Wednesday Witterings – The past is the future…

The Bookish Time Travel Tag

time-travel

This tag has been doing the rounds recently since it was created by The Library Lizard, and has inspired some great posts, so I was delighted when Jessica at The Bookworm Chronicles tagged me. Thanks, Jessica! So, here goes…

What is your favourite historical setting for a book?

I’m tempted to say the Tudors because that’s probably the period of history I know most about. But actually part of the attraction for me is visiting a period and place I don’t know much about. I’ve been on an Empire kick for the last couple of years, so have been loving anything about India or other far-flung corners of the Empire, like Abir Mukherjee’s A Rising Man, set in Calcutta under the Raj, or Rebecca Burns’ fine collection of stories about early immigrants to New Zealand, The Settling Earth. And I like books with a Scottish historical setting, such as crime novels like Lexie Conyngham’s Murray of Letho series, or more serious fiction like William McIlvanney’s excellent Docherty. And then there are the spy books set in WW2 or during the Cold War – Exposure by Helen Dunmore or Robert Harris’ great Enigma

High Street, Kilmarnock - the town on which fictional Graithnock is based in William McIlvanney's Docherty "High Street, both as a terrain and a population was special. Everyone whom circumstances had herded into its hundred-or-so-yards had failed in the same way. It was a penal colony for those who had committed poverty, a vice which was usually hereditary."
High Street, Kilmarnock – the town on which fictional Graithnock is based in William McIlvanney’s Docherty
“High Street, both as a terrain and a population was special. Everyone whom circumstances had herded into its hundred-or-so-yards had failed in the same way. It was a penal colony for those who had committed poverty, a vice which was usually hereditary.”

What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?

I’d rather meet the fictional characters than the authors in truth. I’m sure it would be lovely to have a cup of tea with Ms Austen, but I’d much rather spend the time dancing the cotillion with Darcy. I’d love to spend some time with Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair – she’s so wicked, but great fun! I’d like to get hold of Sidney Carton and just whisper “she’s not worth it!” before he steps into the tumbril. However, I would love to meet Charles Dickens – well, more specifically, I’d like to attend one of his readings. Simon Callow gives a good flavour of them in The Mystery of Charles Dickens, but I’d love to see Dickens own interpretation of his wonderfully caricatured characters.

darcy dancing(Me, in my dancing outfit…)

What book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?

Having recently discovered and loved Anthony Horowitz‘s books for adults, I’d give his books for children to my childish self. I will one day read them anyway, but I’m sure I’d have enjoyed them more when I was a kid, since I’m not an enthusiastic reader of kids’ books as an adult.

What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?

This one is hard, because when I want a book I want it NOW! So I think I’d give my older self some large-print versions of lifelong favourites – and cheerful ones, like Wodehouse and Three Men in a Boat. And Austen. And Dickens…

‘It has never been hard to tell the difference between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.’

PG Wodehouse

What is your favourite futuristic setting from a book?

Mars! I still haven’t given up hope that there’s life there – perhaps intelligent enough to be shielding itself from prying Earthling eyes. So many great books with Mars as a setting – Ken Kalfus’ brilliant Equilateral, Ray Bradbury’s fantastic The Martian Chronicles, HG Wells of course, and his War of the Worlds, Andy Weir’s hugely enjoyable The Martian, and no list would be complete without a mention of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom books – great fun!

Me, in my Barsoom outift...
Me, in my Barsoom outift…

A bit of me wishes we could stop exploring Mars in real life, so it can remain as a glowing red source of inspiration to generations of future writers…

“…red like a pomegranate seed, red like a blood spot on an egg, red like a ladybug, red like a ruby or more specifically a red beryl, red like coral, red like an unripe cherry, red like a Hindu lady’s bindi, red like the eye of a nocturnal predator, red like a fire on a distant shore, the subject of his every dream and his every scientific pursuit.

“Mars,” he says.”

Ken Kalfus, Equilateral

What is your favourite book that is set in a different time period (can be historical or futuristic)?

