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Simply, Time Travel Science Fiction are stories in which travelling to the past or future is possible. Time travel is a natural complement to space travel and so it is a frequent occurrence in Sci Fi stories.
Paradoxes are a common trope of Time Travel Sci Fi. Paradoxes are created when an event is altered. For example, the grandfather paradox: you travel to the past and kill your grandfather and so you are not born, but if you are not born you cannot travel to the past and kill your grandfather, so your grandfather lives and you are born. Other tropes of this sub genre: time loops, time police, time tourism, fixed/unalterable points of time, cognitive estrangement.
Time travel is a great device for any writer because the viewpoint can be moved to and from anywhere, which opens the narrative possibilities. As such, Time Travel stories are not always seen as science fiction stories. For example, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol employs time travel to help his protagonist see the error of his ways, but the story is not really science fiction. Generally, what makes a Time Travel story Sci Fi is that there is some kind of device/technology that causes allows for travel through time.
You can view the crowd-ranked "Popular" Time Travel Science Fiction Books list and vote and/submit entries to it.
Time Travel Book Characteristics
- Level of Real Science
Low. There is not much real world evidence that time travel is possible so scientific explanations for time travel can seem far-fetched.
- Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications
Variable. Depending on what other sub-genre Time Travel Sci Fi is coupled with, the level of grand ideas and exploration of social implications changes. For example, when coupled with Pulp Sci Fi, which was popular, the stories are not concerned with grand ideas. However, when Time Travel Sci Fi is coupled with Alternate History Sci Fi, the discussion of ideas and social implications can be serious and engaging.
- Level of Characterization
Variable. Characters can be well developed so that readers are invested in the character, resulting in the suspension of disbelief. However, characters can also be relatively underdeveloped and merely a way to describe and see a new ( past or future) world.
- Level of Plot Complexity
High. Time travelling, especially to the past, can result in complex plots full of excitement. When moving through time, changing events, and postulating possible outcomes, plot becomes the core of any Time Travel story.
- Level of Violence
Variable. The level of violence in a Time Travel Sci Fi story is going to vary widely.
Related Science Fiction subgenres
Alternate History. Alternate History Sci Fi can take place when someone travels through the timeline and changes something, resulting in an alternate version of history.
Parallel Worlds. One version of Parallel Worlds Sci Fi creates a parallel world when an event is changed in the past and a new, parallel timeline is created resulting in two timelines.
Speculative Fiction. Because time travel can be seen as unscientific, time travel stories become speculative--stories that explore a what if without scientific grounding.
Pulp Sci Fi. Pulp Sci Fi writers have a history of employing time machine devices in their stories and exploring the melodramatic potential of time travel.
- 1 A Sound of Thunder
By Ray Bradbury. An example of time tourism, this novel is the source of the phrase, "butterfly effect" because a butterfly dies and the traveller's future is altered.
- 2 Guardians of Time
By Poul Anderson. Groups of time travellers fight one another along streams of time.
- 3 The Time Machine
By H.G. Wells. Follow a time traveller into an alien-like future Earth to witness the consequences of humanity's social and biological choices and evolution.
- 4 A Round Trip to the Year 2000
By William Wallace Cook. A sarcastic account of an accumulation of time travellers around the millennial year 2000 and an example of a pulp writer combining pulp and time travel.
- 5 Where Time Winds Blow
By Robert P. Holdstock. A novel that takes place on another planet where the weather can effect time.
- 6 Slaughterhouse 5
By Kurt Vonnegut Jr. An anti-war, alien abduction, time travelling story.
- 7 The End of Eternity
By Isaac Asimov Guardians of time steer history along safe paths, ultimately stagnating humanity--an example of the common theme of time police.
- 8 Transition
By Iain Banks. A novel that operates sideways in time, dealing with parallel worlds and is a variation on the time police theme.
- 9 Time on My Hands
By Peter Delacorte. A travel writer is offered the change to travel back in time, but he must prevent Ronald Reagan from becoming president.
- 10 The Forever War
By Joe Haldeman. In this novel, time travel is a kind of side effect of space travel at near light speeds.
- 11 The Dark Tower
By Steven King. For a fantasy-ish recommendation, read Steven King's The Dark Tower, which features a whole many worlds concept.