Writers’ Workshop: Time Tampering

This is the usual time for Writers’ Workshop, but Kat, who normally provides the prompts, is taking a badly-needed break this week. So I figured, take the opportunity and come up with my own damn prompt…

Anyway, the person who inspired this is Sadje from her blog, Keep It Alive. I’m pretty sure everyone here knows her and reads her blog faithfully, as do I (and if you don’t, bop on over to her blog immediately and subscribe to it. You’ll be glad you did.) She was, as I do on Mondays, responding to the Share Your World questions that Melanie posted. (Ditto what I said about Sadje’s blog for Melanie.) One of the questions was, If you could erase one event from history, which one would you erase? Sadje started her answer by saying, "It’s very dangerous to try to mess with history."

I don’t know what it was, but this got me thinking, and I left her a comment:

To the best of my knowledge no one has ever tried to go back in history and prevent things from happening, so how do we know that doing so would end in disaster? Just curious, because you aren’t the only one who said so…

I asked her because hers was the reason I was thinking about it, but several other people answering the question made similar comments. Her reply was…

All my knowledge of this is based on movies and stories!

A perfectly reasonable answer, and a good one. So I started thinking, was there an example of a story where someone tampered with events in the past and things ended up better than they had been? And I thought of the movie Back To The Future

Remember how things worked in that movie: Marty’s mother was a drunk, Marty’s father was a nerd (and frustrated SciFi writer) that was always getting pushed around by Biff, who was a bully then and a bully now. Marty gets the opportunity to go back in time and change things so that his mother falls in love with his father (after nearly having the dear woman fall for him), Biff gets his comeuppance and his father becomes a successful SciFi writer. In short, Marty’s life goes from pretty crappy to pretty cool, because he went back and changed conditions.

I mentioned this to Sadje and she replied….

Haha! Saw that one many times. In Avengers endgame, it also turned out well. Let’s wait till someone finds a way to go back in time. And why do we think that any one person going back in time would have this power to change anything at that point?

The last question is the one that I thought was a good one: even if time travel was an option, how do we know that someone would be able to do anything? I mean, let’s talk about Liz, my lab partner in chemistry. What if I confessed my love for her and managed to win her heart back in 1973-74. Who’s to say she wouldn’t have ended up with Rick, anyway? (I know that she didn’t, by the way: he’s married long-term to a woman who’s not Liz, according to Facebook. No idea what happened to her: I can’t find her on Facebook or anywhere else, really.) If she and I had been a couple at 18, would we still be together now, almost 50 years later? Would I have met, fallen in love with, and married Mary, leaving Liz in the dust?

I’d like to get your take on it. If you could travel back in time and make changes in your life (or someone else’s, for that matter), would you? What do think the result would be? Do you think, in general, altering the course of history, would be a good or bad thing? What if Adolf Schicklgruber got into art school?

The lines are now open…

29 thoughts on “Writers’ Workshop: Time Tampering

  1. Quantum Leap! I have watched all the shows again because it is on a station I get. He is supposed to change things on purpose and it is always for the good. Some shows are serious (when he leaps into Lee Harvey Oswald) and some are fun but he always changes history. The Simpsons had an episode where Homer uses a time machine and goes back to ancient times and falls on his butt squashing a bug. He says “Oh, Oh.” and he changes history…not fir the good. He also goes back to the dinosaurs and sneezes on one where they then sneeze and fall down dead like dominos…not good.
    Who is to say what might happen if we were able to kill Hitler back in the 1920s or save JFK? Would it have lead the world to somewhere even darker? A good debate question eh?


    1. I have seen Quantum Leap before and enjoyed it, but it brings back some ugly memories from my days as the Ghostletters administrator (it was a Listserv-type mailing list, and I caught all kinds of crap from someone writing as Al Calavicci that I’d rather not discuss). It is interesting to speculate, though: if Kennedy had lived, would he have won against Barry Goldwater in 1964? Would Johnson have run for President in 1968? Would Johnson have even been Kennedy’s running mate in ’64? (There was some speculation that Johnson was part of the plot to kill Kennedy until the Warren Commission decided that Oswald had acted alone, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Of course, Johnson was the one who started the Warren Commission…) As for Hitler, suppose that there was sufficient reason to believe that he might have been a good artist and he was admitted to art school? Tune in again for more “great mysteries”!


  2. It’s taken me decades to get where I am, making loads of mistakes along the way, but if I went back in time and didn’t make them, would I have what I do now? The Butterfly Effect was a good movie, though the second was very confusing!


  3. It’s a good thing that time travel isn’t possible, because if I ever had the opportunity to go back and do my life over — knowing what I know now — there is no way in hell I would be able resist the temptation.


  4. If I could go back in time, I would be a clothes designer. I used to sketch designs when I was a child and was told I had a talent for designing. But it is what it is and I have no regrets.

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  5. Thanks for the shoutout John. In my own life, the only thing that could be different would be my completing my medical studies and becoming a doctor. I might be a successful surgeon and would have a life time of practicing medicine behind me! But it might have meant that I was not there for my children all the time. Or that when my daughter needed my support, I’d be too busy to give it to her. Or move to Seattle with her!

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  6. It’s fun to speculate. The thing I always say I’d change is… go to Northwestern at age 18, sail through, and have a fabulous career. No marriages, no kids. Not that I don’t love my kids, but I wouldn’t know they didn’t exist. After all, I’m not missing other children I have in some parallel universe. Then again, my life isn’t bad at all. I’d just rather have had a real career and more income much sooner rather than relying on a husband, etc.

    If I could change a big event, I would stop the Holocaust. This isn’t meant to minimize other atrocities, of course…

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