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Help With Time-Travel Short Story

  1. Aug 9, 2014 #1
    Dear All:
    I like to write and I’m a physicist myself. Right now, I’m currently outlining a short sci-fi story called “Borrowed Time”. It goes as follows:

    In the near future, science has conquered the technology that allows the manipulation of the flow of time. Space and time limitations, as they were known by the first years of the 21st century, are thing of the past...

    Nowadays, an entire company is dedicated to the business of "relocation"...

    ”Relocation” is the process in which a person is extracted from his or her current space-time coordinates and brought into the present ...

    Clients use "relocation" to bring back and spend time with their loved ones, already deceased...

    But the technology only allows the "reloc" to be brought back for 24 hours only before being returned...

    The rules of the company are clear:

    every "reloc" has to be returned to the exact moment in which the extraction took place and under the same circumstances.

    No one has ever broken this rule before...

    The above is just an outline, but I’ve developed a few characters and the beginnings of an interesting plot. I’ll reveal more, but I just want to know how it sounds to you guys. Comments are welcome.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 9, 2014 #2
    A lot of people are going to have a freaking conniption about this company. I mean, they are literally preying on people's grief. And if the person brought out of their time remembers the experience when they go back, the ethical issues go up by an order of magnitude.

    Changing gears, how does this work, exactly? Why does the technology only allow the person to be brought forward for 24 hours?
  4. Aug 9, 2014 #3
    Time travel is sticky business. Anyone relocated would also like to return to change events that are to lead up to their demise.

    Here is my spin. No matter what the stage you set, the real nut of a good story is the human drama you create. Shakespeare did a wonderful job at that and having a cool idea is very fine, but what makes any story compelling is how it emotionally engages the reader and the principles of the human spirit it represents.

    Good luck with your writing. I hope we get to read it sometime.
  5. Aug 10, 2014 #4
    Time travel is sticky business. Anyone relocated would also like to return to change events that are to lead up to their demise.

    A lot of people are going to have a freaking conniption about this company. I mean, they are literally preying on people's grief.

    Absolutely. You got it just right. And it's not just a moral issue for the company, it is as well for the person sponsoring the relocation. If you miss your friend who died in a car crash 20 years ago and you want to see him again to tell him how much you miss him, it's a moral dilemma to relocate him to tell him that and then make him aware that he has 24 hours to live. It presents a very interesting scenario.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2014
  6. Aug 10, 2014 #5
    Sounds like an interesting story. I would recommend not spilling too many of the beans until you have a draft and more importantly, a copyright secured on your manuscript.

    Good luck!
  7. Aug 10, 2014 #6
    Thanks for the advice.
  8. Aug 11, 2014 #7
    I feel the same way as others here that the science is too freaky for any society regardless of time and the damage to the traveller (being brought to this future place and subjected to the facts that they are dead etc would make for a nightmare of epic proportions.
    I suggest that this not be a up and running company but perhaps a company that has developed this time travel ability but does not know the ramifications of the travel yet. they learn the hard way of the 24 hour time limit and other limitations. Perhaps they are currently able to 'talk to the deceased' and discuss with someone from the past that they have an experiment to actually bring them through instead of just the vocals etc.
    I dont know if that makes any sense to you but it seems more logical that this would be a technology gone wrong story.

    The other side could be the willingness of those that want to call on someone from the past has to be willing to give up some of their future or something so as to balance the timeline or some such madness.. eg.. I get to see dear old dad but i have to give up 1 year of my life and the gamble that could be considering I do not know when I die (or do I??))

    I love writing scifi.. I have far too many ideas in my head. I need a machine to pull them out and .....hey ..
  9. Aug 11, 2014 #8
    I really like your idea. It has a lot of human drama and moral considerations rolled up into it, which should be the foundation of any good story.

    I am not sure what would be "inside the briefcase" of the prospective traveler from the past, but it could still be a central part of the story.

