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