Friday, August 21, 2009

Hover boards and time-turners

Hey bloggeristas.

Long time no talk. I mean write.

I've been swimming through a couple of deadlines. But I'm back.

I feel like Marty in Back to the Future II, "I know you sent me into the future but I'm back!" Which, I would argue, is one of the worst WRITTEN sequels to one of the BEST trilogies.

Yeah I said it! The writing SUCKS. Oh Robert Zemeckis, why did you make Doc Brown frantically "TELL" us every silly scrap of information to US through Marty. All the fun relationship that happened in the first movie, the smooth flow of information through character and normal dialogue was shanghaied because you were lazy and wanted to concentrate on your hover boards (which are sweet) and Max Headroom Coke diners.

Did I still enjoy it? Yes! But less and less each viewing and cringe at the over-telling. Not to mention the time-trap writers fall into. You know, the don't-F-with-time one. It's like the writer just planted a mine field blindfolded and now has to walk back through it. In Back To the Future PART DEUX, Biff steals the Delorian and goes back and gives the almanac to young Biff. At that moment, time has changed.

But not in the movie. Not until Doc and Marty go back to find it changed. So if Robbie Z followed his own rules this is what would have happened. Instantly, there would be no time machine because in his alternate reality he has Doc Brown committed BEFORE he made a time machine, before he and Marty could be friends and before they could take the Delorian back in time. Or ahead to where Biff steals it. Confused? Me too. But we're just getting started. The future Biff would return to be the Biff who is a casino pimp, EXCEPT he wouldn't be able to because the Delorian would disappear like Marty started to (and his siblings in the photo) in the first movie as they were ceasing to exist.

Whew! Do you see some of the complications of dealing with time travel as a writer? Yet, it calls us like a big fat white whale. J.K. Rowlings couldn't resist the urge and what happened? Soon after they appeared she had the time turners destroyed in book five. I loved The Prisoner of Azkaban and all things Harry Potter, but I could've done without time-turners. Because as my clever nephew Clay said, "So why doesn't Harry go back and take care of Voldemort or why doesn't Voldemort go after the NUMEROUS time-turners instead of wasting his time with the prophecy which was MORE inaccessible in the Department of Mysteries. Why couldn't a lot of things happen like Harry saving or warning his parents before they were killed or God knows what else.

But, despite the implications that she was opening up, she did a first-rate job on her plunge into time travel. Then promptly abandoned it. So did Back to the Future I and the third.

What do you think? When has time travel been used well and when should it never have been attempted?


  1. I happen to like *all* of the BTTF movies. I agree that it is logistically a mess when you bend time. But all three of my DVD's fit so nicely into that boxed set. You wouldn't want to go back in time and re-do those, would you? Hmmmm? So you're saying that no one should write about history? After all, it has been said that historians shape history. Not only that, but when you edit your writing, you are going back in time and messing with what is!!! What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. Or is it conceive? Yes, you may have been adopted, as you have feared all along...

  2. Dude, my head hurts now. Thanks a lot. Time is an icky thing. Mostly because you'll have those people who'll say, "Why don't we just go back to the beginning and blow everything up and then the story will have never been!"

    It's just hard to suspend that belief, I guess. Time is such a finite and unchangeable thing to us little humans. Hurts our brains to accept that it might be more fluid.

  3. It was cheesy but I loved the glimpse into the future. Of course, the future looks nothing like that, but still...

  4. Me too RJW! I love them, even the 2nd, though the dialogue/writing sucks. Editing your story is different, you're trying to change your story to conform to the "rules" of your story better, to smooth any wrinkles in time... ; ) As for conception, you are hereby grounded from ever mentioning that again to me. Ever.

    As you know Natalie, the time rules can be anything, as long as they follow the author's declared rules. Those are in stone. You can't break your own rules in a story!

    Hey Stephanie! I don't mind the cheese and I LOVE the glimpse in the future. I actually really like everything about it except Doc's glasses/outfit and the horrible dialogue/writing. It's the same YE OLD SHOW DON'T TELL mantra. Oh and breaking its own time travel rules. The writers just fell into a coma during the 2nd movie. I still like it, for all the other reasons.

    Another example of the bad sequel (fourth?) to an excellent series is the new Indiana Jones movie. The dialogue was so forced and filled with information for the audience like, "you remember when we were fighting the Soviets at x,y and z and you know how I turned from archeology to espionage during the cold war, even though you were right there with me, I'll remind you one more time everything you (the character) should already still know. Hey it's STILL Indiana Jones so I enjoy it for that, holding a great deal of forgiveness for how good it was before. But the writing wasn't as natural as the other movies.

    Let me state one disclaimer, or tweak here. Doc Brown is a scientist with his own way of spouting information in his own delightful Doc way, like he did in the first movie. BUT that was VERY believable to his character. Natural. The second movie, it wasn't believable. It felt like we were told too much to quickly, while the creators of it were concentrating on the admittedly-cool gadgets. It's the lazy writer info dump. BUT it's BTTF, and just like Indy, I carry a LOT of forgiveness and still love it. (but seriously, watch it again and tell me I'm not wrong!)

