I can’t say for certain how long humans have been interested in time travel. Perhaps we had to get enough years under our collective belts for it to feel really worth the effort to even fantasise about. But, once we started, it seems we went from reserving fantasies of going back (sometimes forward) in time for our moments of regret in the middle of the night to making them a source of entertainment. And just what is our interest, as a species, in time travel? Here’s what I think.
We like the idea of being able to go back and change things. Maybe it’s a big change, like that choice that ruined your life, or maybe it’s as simple as wishing you hadn’t said that one stupid thing.
We like to think about how, had just one thing been changed, the whole story might have changed. (This is the main root for alternate universe stories. We won’t be covering that this month, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to toss them into the mix.)
We wonder if the past is what we’ve heard, and maybe we feel so out of place in our own time that we romanticise an escape to that past. (I can’t be the only teenager who briefly—and incorrectly—thought she was surely meant for a much earlier century. I’m so relieved teen-me didn’t have access to time travel…)
We like storytelling, and time travel (at least to the past) is a partial cheat…It gives us the setting and characters and so forth, just waiting for us to lay a plot and our characters on it (though sometimes we just have to take something that already was and change it a little).
On a related note, if there’s some familiarity, it’s easier for us to connect to it. Time travel stories that involve the past can supply that.
On a related related note, time travel stories let us insert a character with whom our modern readers/watchers can relate into an unfamiliar time/place.
Maybe you just the idea of being a little godlike and ignoring the mortal restriction of time.
Or you like the intellectual satisfaction that comes of understanding more mind-boggling time travel tales (like the awesomely odd Donnie Darko, the “we’re going to try to explain this to you but your brain may still hurt a little” Primer, or the bizarre Mr. Nobody).
Whatever your interest, we hope you’ll travel with us this month. And, like us, we hope you’ll start to see how ubiquitous time travel is in our stories. Allons-y! (We promise to have you home in time for supper. Probably.)