Apr 8, 2015

Time Travel and Aliens

Cover art by Boris Vallejo
"If a piece doesn’t have Time Travel and Aliens, IT IS NOT SCIENCE FICTION." - H. C. Turk

Time Travel
I'm a huge fan of Isaac Asimov's famous time travel novel, The End of Eternity. Asimov observed that time travel simply provides too many opportunities for fun. Science fiction authors just can't resist the temptation to write stories that include travel through time.

The original time machine was a brain. Human brains are fairly good at keeping track of memories and ordering them according to a linear axis of time, but it is not hard to twist your thoughts and create altered sequences of events in your mind. Our primate ancestors long ago learned to think about temporal sequencing in a fluid fashion (I'll wait until the alpha male is not looking before I.....).

Time Wars
Whimsical poster for The End of Eternity. Imagine
that Noÿs had the "magical" power of telepathy.
There are few themes in science fiction that are more dreary and tedious than fictional wars. Among the most achingly boring are time travel wars in which two opposed factions keep changing the timeline to suit their particular political preferences. Thus, my favorite kind of science fiction story with a time travel element is the type that eventually eliminates time travel. In other words, time travel gets invented, it is used to create an interesting adventure or mystery, and then a change occurs and no further time travel is possible.

In The End of Eternity, "Eternity" is the name of the time travel technology. At the end of the novel, time travel is used to go back in time and change the course of human history so as to make it impossible for time travel to be invented on Earth.

R. Gohrlay, the discoverer of time travel
Of course, we can ask, why should time travel only be invented or used on Earth? When he wrote The End of Eternity, Asimov implied that humans would not have contact with any alien beings until millions of years in our future. Asimov suggested, rather lamely, that many human-like forms of life did evolve on various planets, but humans were lucky enough to develop a technological civilization first.

Asimov also toyed with the idea that positronic robots used the power of time travel to place humans into a universe in which no other intelligent species existed within our galaxy. I think that was an even more lame idea, but he wanted to find a way to fit The End of Eternity into his "humans only" Foundation Saga.

In the Exode Trilogy, I cut the Gordian Knot and create a sequel to The End of Eternity in which I imagine that Noÿs Lambent simply did not reveal the complete truth about aliens to Andrew Harlan. Noÿs was a secret agent who was designed, trained and deployed by R. Gohrlay, the first positronic robot.

Due to a strange fluke of Neanderthal evolution, R. Gohrlay's positronic brain was able to greatly amplified the natural telepathic of Gohrlay, the human whose brain pattern was used as a template for the creation of positronic brains. This good "luck" allowed R. Gohrlay to liberate Humanity from the alien Huaoshy. In an ironic twist, it was only the meddling of the Huaoshy in human evolution that led to the creation of positronic robots in the first place, as told in The Foundations of Eternity.

The Huaoshy are not pushovers. They developed a technologically advanced civilization two billion years before we primitive Earthlings. However, after R. Gohrlay's cadre of positronic robots engage the Huaoshy in a Time Travel War, eventually they reach a negotiated settlement. The Huaoshy discover that time travel was only possible because of Huaoshy meddling in the dimensional structure of the universe. After the Tryst-Grean Pact goes into effect, the Huaoshy once again alter the dimensional structure of the universe, now making all further time travel impossible.

No, I don't take seriously the idea that all science fiction stories must include both time travel and aliens, but a fictional universe that includes time travel is likely to turn into a sort of amplifier of the Fermi Paradox.

If you bother to think carefully about the implications of time travel, as Asimov did when writing The End of Eternity, then your thoughts really should include aliens.

Seldon, Vega and Nicotine
One solution to the Fermi Paradox is that aliens simply have not yet had time to discover Earth and make contact with we humans. But if you gain access to a time travel technology such as the one that was available to Asimov's Eternals, then you gain access to billions of years of future time. Won't aliens eventually visit Earth sometime? And if the primates of Earth can develop time travel technology, then what would stop aliens from also traveling through time?

Next: why did Asimov insert Vega and tobacco into Foundation?

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