Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 12:47:41 EDT
Thanks a lot for taking the time to respond to my note. I really enjoyed reading everything you had to say, and it was very interesting.
In a recent comic-book I have written, in the conclusion of the story, I have created a time-loop in which the main character is trapped in which will be forced to repeat itself within its own temporal loop.
You have a minute?... Let me explain in a nutshell the events of this issue....
Okay... in 1994, Mel and team X travel to the year 3009, do a mission there which is too complicated to explain here, and returned to 1994 and around the same time they left. Now, 4 years later, a psychotic killer from 1998 time-travels to 3009, where he is persued by Mel and team X. While here, the killer kills Mel's 1994 self, who was also in this time. Team X apprehend the killer, but realize that if Mel's 1994 self was killed, then time-has been altered, and if they return to 1998 then, it will be a 1998 where Mel has been missing for 4 years. And so, Mel of 1998 agrees to have his memory erased of the events of the past 4 years, and Team X sent this Mel back in time to 1994 to become the past Mel, to fulfill the events which have already occured. Team X then returned to 1998, where their present was as it had been when they left. The only problem is, now there is no Mel! The team realize that they have subjected their leader to a never-ending time-loop, in which he was transported to 94, lived up to '98 where he will go to 3009 with team X, be forced to have his memory erased and sent back to '94 again to fulfill past events.
And then the comic ends. I know that you don't agree with 'time-loops', and I myself think they are absurd as well, but they sure do make great story-telling.
The only problem I have now is that Mel was the team leader, and now in my comic book series, he is gone for good and there's no way I can bring him back without serious rupturing the time-line!
I'd like to hear your thoughts on this. Hell, I even go back and read some of my old stories and trace each time-line out, figuring out what the hell is going on. Like in the one I just explained to you, you're probably thinking that: when the killer killed Mel's 1994 self in 3009, shouldn't the 1998 Mel just have vanished from time, since he was killed? Well, I have an answer, albeit a confusing one. In my story, there is a mystical gem called the Time Gem, which is a key element in my character travels through time. It was briefly mentioned in the story that Mel of 1998 was protected by the changes in the time-line by the Time Gem, which is why he was allowed to exist.
Heroes and villians have been battling over possession of the Time Gem for years in my comic, all wanting to have the ultimate power to control all of time, which calls for a lot of interesting stories.
I have to go for now MJ, but I'll write to you whenever I can, okay? Let me know what you think.
Glad to hear from you. Your time travel story is interesting--and as I've said before, there are no temporal anomalies I can't unravel with my theory (although there are some which are impossible because the consequences of the actions done in the past will have changed the future in ways which prevent the traveler from returning to the same situation--the problem in Back to the Future 2). Let me tackle it.
Moving forward in time is never a problem in itself; it's no different than spending the time in Boston. So when your team moves from 1994 to 3009, that's not a problem. It has no effect on the timeline.
Then when Mel and his team return to 1994, that does create an anomaly. Perceive it this way. When the team went from 1994 to 3009, they left the timeline entirely, and were not present at all between those two points. But that timeline--the A-B timeline--must have existed without them in order for 3009 to have arrived--that is, the history of the year 1994 which existed in 3009 included the fact that they left for the future and had not returned. Completing their business in 3009 and returning to 1994, they create a new timeline, the C-D timeline, the one in which they returned. They now proceed to rewrite that history by existing in it until 1998.
I have observed--for reasons which will become apparent--that Mel's age matters in this story. I will suggest for convenience that in 1994 Mel was 20 years old.
In 1998, someone else goes into the future--again, this is not a problem in itself. Since it does not create a new timeline, Mel and his team can follow him. (Note that had the killer gone back in time, it would be necessary to trace all of his actions and their consequences into the present before we could determine whether anyone could follow him; however, since he went forward in time, the timeline which he left must continue to the point at which he arrived, and other time travel events may occur within it.) Mel is now 24 as he arrives in 3009 for the second time.
You have not told me what happened to the killer. However, the critical point that you make is that he kills the 20 year old Mel. If the 20 year old Mel fails to return to 1994, then the 24 year old Mel cannot leave from 1998. But there is still time to fix the problem. The A-B timeline and the C-D timeline both end at the point that 20 year old Mel went back in time (in the A-B timeline). If Mel cannot go back in time by that point, then it will create a new E-F timeline in which he is not alive; this becomes an extremely unpredictable outcome, since we don't know what would have happened to the team without Mel. So Mel and the team decide to replace 20 year old Mel with 24 year old Mel. This will also create a new E-F timeline, but it will be very nearly the same as the C-D timeline, since Mel with his memory erased will very likely do what he had done before. So 24 year old Mel goes back to 1994.