Just one? Oh, this is almost impossible! But if I must…

The entire Shardlake series of CJ Sansom is brilliant – each book huge and immersive, and building up a totally credible picture of life under Henry VIII. Shardlake himself has become a real person to me, and I’m hoping he’ll still be there to take us through the disruption that follows Henry’s death. The most recent book, Lamentation, won my Book of the Year award last year.

Best Crime Fiction

And I must be allowed to choose one more – Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, set in revolutionary France. Tighter and angrier than many of his books, the descriptions of the Terror and particularly of the mob show him at his excoriating best. A frightening depiction of how inequality and injustice can allow leaders to emerge who will use the mob violently and unscrupulously to achieve their own ends – as relevant today as it was when it was written, or in the period in which it’s set.

Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.

Six tumbrils roll along the streets. Change these back to what they were, thou powerful enchanter, Time, and they shall be seen to be the carriages of absolute monarchs, the equipages of feudal nobles, the toilettes of flaring Jezebels, the churches that are not my father’s house but dens of thieves, the huts of millions of starving peasants.

Storming of the Bastille Jean-Pierre Houel
Storming of the Bastille
Jean-Pierre Houel

Spoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?

Never! There should be a law against it and when I become the Empress of Bookworld (pushed reluctantly into the job by popular acclaim, obviously, and adored by all my subjects) there will be! The punishment will be that the last nine pages will be removed from every book the perpetrator reads for a period of 25 years.

Me, in my Empress outfit...
Me, in my Empress outfit…

If you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?

Hmm… I’ve already mentioned dancing with Darcy, haven’t I? Well then, I would go to Sherwood Forest and get Robin to teach me archery. That could take a while, so the Time Turner would come in very handy. And I might lend it to Robin so he can rescue Marian from the wicked Sheriff, while Friar Tuck and I do a bit of feasting…

Me, in my archery outfit...
Me, in my archery outfit…

Favourite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?

The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov tells of how people from the future have developed a method of time travel which they use to make subtle alterations in the timeline to minimise human suffering. However, those pesky time paradoxes mean they affect humanity in unintended ways…

In truth, though, my favourite take on time travel isn’t bookish at all – it’s the two Star Trek series, The Next Generation and Voyager, which return to the vexed subject of time paradoxes again and again. Not only does this give them a chance to visit the present day or recent past quite often, but it allows for the occasional appearance of characters like Mark Twain in the future.

mark twain star trek

Some of the episodes dealing with time-travel are light-hearted fun, like the one that suggests the sudden advances in computing and technology in the ’80s and ’90s were as a result of a crashed time ship from the 27th century falling into the wrong hands. But some are dark indeed, like the timeship whose captain made a calculation error, accidentally wiping out the colony in which the woman he loved was living, and now spends eternity making changes to the timeline to try to correct his mistake, causing chaos to all the worlds in that sector of space.

Me, in my Star Trek outfit...
Me, in my Star Trek outfit…

It may be just a sci-fi show with unbelievable aliens and no technical problem that can’t be solved by setting up a tachyon burst, but Star Trek at its best examines the ethics and morality of science as deeply as the best written science fiction. And, delightfully, Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize surely means I can also expand the meaning of literature to include script-writers…

Captain Janeway: "Time travel. Since my first day on the job as a Starfleet captain I swore I'd never let myself get caught in one of these godforsaken paradoxes - the future is the past, the past is the future, it all gives me a headache."
Captain Janeway: “Time travel. Since my first day on the job as a Starfleet captain I swore I’d never let myself get caught in one of these godforsaken paradoxes – the future is the past, the past is the future, it all gives me a headache.”

What book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?

Without doubt, The Great Gatsby. The first time I read it I was totally blown away. I was about twenty at the time and working in the office of a hospital. They used to have a little fund-raising thing where everyone brought in books and you could rent them for tuppence (shows how long ago it was!). I rented Gatsby one lunchtime, started reading and absolutely couldn’t stop! I took it back to the office in the afternoon and kept reading. My boss came in at one point to ask me something about work, and I fear I told him he’d have to wait till I finished my book. Fortunately, he was a reader too, took a look and said “Ah! Gatsby! OK, I’ll catch you later…”

(Dear government, I promise I made the time up later… 😉 )

gatsby glasses

* * * * * * *

Thanks again to Jessica for tagging me on this one – I thoroughly enjoyed reminding myself of some of the great historical, and futuristic, fiction I’ve read over the years!

