Why So Many Writers Are Focused On Time Travel

Renata and Michal Hornstein Pavillion at the Muse de Beaux Arts de Montreal
Renata and Michal Hornstein Pavillion at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has free entry to its permanent collection this week, so a friend and fellow writer set off for a visit. I love going to the museum for inspiration and a bit of calm reflection, especially during the holidays. You chat about life and look at beautiful paintings and sculptures, getting a history lesson in at the same time. It’s great brain candy and a lovely way to spend a cold dark winter afternoon.

My friend told me she was creating a new series about time-travel targeting young adults. So we discussed different modes of travel to help get the main character to where he needed to be in order for the story to take place. It was a fun conversation while we admired works by AJ Casson, Picasso and Monet.

I told her about a story I’m working on that takes a main character from the future to the past to solve a mystery that has remained unsolved. “Wow,” she said. “Two of us working on time-travel stories at the same time. That’s kind of weird.”

And then I remembered speaking with two other authors I know who are also working on the same time-travel theme. So, naturally, I started to wonder if maybe it wasn’t coincidence, but rather a sign of the times we live in.

You know how when one successful novel with an underlying theme (like vampires), comes out, a slew of other stories in the same genre suddenly pop up? We all know that publishers are building on the trend set by the author.

But in this case, there hasn’t been a recent hit novel or movie about time travel. The last one I can think of is The Time Traveler’s Wife which debuted in 2003 (please correct me if I’m wrong).

I’m wondering if it’s more about an uncertain future and people going back to a time where life seemed simpler, but more importantly, the outcome was known. With all the animosity between nations and people, massive weather events related to climate change, wars forcing refugees into neighbouring countries and farther abroad, it feels like there’s a lot of negative stuff happening these days.

But how much simpler were those times, really? To us, yes, the problems seem surmountable because, in fact, some smart and sensible people found a way to solve problems like food shortages, lead poisoning, political issues, etc….The reality is that for the people living in each era you think about, the problems were equally dire as they are now. In the 1950s people built bomb shelters in their backyards while schools ran drills for getting students to safety in case of an attack. Things were pretty grim back then.

Let’s hope that the rational minds, geniuses and others prevail and can solve our current problems. We want to be able to look back to this time and realize that all was well and problems were solved with even tempers and level heads.