MY WIBBLY-WOBBLY TIMEY-WIMEY BOOK: A TALE OF TIME-TRAVELthese very pages the other day, I’ve never yet written a book which doesn’t have a Doctor Who reference in it. A character with a long stripy scarf, a desire to ‘ex-merminate’, even a mention of Raxacoricofallapatorius. How I got that past my editor I’ll never know. But The Twice-Lived Summer of Bluebell Jones is the first time I’ve written time-travel itself.
It’s a bit of cheat, still. Time-travel which happens because of a wish? I can’t see that ever happening on Doctor Who; he’d have no truck with something so unscientific. But in Blue’s story there are grandfather paradoxes, and fixed points, and flagrant disregard of the Blinovitch Limitation Effect: all the classics.
Doctor Who has been on telly for nearly fifty years, and the premise is such a bonkers load of nonsense, monsters, foam, hope, jelly babies and Nicholas Parsons that it’s impossible to pick a favourite element. (Except possibly that time Harry Sullivan got his foot stuck in a giant clam.)
But one thing I always enjoy is how often the Doctor messes it up. He’s got an incredible time-and- space machine at his fingertips - but little Amelia Pond still ends up waiting twelve years instead of five minutes. Rose wants to pop back to reassure her mum - only to discover she’s been reported missing for the last twelve months.
He’s not the only one to get things wrong. My favourite timey-wimey film is an un-sci-fi indie called Primer, in which some dotcom geeks invent a time machine in their garage. Time-travel turns out to be really boring, and involve loads of careful clock-watching and hiding in a box so you can’t possibly bump into your other self.
Basically, I like time-travel when you boil it down to the awkward uncomfy practicalities. So it’s no surprise, really, that Bluebell’s adventures in time don’t involve a fun space trip to Metebelis 3, or becoming queen of the ancient Aztecs. On her 13th birthday, Blue wishes for some help getting through that difficult ‘becoming a teenager’ thing. Up pops her 14-year-old future self, known as Red, dispensing advice and eyerolls from her all-too-knowledgeable position. She’s lived this summer once already; she can see where she went wrong the first time, and save Blue from repeating her mistakes.
But, of course, as any Doctor Who fan will spot at once, when Red lived that summer, she didn’t have that advice. So she didn’t take it. So now Blue’s summer isn’t the same summer. And that’s assuming Blue should believe what Red tells her at all...
After all, the Doctor is a Time Lord, at least 1000 years old (he might claim otherwise, but that’s clearly vanity) and he stuffs it up all the time. Time-travel? Think twice.
Thanks, Susie - great piece!
For more from Susie, check out a recent interview with her at this very site - and then go and buy both of the books!
(Credit for images goes to:
TARDIS image: User:Zir / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-3.0
Clock image: Time Travel Haikus 5-7-5 photo by CityGypsy11 / Flickr.com / CC-BY-3.0)