Today I was discussing time travel stories with some friends, and the topic always delights me. It reminds me of the chicken and the egg question: do I like history because I like the time-travel stories I’ve read, or do I like time-travel stories because I like history?

Anyway, between that discussion and a little bit of research, I have some thoughts and questions. I would love to get comments and opinions from anyone reading this.

What’s the attraction?

Writers get to create their own worlds and their own rules, and that is especially the case when you get to create the method of travel as well as the rules governing paradox when your characters get where ever the writer sends them.

Readers (or watchers) get a story about something they will not get to experience. You can also pretty much choose your genre and enjoy your time-travel wrapped up in a romance, thriller, comedy, or mystery.

For both writer and reader, traveling in time can be a commentary on our current moment, illuminating social or political issues. We may not be able to change the past, but we can learn and change our present.

How do they get there?

Surprisingly, this was my favorite part of our discussion. Writers have imagined many different ways that people might travel through time, and most of them have rules and structure.

Personally, I was surprised to find that I like when the method is based in science. Or at least sounds science-y to me. Like in Terminator and the other movies in that series, where there is an actual machine and rules to using it. Only human tissue can go through, and more importantly, you can’t go back.

It definitely raises the stakes of time-travel when you know that you have to stay where ever you end up. No weekend trips, no tourists.

Where and when? Past or future?

This is the question I like, but I’ve discovered that there is actually more to it. The where and when depends on how long the trip would be whether or not they could come back.

If this were truly a tourist kind of thing and I could go visit for a week and come back, and then go somewhere/somewhen else another time, my choice of where and when could vary.

Some people would choose to be involved with important events or important people. Some people want to spend time with members of their family.

If I had to choose one place and one time, and I couldn’t come back? I have no idea what I would choose. And I may even choose to stay right where I am.

One last thing…

Oh yeah, there’s the language thing. Even if you travel to the past and go to an English-speaking country, you still may not understand or be understood. I previously wrote this post about how far back you could travel in time and still understand English.