Posts Tagged ‘time travel’

EP346: Hawksbill Station


By Robert Silverberg
Read by Paul Tevis
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared in Galaxy Magazine
All stories by Robert Silverberg
All stories read by Paul Tevis
Rated 15 and up

Hawksbill Station
by Robert Silverberg

Barrett was the uncrowned King of Hawksbill Station. He had been there the longest; he had suffered the most; he had the deepest inner resources of strength. Before his accident, he had been able to whip any man in the place. Now he was a cripple, but he still had that aura of power that gave him command. When there were problems at the Station, they were brought to Barrett. That was axiomatic. He was the king.

He ruled over quite a kingdom, too. In effect it was the whole world, pole to pole, meridian to meridian. For what it was worth. It wasn’t worth very much.

Now it was raining again. Barrett shrugged himself to his feet in the quick, easy gesture that cost him an infinite amount of carefully concealed agony, and shuffled to the door of his hut. Rain made him impatient:. the pounding of those great greasy drops against the corrugated tin roof was enough even to drive a Jim Barrett loony. He nudged the door open. Standing in the doorway, Barrett looked out over his kingdom.

Barren rock, nearly to the horizon. A shield of raw dolomite going on and on. Raindrops danced and bounced on that continental slab of rock. No trees. No grass. Behind Barrett’s hut lay the sea, gray and vast. The sky was gray too, even when it wasn’t raining.

He hobbled out into the rain. Manipulating his crutch was getting to be a simple matter for him now. He leaned comfortably, letting his crushed left foot dangle. A rockslide had pinned him last year during a trip to the edge of the Inland Sea. Back home, Barrett would have been fitted with prosthetics and that would have been the end of it: a new ankle, a new instep, refurbished ligaments and tendons. But home was a billion years away, and home there’s no returning. (Continue Reading…)

EP334: The Eckener Alternative


By James L. Cambias
Read by Mur Lafferty
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared in All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories, edited by David Moles, 2004
All stories by James L. Cambias
All stories read by Mur Lafferty
Rated all ages. Zeppelins!

The Eckener Alternative
by James L. Cambias

The Hindenburg swung gently on the mast at Lakehurst as the sky over New Jersey turned to purple twilight.  All the passengers, the reporters, the newsreel men were gone.  A couple of sailors stood guard beneath the big ship to enforce the no-smoking rule.

John Cavalli waited until the watchman below had turned away, then slid down the stern rope to the ground.  He hunkered down next to the big rolling anchor weight for a couple of minutes, then hurried off into the darkness beyond the floodlights.

Once he was clear, Cavalli stopped to peel off the Russian army arctic commando suit he’d been wearing ever since the Zeppelin had lifted off from Frankfurt-am-Main.  It had kept him warm as he hid among the gas cells with his IR goggles and fire extinguisher, but now in the warmth of a spring evening it was stifling.

He hit the RETURN button on his wristband and disappeared. (Continue Reading…)

Book Review: “11/22/63” by Stephen King


I think most people can agree that the assassination of JFK on November 22, 1963 was a watershed event in human history. It led to Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, and possibly a prolonged Cold War*. Had he not been shot in Dallas on that day, perhaps Vietnam might not have happened, or at least been smaller in scope. Perhaps the Civil Rights movement might have unfolded differently. Perhaps the Cold War would’ve escalated into a full-blown nuclear conflict between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

There’s really no way to know what would’ve happened, other than via alternate historical fiction. Which is exactly what Stephen King’s latest novel, 11/22/63, is all about.

11/22/63 takes place in both 2011 and the late 50s/early 60s. In 2011, high school English teacher (and all-around tall dude) Jake Epping is contacted by his friend, diner owner Al Templeton. Al knows he’s in the end stages of cancer, but he doesn’t want to die before showing Jake the secret of his diner: a rabbit hole in his stockroom that leads to September 9, 1958. Jake takes a quick trip, enjoys a root beer, and then returns to Al’s diner. Only two minutes have passed in the real world — only two minutes ever pass in the real world, no matter how long someone stays down the rabbit hole.