And now, I tag you!

you talkin to me

Yes, YOU!

46 thoughts on “Wednesday Witterings – The past is the future…

  1. I love your answers, FictionFan! And quite honestly, I can see you as Empress. I can just imagine some of the changes you’d make… You have an interesting point about meeting fictional characters, too. I hadn’t really thought about that, but it’s a fascinating prospect. And why am I not surprised that one of them on your list is Mr. Darcy????

    I’m going to have to tell my husband my resident sci-fi expert about your interest in Star Trek and the way that franchise handled time travel. He very much likes those episodes, too. And I do think it’s a really interesting topic for speculation.

    • I do think I was born to be Empress – it amazes me the world hasn’t realised it yet! 😉 Haha! Had to sneak Darcy in there – but I would like to spend some time living in lots of different fictional worlds, so long as I could escape back to my own time… and more casual clothing!

      Your resident sci-fi expert sounds like a man of excellent taste! I know it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I do think those middle series of Star Trek stand head and shoulders above nearly all TV and movie sci-fi. Of course, the script writers borrowed heavily from the great science fiction writers, but they were always quite open about it.

  2. This was a lovely little read, thank you FF! I think you look particularly regal in your Empress outfit 🙂 And I am always happy to see a picture of the delightful Will Ryker, what with me also being a fan of Next Gen and Voyager. I’m with you on the Horowitz kids books – I shall wrestle a couple from me nephew!

    • Thank you! I do like my Empress outfit and quite fancy bossing everyone around, but secretly I’d rather be Seven of Nine. Though the corsets might be a little restricting… I’m in the mood to rewatch the whole series now – better than reading Moby-Dick, that’s for sure! I know – I kinda regret Horowitz was after my time – I’d have loved to read his books at the right age for them…

      • Seven of Nine was such a hero of mine! But she did have very large boobs for a Borg. That Borg cube still gives me the shivers – the thought of being assimilated is actually quite terrifying. I remember they nearly got Jean Luc once – he was quite a sexy Borg. I don’t know where I’m going with this…
        Ah yes, Horowitz. I think I am mentally the right age, so might get away with it 🙂

  3. I love your answers … and all your interesting costumes, FF! I, too, have long been fascinated with Mars (much more so than with any other planet!). And you make an excellent point about those who read the end of a book before they actually reach it (although I typically read the newspaper from back to front — don’t ask why, for I have no clue, ha!)

    • My outfits are great, aren’t they? It’s lucky I’m so gorgeous and have such a perfect figure… 😉 Mars has inspired so much fabulous imagination, and still does. I wonder if it still will once we’ve actually set foot there. Haha! My sister quite often reads the end of a book before she starts it – weird, I say! Totally weird!!

    • Thank you! Haha! Yes, my wardrobe is full of great costumes – and each one makes me look quite different… 😉 Ooh, yes, please do – I’d love to read your answers! Consider yourself tagged! 😀

  4. This was a fun book tag, Fiction Fan, and I really enjoyed your answers – and all your outfits! I think if I were to give my younger self a book it would be the A Wrinkle in Time series by Madeline L’Engle. I never read those as a child, and when I read the first one a few years ago, I wished I had read them back then. I think I would have appreciated them a lot more.

    • Thank you – I enjoyed doing it! Haha! My oufits are great aren’t they – and I must say, I look gorgeous in them all… 😉 I haven’t read those – actually although I read all the time as a kid, it amazes me how few children’s books I’ve actually read. I think I must have started reading adult books so young I missed out. Plus I was a super-enthusiastic re-reader so read the same books over and over again – something I hardly do at all now sadly…

  5. What a brilliant post although I was very shocked and surprised to see Darcy, particularly when he clearly wasn’t the answer to the question!! Seriously, I loved your answers and can’t believe you were lucky enough to work somewhere where you could rent a book for tuppence! No doubt that time has been made up one hundredfold since.

