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Tag: time travel

Plots You Can Have: Big Sprawling Novels Edition

Been a while since I did one of these. And NaNoWriMo is upon us — people might need inspiration? So, with some further ado.

Plots You Can Have is an ongoing series of posts where I give up stories for adoption. If any of these strike your fancy, please take them! And if you do write anything from this I would love to read it. For more posts, see: tag/plots-you-can-have


The One Earth Rule

genre: political far-future sci-fi, elements of cyberpunk and whatever comes after cyberpunk, stylistically

Have you heard of the One China Policy? Individual countries don’t exist anymore. Essentially, this is an idea about spies and diplomats; there are two or more governments calling themselves “Earth” and they’re all layered, all claiming to be separate from each other. Countries are no longer mapped out on, well, maps, but in more abstract ways. Off-world super cruise spaceships for the ultra-rich have broken down and are now as chaotic as Earth, and diplomats and ambassadors are sent up to these spaceships all the time. Sometimes diplomats do what diplomats love to do: break all the laws, go hunting the most dangerous game (humans interbred with strange alien parasites that roam about these space cruise ships).

One of the abstract ways that countries are mapped out is by way of cultural accumulation. Museums steal from each other — the most tenacious works of art must be the most valuable ones — and the culture elite of any given “Earth” are always trying to influence the cultures of the other Earths, while claiming to only draw inspiration from their own country.

From this, things spin out of control, of course.

Two main plots that fuse together later: 1. a museum director is trying to organise a museum heist of the most epic proportions: they are fiddling with data in order to steal an entire museum building over to their Earth. 2. a dickish diplomat is hunting human-things on a space cruise and gets fucked by the data-fiddling that the museum director is doing. Arrested because his country stopped existing for a while, then robbed of communications networks and left to survive on the chaotic cruise, ze decides to find out who is doing this and enact revenge upon them. Lots of subplots about how countries are reacting to all this, and especially the cultural world. Museum in-fighting is mesmerizing to watch. If you don’t believe me, read up on the Elgin Marbles. …/wiki/Elgin_Marbles


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I Solve Your Fictional Problems with FTL-Drives

The post on Time Travel was a success! On account of how everybody loves technobabble, I will strive to make solving your fictional problems a regular occurence. Today’s letter comes from one @_TK_O (Ms. Osborne), who writes

Dear Mr Punkt,

My starship is not peppy enough, and I’m struggling to get it to go faster than light. However, all the fancy spaceships my friends own seem to be able to manage it! Tell me, how can I win the next big drag race in the Alpha Quadrant?


Ms. Osborne, T. Read the rest of this entry »

I Solve Your Fictional Problems about Time Travel

Fictional people often come to me with their Problems. They are very distressed until I calmly technobabble at them until it all seems to make sense. So, I thought I should offer my services to the public. Are you a fictional person? Do you have a problem? Email me at johannes.punkt at gmail dot com and pose your problem and I will try to explain it away.

Now, without further ado, today’s problem is about time travel. The question was illustrated in the form of a picture of a DeLorean several thousand miles into space, with Earth in the background, and a pithy explanation that the Earth moves in space.

Q: How come time machines also seem to be space machines and always know exactly where to go???

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That is correct. This is exactly what it says on the tin. Or, is it?

Obviously, you have to read it to find out.

Worldbuilding 3: When to Let Go, & New Stuff

Last entry in this series:


If you don’t put your heart into something it can never have the pulse you’ve taken all your life to protect. Similarly, I’ve grown disillusioned with the poisonbeasts and shall instead talk a bit about the deaths of things.

For me, most projects do not simply die, but poison the water and then appear as ghosts in the lucid dreams of my other projects. Which is a fancy way of saying I reuse things, at times, and ideas gnaw on the back of my skull often and hard.

It’s good to let things die, though. I can’t tie that into the other metaphors I’ve used here, so I’ll just say it plainly: deciding that a project is not worth your attention means you’re doing quality control and also that you won’t have to decide that /later/. Saying goodbye at 500 words in is better than 500 pages in, etc.

Letting things die isn’t the same as giving up. Giving up is all defeatlike. Someone once told me, or said in my vicinity, that creativity is the creation of many ideas and then pruning them until you find the ones that are salvageable. In light of that, whenever I let something die I write down another idea, or gravestone the thing into a drabble at the very least. Even if it’s bloody stupid. So, related to that last post about things you can have, here’s a bunch of things I might use, which are of course up for taking (do show me the work when you’re done with it if you pick one of these plots):

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The Committee of First Contact

This is a story written a while ago, published as 7 drabbles on my Tumblr blog. I decided it needed a home here.


Every human, any intelligent enough animal, along with some robots, felt it. An intense sensation of fear, glimpses of visions where a gargantuan entity destroyed them and everything they loved and it wasn’t even aware of them. The fear filled all Earth minds – in dreams or in reveries or in lucid thoughts – for about five seconds, before disappearing. There were car crashes and frenzies and brains that just shut down completely from fright. Instantaneous – comparisons of the robots’ timestamps confirmed this – the thing had treated every intelligence on Earth as an ansible and communicated a feeling, perhaps to scare us.

The Committee of First Contact, CoF, was created, to pursue every way they could think of to contact these aliens and to prevent the fear’s reappearance. In machines, the feeling had often been erased from memory, or been too distorted to make sense. However, a super-intelligent surveillance satellite that had shut down in the middle of the attack seemed likely to have some information. Begrudgingly, the government in charge of it let them in. It bore fruit: they found it had two and a half seconds left of fear when they revived it, including a glimpse of a starry sky.