That’s when Al drops the bomb on him: for the past four years, he’s been living in the hole, trying to stop Lee Harvey Oswald from killing President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. He’s amassed a notebook full of research, one that he can no longer use because he knows he has very little time left. So Al implores Jake to take on the mission.

Jake, meanwhile, has plans of his own for the rabbit hole. On October 31, 1958, the father of one of his adult education students back in 2011 murdered an entire family, and Jake wants to set it right. That’s when he learns that the past is obdurate — it doesn’t want to be changed. It’ll throw up obstacles to try and stop anyone who does. And if it’s this hard to save one family — a minor part of the tapestry of history — how hard is it going to be to save the leader of the free world five years later?

In general, I’ve enjoyed what Stephen King novels I’ve read, with the exception of The Regulators and Desperation, which I think I may have been too young (at the time) to get the full experience out of. King has written the only book I’m too scared to read again — The Sun Dog, about a Polaroid camera that takes photos of a dog about to attack, and nothing else — and, clearly, he knows his craft well enough to keep putting out bestsellers that are later adapted into TV shows and films. I did enjoy 11/22/63, despite its slow start; clearly the novel was exhaustively researched, and although it does have the requisite Maine scenes, there are a lot of other set-pieces across the eastern half of the U.S. as well. In the past, Jake travels to two towns in Maine, along the eastern seaboard, southwest Florida, and finally to Texas where Oswald is going to shoot Kennedy.

But the book isn’t just about that. Even if Jake does have a mission which will end on November 22, 1963, when he — he hopes — stops Oswald from committing murder, he can’t spend the entire intervening time just doing nothing. I mean, I get bored on a Sunday afternoon if there’s no football on TV, and that’s in 2011 when there’s plenty of other things to do. Eventually, after setting right some wrongs, Jake settles in a small town in Texas — the first truly-friendly place he’s found since coming to the past — and takes up his old mantle as an English teacher.

That, I think, is where the story starts to get good. It more-or-less ceases to be about Oswald and starts being about Jake, and how he conducts his life in the past. And what he learns is that, be it 1961 or 2011, life still goes on. People go to school, go to work, and fall in love, just like in his own time.

On Star Trek, time travel is often used to right a wrong or fix a mistake, or even just to do research into the past. The thing about Star Trek is that, at the end of the episode (or movie), everything wraps up in a neat little bow. Lieutenant Christopher is returned to his fighter jet, the whales save earth, Captain Sisko isn’t killed in an engineering accident, and Harry doesn’t miscalculate and kill the entire Voyager crew. 11/22/63 shows us that that’s not exactly the case — which, I suppose, is what happens with a lot of alternate history and time travel fiction. King reminds us often that the past does not want to be changed, and it will fight any way it can.

And it fights Jake pretty hard, even going so far as to exact revenge upon him for what he does.

I found 11/22/63 to be somewhat of a departure from the King fiction I’ve read in the past — there are no monsters, no supernatural forces, no blood-showers at prom**. Just a rabbit hole in the stock-room of a diner that, when you walk through it, takes you to September 9, 1958 and allows you to change history. The rest of the novel is almost pure historical fiction — a man of today experiencing the past first-hand. It speaks to King’s exhaustive research on the subject, as well as his storytelling skill, that someone like me (whose favorite era of American history is 1875-1930) can pick it up and become immersed in it almost immediately — it’s believable, relatable, and damn interesting.

According to Wikipedia, 11/22/63 was released at the beginning of November 2011 and quickly became a bestseller. I can certainly see why. It’s a doorstop all right, but it’s a doorstop you won’t want to put down. I definitely recommend it.

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Note to Parents: This is a Stephen King novel. It contains explicit sex and explicit violence, as well as adult language. I don’t think the sex is anything today’s older teens can’t handle, but as for the violence… just remember that King has been doing this for a long time and, unlike in an R-rated film with a fight sequence, King is fond of taking away all hope a character has of escaping unscathed… and then having someone beat the crap out of him. Keep that in mind. Of course, you should use your own discretion when it comes to your children.

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* I wasn’t a history major, but according to the book, JFK was trying to end the Cold War.

