The Principles of Time Travel
as I (Sort-of) Understand Them (in Theory)
Before I say anything else: The First Rule of Time Travel is “Don’t.”
The Second Rule of Time Travel is “Don’t Talk About Fight Club,” but I think that was someone’s idea of a joke. Possibly mine. In the future, that is. Anyway, not important.
Seriously though, “Don’t” is a very important rule. Time Travel should never be undergone lightly. If a Moros Mage f@#ks up, the worst that can happen is the zombie apocalypse or the complete and utter destruction of all matter in the universe. In the case of a serious Acanthus fustercluck, the whole of existence—at best—never happened. The problem is if you’ve done enough Time Traveling that someone’s teaching you the rules then you’ve gone and broken the First Rule of Time Travel (and possibly the second) already.
So, you beautiful little rule-breakers, welcome to my domaine.
Most people who have studied (read as: “mucked around in”) the workings of the timestream conclude that there are only two ways the universe could stabilize itself with so many people disobeying the First Rule of Time Travel:
The SPLIT TIMELINE or MULTIVERSE theory suggests whenever someone travels back in time and changes something, two timelines branch off. In one the original event happened unaltered, in the other something completely new happens. Apparently Nintendo subscribes to this theory, much to the chagrin of obsessive Legend of Zelda fans wanting to know how the various games fit in the Zelda continuity. If you are one of those fans, let me try and settle that debate for you once and for all: There isn’t any continuity. None of it ever happened. It’s fictional..
The INEVITABLE FATE or YOU’RE PROBABLY SCREWED theory is best demonstrated by any episode of Disney’s Gargoyles that involved a handy little item called “The Phoenix Gate.” Essentially, If you try to change something you’d find yourself the catalyst for the event you wanted to prevent. For example, you travel back in time to save your childhood friend from being hit by a car. When you see them alive and well and just how you remember them after so many years you shout out in joy—but this shout catches their attention and they step into the street without looking both ways and. . . . you get the idea.
In my opinion, both theories suck. The first creates an overwhelming number of possible universes (and even more debates over said universes), and the second is just damn depressing. I like to believe in a different theory, which I’ll call the BACK THERE theory, after the Twilight Zone episode of the same name. This suggests that “Major Events” are stable, but “Minor Events” can be changed.
Let’s say you decide to get all noble and assassinate a certain crazy German leader from the 1940s. That would be the historical equivalent of rewriting the Harry Potter series so that our eponymous hero croaks in The Chamber of Secrets. Lord only know what horrors you’ll unleash when you unravel that intricate weave of cause and effect. Actually, the Lord doesn’t know. . . but other Time Travelers do. Should you manage to kill Hitler you’ll find yourself a massive target for every (Somewhat) Responsible Time Traveler, and if you’re lucky your work will be undone before you can even begin it. If you’re unlucky, you’ll blink out of existence before you can say “What do you mean my father was never born?”
Saving one Jewish family from the same era doesn’t rewrite as much. It’s similar to the removal of Peeves from the Harry Potter movies. It alters things, but the changes are manageable.
In essence, a Time Traveler is like an editor; The universe is a finicky author. If you want to rewrite things in the author’s beloved manuscript you have to do it with a light touch. Otherwise the author will have a temper tantrum and things will turn out poorly for everyone involved.
All right my little rule-breakers, I’d write more on this but I have to be somewhere yesterday. Good luck on your journey, but if you can slip back and teach yourself the First Rule of Time Travel before you get started that’d probably be for the best.