We’ve asked authors Lisa Mason and Laura Vosika to talk with us about their time travel books.
Lisa Mason is the author of Summer of Love, A Time Travel and The Gilded Age, A Time Travel. Summer of Love was a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book. Locus Magazine said, “Remarkable. . .the intellect on display within these psychedelically packaged pages is clear-sighted, witty, and wise.” The Gilded Age was a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book. The New York Times Book Review called The Gilded Age, “A winning mixture of intelligence and passion.”
Laura Vosika is the author of Blue Bells of Scotland, lauded as a book in the vein of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and earning many five-star reviews. Nan Hawthorne, author of historical fiction, called Blue Bells of Scotland one of her favorite books of the year. The praise was echoed by Robert Mattos of Book and Movie Reviews, adding that it is a must-have for the book shelves of any serious reader. The Minstrel Boy, Book Two in The Blue Bells Chronicles, is also out.
Q: What drew you as an author to time travel?
Laura: I've long been drawn to time travel, most likely as a result of a very active childhood imagination and a few really good children's novels that involved time travel. In the Keep of Time was one, by Margaret J. Anderson, and Time for Andrew: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahnwas another. In the first, four children go into a deserted Scottish keep and come out into the dead of night in medieval Scotland. In the second, two boys who look alike, but have very different personalities, switch places in time, Andrew Tyler coming to1990 and Drew, his great nephew, going back to live Andrew's life in 1910. I consciously drew from In the Keep of Time in my own novel, but it also has some strong elements of Time for Andrew, in the concept of two very different men trading places and lives.
Lisa: Like Laura, I’ve always been fascinated with time travel. From H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895), Jack Finney’s Time and Again (1970), Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (begun in 1991), Connie Willis’s multiple award-winning The Domesday Book (1992), and on to Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife (2004), the concept of time travel has offered authors a rich and complex source of inspiration and readers with a century’s worth of reading pleasure.
Laura: I loved The Time Traveler's Wife, too. What I liked about it in particular is the way it focused on character and personality, on facing life's problems, with time travel being central, and yet incidental, to the deeper story. This is something I try to do in my own writing. And of course, I also enjoyed Diana Gabaldon's books and the look at historical Scotland.
Lisa: I enjoy historical fiction but the problem is, as an author, you have to stay within the mindset of the period. It’s vital you do that to maintain veracity. With time travel, though, you get to have it both ways, immersing the story in the era as well as providing a modern perspective, often a critical one.
Laura: These differing mind sets are one of the things that I think make time travel so fascinating--the exploration of how the time we live in impacts our thinking, more so than I think most of us in the modern time would like to admit.
Lisa: Absolutely. A reflection on how our own time shapes us and our thoughts in profound ways is so important in keeping an open mind and exercising your own judgment about the issues of the day. With Summer of Love, I wanted to carve out my own territory in time travel by positing that my time traveler, Chiron Cat’s Eye in Draco, comes from the far future on a mission to save Susan Bell, a teenage runaway in 1967 San Francisco. In The Gilded Age, Zhu Wong comes from a far future two decades later than Chiron’s and returns to a more distant past, 1895, to save a Chinese slave girl. Against all her better judgment, she falls in love with a scoundrel, Daniel J. Watkins. Need I add that neither time traveler is very happy about the era he or she has been compelled to travel to and none of the locals think much of the time traveler. Trouble!
Laura: That's half the fun, isn't it! Get your characters up a tree...in the wrong century...and then throw rocks at them. Neither Shawn, the modern-day musician who ends up in medieval Scotland, nor Niall, the medieval warrior who spends a couple of weeks in the present day, is very impressed with the others' era.
Q: Do you employ time travel as social commentary or as a way to point out how daily life has changed?
Lisa: Not all time travel authors write about social commentary, but a lot have and I’m one of them. What struck me about 1895 and 1967 were the pervasive sexist and racist attitudes, which Chiron and Zhu each rail against. My time travelers also take aim at the huge effects of the consumption of resources, pollution, and overpopulation.
Each year in the past I chose was a true time marker. 1895 was a pivotal year for the woman suffrage movement, movements to recognize racial minorities and to protest cruelty to animals, advances in medicine, like the germ theory and antiseptics, and technology, like the telephone, telegraph, horseless carriages, and moving pictures. 1967 was the birthplace of the women’s rights movement as we know it today, the equality of racial minorities, the gay movement, the space race, and the first computers. Both my time travelers stand as witnesses to those historic moments and add their encouragement.
It is one of the delights of time travel fiction to point out how daily life has changed. Yet in both Summer of Love and The Gilded Age, my time travelers eventually have to admit that those retrograde attitudes resurface even in their enlightened future and those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. Both come to realize that, despite the wonders of far-future technology, in many ways the quality of their lives is poorer than in simpler, more natural times.
I should add there’s also plenty of fun and romance in both books.
Laura: I definitely focus on social commentary and daily life. In Blue Bells of Scotland, Shawn starts out as real womanizing, self-centered player. In medieval Scotland, where he is mistaken for Niall, he finds that what he considers having a little fun, what he considers fairly normal, is heavily frowned on by fathers and sometimes by the women themselves. Coming from an age where we express our displeasure with words and lawsuits, he is shocked to find that people have no hesitation about physically harming him. And they don't ask questions afterward, either.