** That’s what happens in Carrie, right? I’ve never read it, or seen the film. Sorry.

EP287 A Taste of Time


By Abby Goldsmith
Read by: Mur Lafferty
Originally published in Deep Magic, May 2004
Discuss on our forums.
All stories by Abby Goldsmith
All stories read by Mur Lafferty
Rated PG: references to infidelity

Show Notes:

  • No feedback this week because of site issues!
  • Next week… don’t drink the water.

A Taste of Time
by Abby Goldsmith

1.

On the night she turned twenty-nine, Jane sat on her narrow bed, watching TV and drinking alone. She’d gone through a bottle of wine and was mostly through a second bottle. Tomorrow morning would be painful.

Or she could stop worrying about tomorrow. The ibuprofen in her cabinet kept popping into her mind. Jane wasn’t sure if all those pills chased by alcohol would be enough to end her life, but the idea of looking up how to commit suicide online seemed just too pathetic.

The front door of her tiny apartment creaked open.

Jane leaned forward, peering through her bedroom doorway. A black wine bottle stood on the floor, with a placard dangling from its silver ribbon.

Her gaze immediately went to the deadbolt. It was in place, as she’d left it.

Jane shut the TV off and listened for noises from the hallway. All she heard were the sounds of Boston traffic outside. Several weeks ago, after she’d come home to find her boyfriend screwing a fat chick on her couch, she’d had the locks changed. No one could have gotten in.

Yet the bottle sat mysteriously on the wooden floor.

At last, Jane crossed her apartment, checking every shadow for an intruder.

She picked up the bottle. The placard had gilded letters, making it a potentially expensive gift.

Tabula Rasa
Warning: There Is No Return

Jane flipped the placard over twice, but nothing else was written on it.

She listened, alert for any noise. Mystery had never been much a part of her adult life, and it gave her a strangely excited feeling. If the warning label meant something like _poison_, it seemed like a more dignified way to go than pills and alcohol.

Her reflection on the black surface of the bottle was disturbingly clear. There she was: Plain Jane, a frumpy woman with a double-chin and acne scars.

She unscrewed the cap and popped the foil underneath. A stringent smell wafted up, making her wrinkle her nose and salivate at the same time.

“Happy birthday, Jane,” she told herself, and swallowed a mouthful.

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EP283: Grandfather Paradox


By Katherine Mankiller
Read by: Kim Gianopoulos
Originally published in Electric Velocipede
Discuss on our forums.
All stories by Katherine Mankiller
All stories read by Kim Gianopoulos
Rated PG-13: This story contains violence.

I am doing the drawing for the A&E Prize pack at the end of today! There is still a couple of hours to get your email with “CONTEST” to feedback at Escapepod.org and you can win Blu Ray copies of Space 1999 and The Prisoner!

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 275
  • Next week… How far can you see on a clear day?

Grandfather Paradox
by Katherine Mankiller

JUNE 23, 1994

Ann stuffed her blood-spattered clothes into the next door apartment complex’s dumpster. He wasn’t dead, but it was harder to get a knife through someone’s chest than she’d expected. Maybe he’d bleed to death before someone found him. She didn’t care either way. She was a juvenile, so it wasn’t like she was going to fry.

She walked. The YMCA was open. She locked herself in the men’s room, curled up on the floor, and fell asleep.

The next morning, she stopped at an IHOP and told a grey-haired waitress, “I don’t have any money, but can I have a cup of coffee?” The waitress must have felt sorry for her: she bought her breakfast. Afterwards, she went to Safeway and hid a steak and a bottle of beer under her coat and walked out. And kept walking. Someone had a barbecue grill in their back yard. She took it, and the charcoal, too.

What she could really go for now was some mushrooms. She should swipe some Kool-Aid and find a cow pasture. Or maybe she could rob a veterinary clinic. Anything to get the thought of him touching her out of her head, and that beer wasn’t going to cut it.

Steak and beer. Almost luxurious.

The sign read “Open House.” Yes, that sounded about perfect. She spent the night there, on the carpet smelling faintly of shampoo.

It had happened to him, too. What her father had done to her, his father had done to him. Which, in her opinion, just made it worse. He knew what it was like.

When the police arrived and told her she was under arrest for murder, she couldn’t stop laughing.

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