Of the North is my second foray into time-travel, and my first is remarkable only because the seed of a good idea that it had grew up in Of the North (it’s also remarkable for how poorly it’s written). I’m quite fond of anything to do with time, which is partly why I write historical fiction, because I’m fascinated with the way people from other times talked and lived and thought.
I like time-travel because it allows for all kinds of exciting possibilities, though it brings up quite a few problems too. How to travel, for one thing. Tolkien did it well in the (unfinished) story The Lost Road. Suzannah Rowntree neatly avoids all kinds of questions raised by transporting characters between 1900s Gloucestershire and the Arthurian era by stretching a point and calling the places two different worlds (it works out very handily, both in terms of story and craft). I don’t like machines controlling Time. Time is one of those things God made, and machines are things people make. It doesn’t seem right that our work should control God’s, especially when God’s is on such a massive scale as Time. We’ve got what, six to ten thousand years piling up on us, and a little machine is going to affect that if you crank a handle or something?
It’s a ring that does it, whatever it is, in Of the North. I prefer a little mystery around how the thing works myself, for the sake of telling a good story and not writing a speculative scientific treatise. Hence I never say much about the ring’s origins, or why it has the power to transport people from one time to another, or how it got to be that way. The only hint we get is that it is made in the pattern of an Anglo-Saxon find.
It was originally a ring found in a dig, but that brought up too many problems. How did a ring with the power to time-travel end up buried in one particular time? Did its power to transport living things that wear it extend to buried skeletons? (Oh dear, now we get into what the difference is between living people and dead ones and whether it’s the soul and whether people have souls. . .) Did the person who started AEschild’s journey dig it up, give it to her, then she wore it, went back in time, was buried wearing it, her grave was dug up several centuries later, the ring taken, and given to her while she was still living in the twenty-first century, to then wear it and go back in time. . . repeating ad infinitum?* Questions like these are enough to give writers headaches, not to mention readers, who don’t have the sort of inside knowledge and ideas that, even though they may never get into the story as written, inform the way the writer looks at the story.
There’s my thoughts on time-travel as it applies to this particular story. Since I haven’t written much about it, I haven’t thought through all the details. One theory which is tossed around a lot, involving someone preventing his own birth or killing himself, I don’t hold to because it’s logically impossible, more logically impossible than dead people coming back to life. Do you have thoughts of your own, gentle readers? How did the first day of NaNoWriMo go, for those who are doing it? (More than likely you won’t see this post for a week, right?)
*Historically that’s not too likely to happen, though it’s fun to consider, because after the Conversion Era people weren’t buried with grave goods, so she most likely would have passed the ring on to someone in her family.