One idea The Blue Bells Chronicles touches on is that of respect for women and women's strength, as Shawn sees the contrasts between the lives of medieval women who appear very sheltered and protected in many ways, but must be very strong to get through a hard life full of work, famine, war, and disease; and the modern women he knows who are in many ways more independent, but suffer from their own problems and societal pressures.
Q: How do your characters time travel?
Laura: Like the four siblings in In the Keep of Time, Shawn and Niall originally switch times in a Scottish tower. As the series progresses, some other elements and conditions are discovered, as to what opens that gap in time. I leave it to the characters and reader, however, to decide if they believe this, or if there are simply 'thin places' where such things can happen.
After spending the day at a re-enactment event at the castle, Shawn and his girlfriend Amy go up into the tower. He gets her angry enough to walk away, leaving him stranded in the castle, fifteen miles from his hotel.
An hour later, he finished his third beer and looked out over the walls again. Mist boiled on the loch's surface and filled the courtyard, like a fog machine at an abandoned rave. The castle walls and buildings floated, ghostly, above the bubbling stew. Tendrils of mist shaped themselves, into a man, into a horse, and melted away again. He blinked. Maybe he'd read too many ghost stories himself.
In the morning, he's quite drunk.
He leaned against the parapet, but the floral scent wrapped around him. Voices reached out again, from far away. His head spun. He risked opening his eyes. There were no cars in the lot. Funny. Whose voices had he heard? He crossed to the east side of the tower, reeling as the rising sun speared his eyes. He raised a hand against the glare, and squinted down at the pebbly beach below. Two women, in full skirts, ambled along the shore with a man in a gray tunic. The water glittered under the rich greens of the mountains behind it. He swore. What was with these damn reenactors? Didn't they have a life, that they were out this early in the morning playing dress up?
Of the various time travel methods used in fiction, I decided against science and machinery and went with the idea of the miraculous and mysterious, things outside man's control, things that Shawn and Niall and Amy must seek to understand throughout the series, so they don't have a time travel method on their hands so much as a mystery.
Lisa: I wanted to present time travel as a technology that could actually happen in the far future. I’ve always been partial to H.G. Wells’s machine, probably because of that very cool sleigh-like contraption in the 1960 movie. My time machine is a “tachyonic shuttle.”
I researched how, specifically, my travelers could make their journeys over the centuries with the help of three books: Time Travel by John W. Macvey, Time Machines (Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction) by Paul J. Nahin, and Time Travel and Other Mathematical Bewilderments by Martin Gardner. After some thought, I decided you would require two technologies working in concert—the first would translate matter (including a human being) into pure energy for an instant and the second would transmit that bundle of energy through the timeline to a targeted destination via faster-than-light technology. Hence, “translation-transmission” in a tachyonic shuttle is how Chiron travels from 2467 to 1967 and how Zhu travels from 2495 to 1895. Piece of cake!
From The Gilded Age:
Out of a tense and arid darkness she steps, her skirts sweeping across the macadam. Her button boot wobbles on the bridge over the brook in the Japanese Tea Garden. “Steady,” the technician whispers. The shuttle embraces the ancient bridge in a half-moon of silver lattices. The air is susurrous, tinged with menthol, cold. The shuttle hums. High overhead, the dome ripples in a fitful gust. Zhu Wong listens for final instructions. None come. Dread quickens her pulse. She closes her eyes and waits for the moment it takes to cross over.
And then it’s happening--the Event sweeps her across six centuries.
Odd staccato sounds pop in her ears. The Event transforms her into pure energy, suspends her in nothingness, then flings her back into her own flesh and blood. And she stands, unsteadily, her button boot poised on the bridge over the brook in the Japanese Tea Garden. A brand-new bridge. The scent of fresh-cut wood fills her senses.
Q: Can your time travelers return to their own era?
Lisa: Oh, yes! But only if they survive. Both Chiron in Summer of Love and Zhu in The Gilded Age each must return to a designated location where the Luxon Institute has in the far future set up a tachyonic shuttle and return at a specifically designated time or they’ll remain trapped in the past.
Laura: Shawn and Niall do have the ability to return to their own time, but in Blue Bells of Scotland, they don't know that. It's all guesswork. Even when they have a better idea, in The Minstrel Boy, they're not at all sure how to control it. Being from different eras, they have very different means of seeking that answer, and throughout the series, they're never sure when or if it will really work.
Thanks to Lisa Mason and Laura Vosika for a lively and thought-provoking discussion. If you, the reader, wish to join the discussion or have any questions or comments for our authors, feel free to contact them at their websites.
We thank you for your readership!
Summer Of Love, A Time Travel is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo.
The Gilded Age, A Time Travel is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
Visit Lisa Mason at Lisa Mason’s Blog, at her Facebook Author Page, on Amazon, on her Facebook Profile Page, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Blue Bells of Scotland is on Kindle, Nook, itunes, and at Smashwords, and The Minstrel Boy, Book Two in The Blue Bells Chronicles, is on Kindle.
Visit Laura Vosika on the web at www.bluebellstrilogy.com or www.facebook.com/laura.vosika.author.
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