The picture’s every star was classified and a few were identified. Given their strength and their position, assuming a few things like where stars will be in a few hundred million years to the best of our knowledge, the Committee of First Contact found out two places in the galaxy where the fear could have come from: where this scene, no matter if it happened or was pure fabrication, could have taken place. There was no doubt about it, two fleets were assembled and humanity lined up to assist, to reach out to the stars and find the signal’s nexus.

Of the two fleets the Committee sent out, only one would get results. Only one would meet with them, and the brave people who entered the deep sleep didn’t know what group they were went they went down. They would spend an eternity dreaming– to keep their minds useful, keep them from going stale and dull and rotting – and then they would wake up either in empty space, or close to the only other intelligent life in the solar system. They said goodbye to their families if they had them, during the year of preparation, and then off they went.

One would think the fear would go away, but with the fleets gone, the only memory that didn’t fade was the big uncaring monster thing. The public, the people, grew more and more afraid of another ‘attack’. The Committee of First Contact was disbanded, replaced by the Band of Interstellar Warfare, which produced weapons and let minor ships fly out to attach them like legos to the sides of the fleets, giving them an entirely new silhouette and impression. The members of the Committee’s efforts to restore the image of the extraterrestrials were all in vain. Humanity was at war.

The fleet arrived, millions of years before they had planned, for the Band of Interstellar Warfare had attached superluminous drives as well to the hulls of their ships. The humans searched for a habitable planet and found but one, a desolate planet. They landed clumsily, their ships eight times heavier than planned for, and scared the snot out of the local intelligent life form, which broadcasted instant shockwaves of fright, their strongest defence mechanism, throughout the universe. Everyone on the ship struck was dead within seconds, but before they died they saw themselves through the inhabitants’ eyes: big and monstrous.

The fright travelled between the stars faster than the stars’ light, faster than instantaneous: travelling backwards in time. Four or five seconds was all that wasn’t destroyed by the radiation and the speeds, but four or five seconds was all it took. It targeted every one of them, everyone of the beings that had helped produce their terror, and it hit them too well, or not well enough. In the past, the aggravators rusted up for war and set out into space, mounting ridiculously large weapons on their vessels, arming themselves to the teeth. They were now on their way.

Time Travel with Politics, and Notes on Lebensdauer

I added another story to the Choice Vignettes!

Before I begin, I want to note that while the author might dead, I can still have opinions. And, generally, I would know more than you about these opinions. I also might have used these opinions while writing the thing.

The title is inspired by the old German propaganda phrase Lebensraum. It means habitat, or ‘living room’. Space in which to live. Basically the Nazis used it to explain why they needed so much of other countries’ land, and starve so many of the lower classes. (If you starve enough people, you enter a surplus! It’s like winning arguments by exploiting dictionaries, but with people’s lives.)

Dauer means duration, which seemed the most appropriate thing coupled with room. Time might be better coupled with space, but Lebenszeit doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t know German, so possibly I’ve made a horrible mistake here.

Anyway, time travel with politics.

Hitler has a time travel exemption act, which means that if you’re writing time travel, you have to clarify why exactly your characters don’t go back in time to kill Hitler. Adolf Hitler, that is, if that was not clear. Unless your story actually centers around murdering Hitler (see: Lebensdauer) writers often feel they have to at least nod in that direction.

Now, it could be that you’ve got a time travel authority that keeps track of all the time travel – presumably by existing in a time-time, which is something I will define if you really want me to – and this authority has a moral obligation to protect history. Or to protect the natural order of things. Maybe time travel always leads to a Niven loop that annihilates itself, and this is how progress disappears – maybe that’s how Hitler came to in the first place: the universe propelling science into the direction of war, and not time, machines. Or maybe, I don’t know, Hitler actually runs the time travel authority and we need to preserve his past.

(Tangent: how creepy would it be if I referred to him as Adolf the whole time?)

Maybe someone demonstrates the butterfly effect. Maybe you’ve got some actual chronomics in there, and you can’t go back in time very far. Maybe the time machine is unreliable and prone to depression and only goes to nice stretches of time because it knows how it gets – it just refuses to land in a war or near bad people. Maybe you need a Weimar-era German passport to meet Hitler and gosh, you just don’t know any good enough forgers. Hell, maybe the people who travel in time are all evil, rich tourists, and dinosaur fetishists. The list goes on.

I once wrote a story in which nazism was actually needed to travel through time – it was simply a function of a certain neural pattern only achievable by nazism. naturally, the Pope (Ratzinger, I mean) showed up at the scientists’ doorstep and wanted to learn about it. He said he was reaching out to the science community, and then he disappeared from time and killed the most famous Jew of all: Jesus Christ.

Maybe the person with the power gets really nervous about meeting famous people and– no that’s enough, stop it. Just stop.

Anyway – once you’ve dealt with why they don’t fix the 40’s, you now don’t have to spend more time dwelling on the ramifications of time travel: clearly you’ve considered it. But if you actually have unlimited time travel, shouldn’t you be morally obligated to fix things? Having unlimited time travel at your disposal would be a heavy burden, if you stopped to think about it. Kind of like having omniscience, but less reliable.

I don’t think time travel exists. I think people who write time travel into stories should be more creative about it. I feel kind of bad for writing about it, adding another Hitler story to the pile, even though I was clever. I also feel bad for having the urge to write the infinite list of why we will not kill Hitler – and to remedy this I need to write something more clever, is all.