Over the years, and very much by trial and error, my rather difficult relationship with science fiction has come to work essentially like this: I give a very, very wide berth to everything dystopian and pre/post/apocalyptic; I’ll let myself be tempted by some carefully chosen, strictly past-bound time travel* now and then – and that’s it.
Now, please, let’s not go into whether time travel is proper sci-fi or something else or its own genre, shall we? Let us just observe that my last foray, Murray Leinster’s Time Tunnel,** was published and marketed as such in 1964 – and leave it at that.
It was a pleasant enough summer read, but not an especially memorable one – and I most certainly wouldn’t be writing about it here, if not for one of those… things.
Let me explain: without giving away too much, the eponymous tunnel is of the low-tech, half-accidental sort that only connects two fixed points in time – namely 1964 and 1804. Both ends open in the same small town in France, and of course mischief ensues… except, the mischief on the 1964 end of things is of the nuclear variety, and it all begins with China. With China deciding it’s time to swallow Formosa. With China sending bombers to fly over Formosa, and declaring that Formosa is Chinese territory, and woe to anyone who tries to interfere… And from there it all goes downhill.
And Formosa back then was the name, you know, of the place we now call Taiwan.
So you now see why it is that my not-quite-memorable summer read has been in my thoughts these past ten days or so. Of course Leinster wrote his story in the early Sixties, and there’s time travel involved – so I’m sure you can guess how things turn out. Still, in retrospect. and in the light of recent events… well. If you want to read the book and decide for yourself just how encouraging it is, please let me know your thoughts.
Meanwhile, on an idly personal note, for one thing I suppose it was just a matter of time before I managed to stumble into periapocalyptic time travel… For another, I still have to decide how much I like it when science fiction does this… thing. And yes, I do realise the thing is most of the point of the whole genre – but… you see now, don’t you, why I’m so very, very wary of it?
* So for instance: H.G. Wells’s Time Machine, not good; Connie Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog, very good.
** Not to be confused with The Time Tunnel from 1967. Same author, more or less same title, often same cover art – but entirely different novel.