Bitcoin is about to break $10,000 per um, coin I guess. Unit maybe. Anyhow, nearly $10,000 per! That is an incredible amount of growth, from 2010 when one coin was worth like 8 cents. Imagine if you could go back in time and buy just $100 of bitcoin in 2010. That would have given you 1250 bitcoins, and now that would be worth 12.5 million. Dollars. Like my Dad says, “Wish I’dve been born smart instead of so goddamn good-lookin’.” Who could’ve possibly known that at the time? Sure, there were predictions and projections and conjecture and all of that, but no one actually knew. Situations like these are part of what make us so enthralled with time travel stories.
Sure, the ability to predict the future or go back in time and kill Hitler or invest in Google are appealing for what they could mean to us individually, but what makes those and the innumerable other situations one can imagine regarding time travel so fascinating? There is something about how we perceive time that drives us to question the nature of time itself.
We have an inarguably linear consciousness. We are born, we age, we die. Every one of us. Our lives have a beginning, a middle, and an end. There is no getting around it. Everything, in our perception, is bound by time. Day becomes night becomes day, over and over and over. Organisms both plant and animal are born, age and die. Seasons change. Our language is linear. We construct words by putting one sound in front of another, we begin speaking and then cease to speak, conveying our ideas to one another. Even our thoughts are aligned in a linear path. Sure, that path branches and snakes around, sometimes repeating, sometimes revisiting things we’ve experienced, but we are always conscious of time’s ceaseless march forward. Time, in its crushing inevitability, also represents death, the first truth of everyone’s life. We will all die, and all we get is a lifetime. Time also gives us our second truth: choice. We all have to choose, constantly, one thing or another, and once made, that choice cannot be taken back.
These ideas of perception permeate our fiction as well, from a man “unstuck in time” in SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, to the alien language in ARRIVAL, to the famous “time is a flat circle” monologue in TRUE DETECTIVE. These are examples of a linear consciousness trying to conceive a non-linear perception of time, something that I would argue is impossible. It’s like trying to imagine the concept of green if all you could see was black and white. Nevertheless, because we are intelligent enough to identify the phenomena of time, we try to imagine what it would be like were we not bound to it.
Time travel stories allow us to imagine a way around the linear progression of time. The ability to jump back and forth, see what has happened before or what will happen, and most importantly, to change our choices. The ability to choose differently is something so appealing yet so impossible, that we go over and over those possibilities in our fiction. Who wouldn’t want to invest in that stock, or skip those last few beers, or go to those piano lessons, or tell that person how you felt? Because we can’t makes us imagine a world where we did. Our ideal lives. Where we’re all effortless, in-shape millionaire piano players in perfect loving relationships, devoid of regret.
An intricate, clever and intelligent time travel story is one of my greatest joys in fiction. Alumni films like TIME LAPSE, YESTERDAY LAST YEAR, and ONE MINUTE TIME MACHINE are always something I look forward to every festival. This year I’m excited for you all see our Closing Night Film CURVATURE, a splendid and clever time travel film from Diego Hallivis. I hope you will choose to join us this year not only for CURVATURE, but for the rest of our festival.
Time travel allows us to fantasize about changing the choices we regret. Just like the choice you made to read this. I bet you wish you had that back, don’t you?
The festival is coming up fast! CURVATURE plays Other Worlds Austin on Sunday, Dec. 10th at 8:30pm. FULL LINEUP HERE!