Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An Update from Connie!

Hi, everybody! I just got back from my book tour--sort of. I still have a signing in Texas on Friday and assorted local signings. Thank you all for coming to my signings. It was great to see everybody! And especially thanks to everyone who showed up at Borderlands in San Francisco, where the weather was absolutely wretched. And in Seattle, where you had to miss the first part of the Superbowl. Or the Superbowl ads. Which ad was your favorite? I loved the Paris Google ad and hated the married guy/Dodge one.

Anyway, everywhere I went, people asked me the same two questions:

1. How did you get interested in time travel?


2. Did you have to do a lot of research for BLACKOUT?

A lot of people also said they wished I'd listed the books I'd used to research the novel at the end of the book. Novels don't ordinarily have bibliographies, but I promised I'd list some of my favorite research books on this site as soon as I've looked up all the titles and authors.

In the meantime, I'll answer the second question:

How did you get interested in time travel?

That's actually kind of hard to answer. The first time travel novel I ever read was Robert A. Heinlein's THE DOOR INTO SUMMER. It's a great book--all about a guy who gets betrayed by his girlfriend and his best friend, so he decides to have himself cryogenically frozen so he can get as far away from them as possible. But when he wakes up in the future, he finds out...well, I don't want to spoil it. All I'll say is that the story involves his going back to the past again, and that there's a terrific little girl, Ricky, in the book, and a great cat named Pete, which were more than enough to get me hooked on time travel.

But I'm not sure that was my first intro to time travel. That may have been Robert Nathan's PORTRAIT OF JENNIE or an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, like the one where the guy keeps telling his psychiatrist he's been to Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack. Or it might have been one of Jack Finney's stories, or C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner's "Vintage Season," about decadent jet-setter-like time travelers who come back to our time from the future to see...well, I don't want to spoil that either. And I don't know which came first.

All I know is that as soon as I heard about time travel, I fell in love with the idea. I loved the possibility that we could go back to the past and change mistakes we made--which I am always wishing I could do--and that we could go see the St. Louis World's Fair or the Colossus of Rhodes or Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address. And that we could change history--shooting Hitler in Berlin in 1934 or knocking the gun out of John Wilkes Booth's hand.

And I loved all the games writers played with the contradictions of time travel--the grandfather paradox and the "chicken and egg" paradox. (In case you don't know that one, it goes like this: You go back in time and tell Einstein the answer is E equals mc squared, and he "discovers" it, and it ends up in your science textbook, where you read it, and that's how you knew about it so you could tell him, but in that case where did it come from in the first place?) I loved reading stories where the authors explored all the possibilities of those paradoxes, from Heinlein's "All You Zombies" to Harry Harrison's "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed," especially Fredric Brown's "The Yehudi Principle," where the story's first and last lines form a continual time loop.

But my favorite time travel stories were those that showed us how time travel could redeem us and/or break our hearts, like Bob Shaw's "The Light of Other Days" and Philip K. Dick's "A Little Something for Us Tempunauts."

You can do so many things with time travel--go to the past (and future), change history, jumble up the pieces, mess with events and people in all sorts of fun ways, fix your mistakes, experiment with all the might-have-beens, cause never-thought-of consequences, and play mind-twisting games. Best of all, you can use time travel to illuminate the way time and memory affect--and trap--us. And to gain an understanding of history and time itself. It's no wonder I love it.

Connie Willis




"A Little Something for Us Tempunauts" by Philip K. Dick
"The Light of Other Days" by Bob Shaw
"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens
THE DOOR INTO SUMMER by Robert A. Heinlein
"Great Escape Tours, Inc," by Kit Reed
"Vintage Season" by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner
"Behold the Man" by Michael Moorcock
"Child By Chronos" by Charles Harness
"Me, Myself, and I" by William Tenn
ME, MYSELF, I (a totally different story)
"Air Raid" by John Varley
"Brooklyn Project" by William Tenn
"The Men Who Murdered Mohammed" by Harry Harrison
"The Yehudi Principle" by Fredric Brown
"The Little Black Bag" by Cyril Kornbluth
"Up the Line" by Robert Silverberg
"All You Zombies" by Robert A. Heinlein
"By His Bootstraps" by Robert A. Heinlein


moe99 said...

I would recommend "The Kingdom of Ohio" by Matthew Flaming.

Vikingur said...

My favorite short story "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed" is Alfred Bester's work, not by Harry Harrison.

Pam said...

I still can't see how Dave can catch up with Polly in Blackout they are all moving forward at the same rate. Nor do I understand why Colin would be racing around trying to find everyone in 2060 they must have had mobile phones or some variation of them. The beginning of the book sounds like a Harry Potter. I really think it gets a bit confusing and lost. Jim