In This 'Almanac,' Fiction Makes The Best Time Machine

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From Back to the Future to The Twilight Zone and Doctor Who, the theme of time travel is timeless on the screen and on the page. What is it about time travel that's so darn appealing?

"We all have this idea in our heads that, if only I had said this, if only I had done that — we all want to go back and do something," says Ann VanderMeer. She and her husband Jeff are the editors of the new Time Traveler's Almanac, a giant compilation of time travel stories ranging from classic to very, very modern.

VanderMeer says that while compiling the book, she was surprised to find that fictional time travelers mostly didn't want to save the world. "As we dug deeper, we found, basically, a lot of love stories."


Interview Highlights

On "science romance"

When H.G. Wells was first writing The Time Machine and War of the Worlds and all of the stories that he was writing back then, those types of stories were actually called "science romance." They were not called science fiction; that term didn't come until years later. And it really kind of struck me, yeah, that actually kind of fits in a way. When you take a look at all these stories, you think it's really about the gee-whiz, look at all these cool gadgets and all these wonderful science-fictional things. But when you come right down to it, all of these stories really are about people connecting with people and trying to understand themselves better.

On the rules of time travel writing

What's really funny is that all the rules that you think there are, got broken along the way ... and the thing that's great about that is, it doesn't really matter. The bottom line, when you're reading the stories, is you're saying to yourself, is this a good story? Was I entertained? Did I come away and go, wow? Because in the end, fiction really is the most effective time travel machine in the universe, and it always has been.

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