    However, the advantage that you are suggestion really allows the writer (and reader) to explore the moral and social dilemmas of time travel in a unique setting and not simply plow through a book just to find out what was inside a briefcase.
  10. Aug 11, 2014 #9
    That sounds very nice, but I already worked out the 'rules' for the time-machine and the "Relocation" process, I just don't want to reveal too many details.

    As I and other commentators have pointed out, there is a heavy moral dilemma, but I want this moral dilemma to play in the background of my story, I don't want to make it solely about the moral dilemma, or at least, I want to put some time-travel action in it and not let it be just some drama.

    What I have in mind is that the device used to Relocation purposes was originally designed for a different purpose and now it's being exploited in this way, a little bit like in Inception where the dream machine had been built for different purposes but was being implemented by con artists to hack minds. The company has a lot of detractors and I can imagine a sort of Greenpeace-like movement that wants the device shut down; but the interesting spin is that this futuristic society supports the use of Relocation.

    Thanks a lot for your input.
  11. Aug 11, 2014 #10
    You are welcome.

    Remember, epic stories are about the human story, although. Classics like Forbidden Planet borrowed heavily from Shakespeare. The stage setting is not really that important in context to the story and the human struggle.

    Even Lord of the Rings is a great example of good versus evil in a grand way. The actual setting is simply icing on the cake. While most of the characters are not technically human, they are entirely humanized in the way they are written and interact.

    Regardless, have fun with your writing. It sounds interesting to me.
  12. Aug 11, 2014 #11

    This story intrigues me more and more. I would like to preface the proceeding comments (as well as any others i may make) as intending only to create conversation. I by no means am putting down any of your ideas or condemning them. I do not know why but for some reason I get the feeling that you took that last set of comments as an attack of sorts(probably just me) which it assuredly is not, I am Just thinking out loud and getting excited about the process of brainstorming ideas.
    So here I go again with the full knowledge that the answers I am looking for may already be in your head and not divulged for obvious reasons as to protect your intellectual property for example. SO i am just going to ramble this out there without expecting any reply (I really dont need one as I am just writing down my problem with this so that I too can wrestle with it and try to come up with feasible answers)
    Okay so my problem still lies with the acceptance of a device that drags a dead ;person to consciousness and then condemns them to death again in 24 hours. Now in trying to solve this I only come up with a few things off the bat.
    [STRIKE]-It is a very new tech and is not publicly available. (I still think the 24 hours shouldnt be known it should be an early consequence that causes the anti tech greenpeace movement for example
    there is a health reason to necessitate this ( must gain access to living tissue or gene cultures for??[/STRIKE]

    Okay I realized right now I am overstepping some sort of boundary here and as such am putting a stop to my blatherings.....( blatherings??? what the hell are blatherings???)
    I apologize....Suffice it to say I am genuinely interested in where you go with this idea. I do hope you inform along the way (I would love to read and or provide input upon any finished material and am more than willing to sign or provide non disclosure to safeguard your property).
    Also could give free first edit etc.. :Please do not hold the grammatical structure (or lack there of) nor the probable punctuation as well as numerous other language destroying errors in this post to be an indication of my abilities to professionally edit and/or provide feedback of the highest degree.
    When I am partaking of the proper dosage of caffeine and appropriate background music, I am a dedicated perfectionist. It is only in my own work that I let the ruler slide. Perhaps the adage of the cobbler whose offspring go shoe-less would help to illustrate the madness that is me.
    Okay so now I have to wake fully up and get the aforementioned caffeine in my system at which point I will come to a consciousness of sorts at which point I will realize that I actually did type all this nonsense out and regrettably pushed 'Submit Reply'
    This will be around the moment that I realize that I may possibly have some issues that need to be worked on. I will go through a process not unlike that of losing someone or other catastrophe. There will be the denial (I did not post it, I was merely daydreaming a reply)
    then the guilt (How could I subject everyone to my madness) then anger and bargaining (please let the server have been down and Ill never post while half awake again damn them for letting me stay logged in )
    and then my personal favorite Depression, Loneliness (no one understands me I dont fit in here, I wish I was never taught to reply to forums)
    I would like to write about the final stages but I am stuck in depression and Loneliness right now so I find it to be a monumentally insurmountable task

    Anyways have a great day,,


  13. Aug 11, 2014 #12
    Thank you. I like intriguing stories, the kind of ones where things start making sense as you keep reading. Your comment seems to suggest the story is fulfilling this purpose. :approve:

    No, not at all. I haven't consider any of the comments as attacks and you have my sincere gratitude for your inputs as well as those from others.

