Tuesday, March 12, 2013


One of my favorite tropes in both science fiction and fantasy is the concept of time travel. Most people, at some point in their life, ponder what life would have been like had they made a different choice in their past. There is something about time travel that seems to scratch that itch. Who hasn't wondered about what it would be like to travel hundreds of years into the future, or travel backwards in time to a favorite moment in history? And even the fact that most scientists would deny that time travel of this sort is even possible, it still makes for a compelling story.

Strangely enough, the concept of supernatural powers that can directly interact with time are somewhat rare in the genre outside of time travel itself. While there certainly are exceptions, for the most part speculation about time seems to be limited to travel either in the past or in the future rather than any sort of more direct control of the flow of time.

One such exception is found in the multiverse of Final Fantasy, a long running Japanese video game franchise that has spawned dozens of games over the past few decades. Among the various types of magic explored in this franchise is the concept of Time Magic, which allows the practitioner to alter the flow of time as well as make use of various gravity, teleportation, and celestial spells. But as far as I am aware, there is little to no explanation as to how this works in theory; and it never seems to come into play outside of combat.

As I have been reading about time travel in fiction in preparation for a particular short story I have in mind, one of the concepts that I came across is the idea of world lines. Essentially, a world line is the path an object travels across four dimensional space (with time as the fourth dimension). Confused? Here's a quote from Robert A Heinlein's short story Life-Line describing the world line of a person, in layman terms:
He stepped up to one of the reporters. "Suppose we take you as an example. Your name is Rogers, is it not? Very well, Rogers, you are a space-time event having duration four ways. You are not quite six feet tall, you are about twenty inches wide and perhaps ten inches thick. In time, there stretches behind you more of this space-time event, reaching to perhaps nineteen-sixteen, of which we see a cross-section here at right angles to the time axis, and as thick as the present. At the far end is a baby, smelling of sour milk and drooling its breakfast on its bib. At the other end lies, perhaps, an old man someplace in the nineteen-eighties. ...
"Imagine this space-time event that we call Rogers as a long pink worm, continuous through the years, one end in his mother's womb, and the other at the grave..."
This concept of a world line seemed a plausible way to describe how the flow of time might be altered magically. Perhaps one could change the rate at which a person was moving through the dimension of time. One might increase or decrease a person's speed, rapidly accelerate the aging process, or even freeze a victim at a particular moment in time.

At that point, I don't think the moniker Time Magic is sufficient. Instead, I would call it Chronomancy, a term which obviously is not original to me.

So what do you think of this idea? It is feasible? What would be the implications for a culture where mages wielded this sort of power? As always, I enjoy reading your comments. Until next time.

No comments:

Post a Comment