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.
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.