    I liked your idea of the sponsor having to give one year of their life to the Reloc, or something of that sort. However, I have already worked out the rules I want the Relocation process to be governed by and I really don't feel like changing that.

    I heavily post-edited one of my previous comments, in which I spelled out all the Relocation process as I've conceived it. Since this is a story I'm really serious about, someone made me aware of a possible copyright concern emerging if I revealed all the details. I considered this to be a genuine concern and thus the edit. Maybe you considered this edit as a response to some attack, but it's not like that at all :approve:

    The device doesn't drag a dead person through, the person is alive but it only allows to keep them alive for 24 hours; then, it has to be returned. In effect, the person lives an extra 'borrowed time', hence the title.

    Thank you, I'll keep you up-to-date. So far, I have finished the first 3 to 4 chapters. Basically, I have the teaser, but I hit a writer's block and the project has sunk in the mud for a very long period. I want to resurface it. I want to fully develop my characters and start the first act.

    That's when I find inspiration to write. Get better soon.
  14. Oct 23, 2014 #13


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    What's the difference between bringing back someone from the past for 24 hours and returning him/her to the same place, and simply cloning a person from the past, and they live for 24 hours? Do the people from the past remember being pulled into the future? That could cause all sorts of paradoxes. But then, you have already thought of that.
  15. Oct 24, 2014 #14
    Answer 1. I want to involve time-travel. The cloning makes sense, but it wouldn't have no time travel in it :(
    Answer 2. Yes, the person remembers the process.
    Answer 3. No paradox at all, if they put the person back. Or not?
  16. Nov 21, 2014 #15


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    Depending on how far in the future you put this, I have no problem believing that society would accept what this company does. Over the last century our society has rapidly changed its views on everything from art, gender rights and racial equality. I think someone from the 19th century would find modern culture to be too bizarre to be believable. So in another hundred years I can accept that society will again have radically different values.

    As for this company praying on personal grief, not only is that not hard to accept but hell we have real world examples. plenty of con artists that claim to be mediums have made huge televised careers on contacting the dead. and funeral homes make a fat living by skillfully riding the wave of grief on family members of the deceased.

    I look forward to reading your book when it is done.
  17. Aug 27, 2015 #16
    I'm reminded of a story from a collection of zombie stories about something similiar. The story had this process that allows a person to be reanimated for 24 hours after death. But the thing is the dead came back with a serious lack of interest in their mortal dealings instead looking for beauty in weird places.
  18. Aug 27, 2015 #17


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    The story is interesting, personally I think I'd have a really hard time getting through it because the ramifications of this technology are huge. Focusing on bringing back dead loved ones for a chat is like writing a story where someone invents faster than light travel and then writing a story where it's only used for really quick pizza delivery. If you had this technology there's so much more you could do.

    Also you might be interested in a story that uses a similar (but not the same) mechanic:
  19. Aug 27, 2015 #18
    What if time has two dimensions? When you insert or extract someone from time, the timeline forks, but then you end up with some really weird paradoxes and timelines. If you go back in time, you can not get back to your time period, because in your time period, you had never been in the past. And if you go to the future, you can never end up in the same future as you would have if you hadn't gone to the future, therefore, if time travel is possible, you must allow time to not only split, but also recombine.
  20. Sep 21, 2015 #19
    Why would forking in time travel to the past preclude recombination?

    I am assuming that forking means that once you reenter a past time line you are essentially forcing or spewing the creation of a new independent timeline or universe (within a larger multiverse). In the case where we accept multiple universes being possible, we have not observed the recombination of our own universe with another.

    Then again, this is all fiction, so we get to invent the rules as we see fit and hopefully, there swill enjoy those set of rules.
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