But the E-F timeline is the beginning of a Sawtooth Snap. You see, this Mel is not the same person as the other Mel. He is four years older. Now, perhaps his team, his family, his friends will all overlook it in the E-F timeline; but the fact is that by the time 1998 rolls around, Mel is really 28, missing 4 years of his history, and no one knows it. So he goes into the future, again sees 20 year old Mel get killed, and again decides to go back and take his place--but now he's EIGHT years older than he was when he left. And this new timeline, the G-H timeline, has 32 year old Mel trying to replace 20 year old Mel (my, you've really aged this time, Mel), and at the end of the I-J line, he's 36, then 40 at point L, 44 at point N....
Well, this could theoretically go on until Mel dies of old age remembering only 20 years of life. However, it seems to me far more likely that at some point someone will realize that Mel is too old to substitute for the 20 year old who was just killed in 3009. Either way, eventually Mel will be killed, probably in 3009 at 20 years old. This will create the final segment, as he fails to return to 1994, and is now no longer in the timeline from 1994 to 1998.
The consequences of this are difficult to assess, since I know little of the detail here. I suspect that someone else would have become leader of the team in 1994 upon the death of Mel. In 1998, they would still follow the killer to 3009. I suspect that the killer will still kill the 20 year old Mel, which is necessary to maintain the time line. Whatever else happens in 3009 is not important, as long as the team is still able to return to 1998, and the killer is not free to do so in a manner other than he did before (that is, if he was killed in the future, he should not be allowed to return to the past to change history again).
However, my suspicion may be incorrect. It is possible that the killer attacked 20 year old Mel thinking he was 24 year old Mel; but that if 24 year old Mel is not pursuing him, he might not attack 20 year old Mel. This might also happen if at some point the Mel of the 1998 team is too old for the 1994 Mel to be mistaken for him. Mark it well: if the killer does not prevent 20 year old Mel from returning to the past at this point, the Sawtooth Snap reverts to an infinity loop, as time will continue to repeat from 1994 to 3009 perpetually, repeating the same alternating histories forever. Only if the killer would still kill the 20 year old Mel in 3009 will time be allowed to continue.
If 20 year old Mel is killed in this timeline and the team is successful in stopping the killer and returning to 1998, the anomaly is escaped. This final timeline will advance to 3009, where that same team will come from the past to do its job and then return to establish the same history, and time will finally continue to reach 3010.
But you are right: Mel is gone. There is a possible solution, but you probably won't like it.
And as you can see, I saw no problem with having the 24 year old Mel survive the death of the 20 year old Mel. It was not an insoluble problem. I didn't need to resort to magic to solve it. In my experience, magic rarely solves the anomalies of time travel. The means by which one travels through time cannot alter the fact that the time lines must exist for one to travel them. There are ways in which magic can change the rules--based on the fact (as it says in Multiverser) that in the supernatural realm time is multidimensional in ways which go far beyond our simplistic concepts of forward, backward, and sideways. But for any creature who enters time from another point in time, these are of little use. The entire timeline must exist between any two points visited.
If you really need to get Mel back, try sideways time. The theory of sideways time--I first encountered it in a John Pertwee episode of Dr. Who, and it is today the basis of Sliders--is that as choices are made, worlds are created in which alternate choices exist. These worlds run on the same time as ours, but exist independently as alternate universes. Thus they are described as being located in the same three spatial dimensions and in the same linear time, but adjacent on the same plane of time. Did that make sense? Let me try it again.
If space were all of a single dimension, everything would have to be on a single line. We could define the position of everything in terms of its distance along the line from some other point. Two objects could not both be the same distance from the end of the line. However, if we add a second spatial dimension, we can have two objects the same distance from the end of the line by placing them at different distances from the edge of the plane. If we envision a square, we can put two distinct points an inch from the left edge if one is nearer the top and the other nearer the bottom. Left to right, they are in the same place; top to bottom, they are in different places. The space in which we live has a third dimension, so it is possible for objects to be in the same place relative to any plane if they are in different places above or below that plane. The next jump is a bit harder. It is possible for two objects to occupy the same space in all three spatial dimensions provided only that they must be in that space at different times. Therefore, time is treated as a dimension in this regard: it is as if one object were removed from the other by a distance not of miles but of hours. Got that? Fine. Now, if time has a second dimension, it is possible for two complete universes to co-exist in the same three spatial dimensions and have the same horizontal timeline, provided only that they exist at different vertical times. Does that make sense? This is what has been dubbed "sideways time".
If the theory of sideways time is correct (and as I say in discussing Back to the Future 2, I find the idea ridiculous and annoying), then Mel must still exist in a parallel world. There's probably a world in which he did not go into the future in 1994; another in which the killer did not go into the future in 1998; another in which both of those things happened, but 20 year old Mel escaped being killed. A temporal accident could occur which caused a rift in sideways time; your team (led by their new leader who from his perspective took over in 1994) could pass through that to a parallel (I prefer the term "divergent", and use it for this in Multiverser) world, find the cause of the rift, and accidentally bring the other Mel back with them to their own world, where he could then become commander of the team once again--a team which perhaps for him he has been commanding all along, in that other world.
Let me know how it comes out. It's late, and I should get some sleep.