    • Haha! I tried to keep him out of it, but he insisted! He’s such an attention-seeker! Thank you – I enjoyed this tag, and all the posts I’ve seen for it have been great – gone off in all different directions! Yes, I worked my way through a huge number of classics while I was in that job… tea-breaks only, of course! 😉

  6. Lovely post! I totally agree about Tale of Two Cities, although I’m not sure I’d like to meet Charles Darwin – sit in the audience at one of his readings would be great though! And I would so like to meet the fictional characters, especially Sidney Carton who I thought was so romantic when I read the book as a teenager – I was not so enamoured a few years ago when I re-read it. I’d forgotten he was such a slovenly drunken character. The image of him with wet towels on his head and drinking wine, brandy and rum with sugar and lemons, whilst he worked isn’t my idea of a romantic hero.

    • Thank you! I suspect Dickens would have been great fun in short bursts, but a bit wearing to spend a lot of time with. Any man who builds a wall down the middle of his bedroom because he doesn’t like his wife must be a little strange! Yes, I know what you mean about Sidney, but I forgive him because he spent his journey to the guillotine trying to give courage to the girl in the tumbril with him. And anyway usually Dickens’ heroes are so sickly sweet I can’t bear them! 😉

  7. I’m enjoying reading everyone’s answers to this tag! I love your approach to the second question – I would rather meet the characters than the authors too. I would join you at the Dickens readings, though, as I would like to do that as well. 🙂 And what a nice idea to cheer your older self up with Wodehouse and Jerome!

    • I love this tag – the questions let everyone answer them in totally different ways, so the posts have been full of variety! I think we should get up a bloggers’ group to go to the Dickens performance – perhaps we could get discount on the tickets for quantity… I like the idea of revisiting these loved favourites when I’m 100, and trying to get the nurses in the care home to read them too… 😉

  8. I laughed at what you whispered to Sidney Carton – I totally agree! And your punishment for reading the end first is perfect. Thanks for the fun! 🙂

    • Hahaha! Yes, my life is so exciting – thought those trips back and forth to Mars and the Delta Quadrant take their toll after a while. Sometimes when Darcy asks me to dance at the end of the day, I’m simply too tired…

  9. I love A Tale of Two Cities! And I love the period of the French Revolution. I also love the Regency period.
    Great post, FF. Thanks for sharing your costumes! My favorite is the Star Trek one, since I loved Next Gen and Voyager!

    • A Tale of Two Cities always seems to be one of the underrated Dickens somehow, and yet I think it’s one of his best! Haha! My costumes are great, aren’t they? One must always have something suitable in one’s wardrobe for every eventuality… 😉 Ooh, another Star Trek fan! I knew you were a woman of excellent taste!

      • I agree that this book is underrated. So many people prefer Great Expectations, which is one of my least favorites. I’m not saying it isn’t great. Ha ha. But I prefer A Tale of Two Cities and Little Dorrit.

        • I’m not so keen on Great Expectations either, partly because they forced me to analyse it to death at Uni. I haven’t read Little Dorrit to my shame – it’s on my list though! For me, Bleak House, Nicholas Nickleby and Two Cities are probably my favourites.

  10. You’re very welcome for the tag – I thought you’d have some great answers and you did! I would definitely like to come back with you to hear Charles Dickens’ readings and you’ve really made me want to read the C J Sansom’s books even more. However, what I love the most is how you got Star Trek in here. I love Star Trek and the series of my generation is Voyager. My favourite Star Trek film is also First Contact which has a time travel theme too 😀

    • Thank you! I definitely think we should set up a Bloggers Bus Trip back to see Dickens – it seems to be one of the most popular things we’d all like to do in the past. I can’t recommend the Sansom books too highly. For me, every one has been better than the one before – an excellent series! Yay! Another Star Trek fan! I really got into it with The Next Generation but now I think I maybe love Voyager even more. Some of the early films were great too, but I haven’t got up the courage to watch the new versions yet – too scared in case they mess it up, though they seem to be well thought of. One day… 🙂

    • Ooooh, I’m jealous!! But… did you dress up as a Klingon? A friend once gave me a Star Trek communicator badge that made the authentic little bleepy noises – I drove everyone up the wall with it for weeks! (I was roughly 35 at the time… 😉 )

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