Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Time Travel

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In Science Fiction rationalized TT into the past or future is common. In fantasy TT is usually embarked upon pastwards, and is sometimes difficult to distinguish from Timeslip. The main distinction seems to be that timeslip tales involve no actual corporeal travel through time: a human Soul or Spirit may pass into the body of a human being from an earlier time, or, more usually, a person makes a mental venture (possibly involuntarily) into a past time and this intrusion has physical repercussions – as when lovers unite despite the decades separating them. In the former case, Possession or Identity Exchange may be assumed. TT stories proper are those whose protagonists find themselves, body and soul, in a new venue, as in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889); other examples, among many, are the Magic sequence by Andre Norton, whose protagonists visit various eras with the aid of Magic, William Mayne's Earthfasts (1966), in which an 18th-century lad travels accidentally to the present day, and Rudyard Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill (coll 1906), where children experience history first-hand. TT which shifts characters backwards to a longed-for era is common; the stories Jack Finney assembled in The Third Level (coll 1959) and About Time (coll 1986) provide a definitive conspectus of the theme of TT as an affirmation of Theodicy.

A more complex kind of TT – it might indeed be thought of as a Time Fantasy – appears in stories like Ursula K Le Guin's "April in Paris" (1962), where a number of characters from various eras are assembled at one point in space and time. Michael Moorcock's conjoined Multiverse sequences offer similarly complexified versions of travel through time (see also Temporal Adventuress). [JC]


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.