  5. Hmmm, I've always accepted and enjoyed the time travel in the Terminator movies. And I love the intricacies of The Time Traveler's Wife book, don't know if I will love the movie.
    And PS: Congrats on the panel. You will have a great time, I'm sure.

  6. The first Time Travel movie I ever saw was something with Malcom McDowell playing HG Wells....It was one of those where things happen as they do BECCAUSE of the time travelling thing, we just didn't know it.

    Favorite Time Travelling movie: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure!! "Hey, dude, when we're done here, let's just go back in time and leave the keys for ourselves here under this rock," *Ted lifts rock* "Cool."

    Congratulations on your panel. Can't wait to read it!


  7. Terminator did a pretty good job Tricia. I haven't read or seen The Time Traveler's Wife yet, and would need some pretty good persuasion to make it an official yet. Thank you so much Tricia, let's hope I don't stick my foot TOO far down my mouth. It's been known to happen.

    Shelley you're awesome. While you were talking about the HG Wells it made me think of that one 80s movie about the Time Travelers. Was that what it was called? Sort of trippy. Does anyone remember this? Bill and Ted's! Keanu Reeves at his best/worst? You just made me smile.

    I should confess to playing the devil's advocate just a smidge. There's some pretty cool time travel stories, BUT, there's some that didn't sort out all there time problems either. Heck Narnia played with time, sorta. Maybe a little more on the peripheral.

  8. Back to the Future was good, The others, well, not so much. I'm not really into the time travel stuff--it's cool and all--but you're right, there are so many loose ends that drive me nuts. LOVED all the Indiana Jones movies, but didn't see #4, and now, I probably won't after reading your comment, because, why ruin a good thing? Though, any movie with Harrison Ford works for me.

  9. storyqueen took one of my favorites. I love the lines after that too: "Dude, we gotta remember when we get out of this to come back and leave the keys." "But, it already happened." "Oh yeah... Excellent!"

    I read a book a couple years ago called Up the Line that handled time travel extremely well, I thought. Time traveling is a tourist industry in the book, with trained guides bringing travelers back to significant historical events (appropriately dressed and quiet so they go unnoticed). The more they do it, the more tourists appear at each event (so like the crucifixion of Christ is crowded now). And if a traveler or a tour guide does something against the rules, like stealing a souvenir or getting themselves noticed, the folks in charge just go back in time and disallow that person to make the trip - so it's as if it never happened.

    It's incredibly messy, but really well done. There's a fair amount of sex and drugs in it though (it was written in the middle of the 60's), so be warned if you go looking it up.

  10. I saw BTTF3 with my husband. It was our first date. No matter how crappy the movie, it will always hold a special place in my heart =)

    Besides, I will watch anything with Michael J. Fox. LOVE. HIM.

  11. Ah, yes. Time travel is so tricky. Probably because we have never experienced it ourselves, (other than moving forward in time at our normal pace, that is). But that's precisely why writers continue to make their characters travel through time: we don't know what it would be like so we want (need?) to imagine what it would be like. There is a strong pull for the human race to explore what it hasn't, thus time is an infinite playing field for artists. And of course I love metaphors and similes always, so I'm going to say that writing about time is like a two-dimensional being trying to write about a three-dimensional world: No Basis For Accuracy At All! But who cares? We can't be wrong because no one can tell us definitively what it's like.

    Yeah, anyways, I agree that a writer should think time travel through before using it in a story and then stick to their own rules.

    At the same time, I am incredibly grateful to artists who used time travel even though/if they knew their plot had holes in it. I'd rather have to forgive a story for interrupting my suspension of disbelief (in most cases) than never be able to read it at all.

  12. Dude. You just jumped up, like, eight hundred points on my Scale of Awesome for mentioning Back to the Future. Jarrod and I have a *minor* obsession with the trilogy. (Well, the first movie. The others we love simply because we love the characters, which is something I'm sensing from your post. Because, yeah, can't look too hard at the plot or dialogue.)

    And I actually have a custom-made Flux Capacitor hoodie. Which I probably shouldn't admit to publicly.

    For me, Diana Gabaldon has handled the time travel scenario the smoothest, in her fantastic historical fiction/fantasy series, Outlander. She set up quite a few rules to go along with it, and as far as I'm aware, she has yet to break them.

    And it was quite interesting in The Time Traveler's Wife. (By the way, Jarrod loved the novel too. It's dark and weird. Iz not just fer women.) It's a bummer that they turned it into a drippy movie that I have no interest in watching. Sigh.

    Indiana Jones 4. SO cringe-worthy, but I liked it anyway, because it was Indy, and Indy = cool. Even though Harrison Ford looks like my dad now, which creeps me out. I've heard they want to make a fifth. Fingers crossed that the rumor is untrue.

    Yeah, so . . . um . . . how badly do you want the Almanac prop?

  13. Ben!!! Did you know about this??

    (Shhh, that's a totally contraband picture...sort of like the one of you in tights. NO ONE must know...)

