Monday, September 29, 2014

My Treatment of Paradoxes in Timeloopers, My YA Time Travel Series.

I made a promise to my readers that my YA time travel series would not contain a single paradox. Paradoxes are surprisingly ornery, so I made a simple decision to avoid them altogether—which was why I faced them head on.

A bit about paradoxes, for those unfamiliar with the idea:

At noon, Noah gets rejected by a girl in front of the whole school when he asks her to prom, so he wants to go back in time and stop himself from getting on his knee and asking her in the first place. Luckily he started a timeloop in the Chronos that goes from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (You can read about the Chronos in Timeloopers)

He writes a note to himself and puts it in the machine at 1:00 p.m. Four hours earlier, at 9:00 a.m. his past self—who has just started the timeloop—opens the machine and sees the note.

Don’t ask Priscilla to prom.

So he doesn’t. 1:00 p.m. rolls around, and he doesn’t ask her, so he doesn’t think to put any note inside the Chronos. But now something horribly illogical has happened. If he didn’t put a note in the machine at 1:00 p.m., he couldn’t have gotten a note at 9:00 a.m., which means he still would have asked her to prom. In which case he would have sent the note. Then he wouldn’t have asked her. Which means he would have. See how it flip flops back and forth like that? That’s a paradox.

My treatment was simple. I would have the timeloop work itself out at every moment to a self-consistent reality using something called feedback. If you tried to change the past in a way that made a paradox, you would encounter major feedback (kind of like a disorienting, déjà vu like experience) that would literally prevent you from completing the action.

So I invented a little trick. We’ll call it a contingency for now (I’m thinking it will be called this in later books. What you do is you send back a note that says, in essence, make sure a copy of this note gets sent back no matter what. So Noah would send back:

Don’t Ask Priscilla to prom. Write out a copy of this note and put in the Chronos at 1:00 p.m.

Paradox solved.

I’ll admit it’s a lot more thorny than that, and now that I’m 40,000 words into book two, with timelines looping back on themselves, infinite loops, and one-time loops, I’m banging my head against the wall trying to keep everything logical and consistent.

Yes, time travel is a logistical nightmare.

To start Timeloopers: A Strange Machine, click here. And make sure you’re on my mailing list to get an email when the sequel comes out. You can sign up here or just enter your email below and click subscribe:

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