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Time travel fiction is a small subgenre of science fiction. Science fiction is a small subset of all the many genres and types of literature. Time machines and time travellers are a niche interest.
And yet, in another way, all fiction is time travel fiction.
All stories rely on time travel, and we, as readers, barely notice this. Every time there’s a flashback to a character’s childhood, every time a chunk of time is skipped as we jump forward a week, a year, a century with just a chapter break or a fade to black.
We are constantly negotiating multiple timescales, travelling forwards and backwards through time when we tell and listen to stories. And we do this naturally, without really questioning it.
So, when it comes to actual time travel fiction, stories where the jump back in time is not a flashback but a character actually moving through time using a machine of some sort, then storytelling and narrative really come into focus.
Profound questions about time and history – questions that physicists and philosophers and literary theorists regularly ponder – become commonplace in time travel stories. They become questions that mainstream audiences are engaging with. These are questions that this week’s guest, Prof David Wittenberg has been thinking and writing about. In this episode we chat about the history and development of time travel, from utopias to hot tubs.
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