  14. Vivian you can't really go that wrong with any Harrison Ford movie. The guy is just COOL. I was pretty excited to see it (and do own it) but... more to come in about four paragraphs...

    I love Adam. I love you Adam. You crack me up with the perfect blend of funny-clever and really passionate about writing. Great mix. And talented, of course. "Up the Line" sounds really interesting. I'd be first in line to take a trip back to historical events, besides any diseases or plagues or slave-labor jobs like the Great Wall or anything.

    Sherrie BTTF 3 is kosher. In fact, it was filmed real close to where I used to live. They recruited extras from our high school and stuff. They built an entire town near Jamestown, California (i think somewhere around there). BTTF 3 was much better than the second (though I still like the second, just not the writing). Sounds like MY kind of first date.

    Hello Reesha. It sure is tricky. And I LOVE seeing what cool stuff people come up with to twist and manipulate time, create worlds, BUT I am a firm believer that a story must follow it's own rules. Now as I say that I'm sure there's some story where the point is to break the rules, like possibly the picture book where the characters abandoned their two-dimensional form in the middle of the story. I think it was three pigs or something but I forget who wrote/illustrated it. First guess is Wiesner, but that's probably wrong. Little help anyone?

    Stephanie, what was I at before, like -750? I'm in the green baby! I love them too. Growing up, we all did the skateboard stomp thing, where the board flies up to your hand, ala Marty M. You know what I'm saying. I love the ENTIRE trilogy, but the second could have been even that much better. You have a flux-capacitor hoodie? AWESOME. I saw that there are actual Flux Capacitors for sale. If I get rich, you two love-bugs can expect a very late wedding present.

    I haven't read Outlander yet, but it's on the list to read... right... now! And i was pretty skeptical about The Time Traveler's Wife until you said Jarrod loved it. Jarrod seems like one of those people that I like even though I've never talked to him, met him, heard him, or seen him write anything. But I like him. He just seems like that kind of dude.

    And Harrison Ford looks like your Dad? too bad for you. That would be like Meg Ryan walking into a wardrobe and coming out looking like my mom. Not cool. At all.

    And what the heck are you saying about the Almanac prop? DO YOU HAVE IT? SHUT UP. just shut up right this second. It would be pretty cruel to taunt about something so serious. I also remember trying to skateboard behind cars and stuff. Marty was a revolutionary. And I LOVE DOC BROWN'S HOUSE/Mansion. Green and Green in Pasadena. One of my favorite all-time houses. I think they used that house or a similar one in Zathura.

    HOLLY C! What's up??? A PICTURE IN A DELOREAN??? AWESOME. So, what I want to know is WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU TRUST ME WITH THIS PICTURE. I'll sell it to the first kid book rag that throws some money at me. It's not even a bad picture, if I was you it would be in the most prominent spot in my house. Deloreans are arguably the coolest cars of all time, and it's completely thanks to BTTF.

    I doubt there has EVER been somebody who has driven a Delorean who DIDN'T take it up to 89 mph, just to see. If you ever owned one and you didn't, you should have to return it. Done and done.

    Dukes of Hazzard car is right up there too. Especially because the tv show destroyed so many jumping them. Herbie's pretty cool. Especially the OLD movies. Not the one with L.L. The CHIPS motorcycles. What am I missing?

  15. Ack, NO! I don't have the Almanac prop. I just think it would be THE GREATEST PROP EVER to own. Whistful sigh. I wonder who has it? I wonder how good their security is?

    Jarrod IS that kind of dude. He's good with people, very friendly. I don't know how many times I've had strangers approach me to ask if I'm his wife, and then to proceed to tell me how much they loooove him. (He works with the public and apparently knows at least half of Asheville. Meanwhile, I hide in our house in my pajamas and comment on blogs. HI, BEN!)

    Someday you and Amy and me and Jarrod will do lunch, and it will be excellent.

    Also, you were right, you're thinking of David Wiesner's The Three Pigs. Love that book.

    [Your current score on the Scale of Awesome = 1427. That's a good score, fyi.]

  16. Stephanie, you find out where it's located, I'll start planning the heist. we're gonna need some Minis for starters. And Snickers. I think better with Snickers. Or Krispy Kreme. Hot Now Krispy Kreme. Even better.

    I know he is and haven't met him yet. That will have to change. And good on ya for pj postings. My favorite business attire are Seahawks pjs and my lucky-comfy writer sweater. And slippers. It's how business gets done around here.

    Agreed on the Jarrod and Stephanie and Amy and me lunch.

    Yes, it was Mr. Wiesner. Thank you. Me too.

    Good score, not high score. Will keep working on it.

    BTW, I loved that hotel or whatever it is, I believe in Montreat, that is all craftsmany stone and neat windows and the roof is cool and funky. Do you know what I'm talking about. I didn't stay there, I wish, but I got to see it and thought it looked pretty neat. Can I get a local's take?

  17. "Lucky-comfy writer sweater" — Yup! Got one of those too. Holes in the elbow and everything.

    Are you thinking of the Montreat Confrence Center?

    Or maybe Montreat College? Both are pretty! And our most famous, beautiful hotel is The Grove Park Inn in Asheville.