The only kind of time travel I can do is by memory. You can go with me, or you can just skip ahead to the list of time travel novels or the tidbits of humor that follow.
Here we go. Anybody still with me? I was afraid of that.
I am traveling, in my mind, back to the late 1960′s, to my job in the color vision lab in the psychology building at IU Bloomington. It was only one hour a day, but I made big money – $1.50, which, coincidentally, was the cost of a six pack of Hamm’s beer. Normally, it would be difficult to get such a cushy job, however, being color blind, I had the right qualifications.
Each hour of labor started with me grabbing my bite bar. This was a flat hunk of clay containing an impression of my upper and lower teeth which was affixed to a short metal bar. Once in possession of my bite bar, I entered a little closet-like room, placed my bite bar in the slot, sat down on a stool and closed the door. The room became pitch black and my task was to sit quietly for about ten minutes in order to let my eyes adjust to the dark. The only interesting part of this was listening through the thin walls to Dr Guth, the lab director, as he flirted with the technicians.
When it was time to start, a tech would give me a signal, I would clamp my teeth onto the bite bar which aligned my left eye with a small hole. Looking into the hole, I would see a circle of light displayed on a slide. The circle was divided into two parts – each of a different shade of the same color. I was able to control the hue of half the circle with a small metal wheel, and my job was to brighten or dim the adjustable half of the circle until, to my eye, the two halves matched. At that point I signaled the tech with a buzzer who then took a reading and inserted a new slide. We would keep doing this until the time was up.
After a couple of years they had all the data they needed on me, and my days in the color vision lab were over. Shortly after that, word came out that Dr. Guth had divorced his wife and married one of the technicians. All was not lost for Mrs. Guth, though. Not only did she get rid of an unfaithful husband, she also got rid of one of the worst names ever. What woman would want to be stuck with the name of Ruth Guth.
Here are some novels that involve time travel:
The Door into Summer by Robert Heinlein After his fiance and business partner swindle him, Davis plans his revenge. He decides to use cryogenic suspended animation to sleep for thirty years. When he wakes up, he will be 30 years younger than his former fiance and business partner.
Time and Again* by Jack Finney As part of a secret government project, Simon Morley goes back to 1800s New York. His job is to investigate a mystery.
Kindred by Octavia Butler Dana, a black woman living in 1976, is mysteriously transported back to 1815 Maryland where she is given the task of saving the life of a small white boy. She is able to return to 1976, but then gets called back to 1815 again. When she is living in 1815, she is a slave.
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis This novel is either a science fiction fantasy or an old-fashioned victorian novel. Ned Henry gets time travel fatigue going from 2057 to 1940 to 1888. Expect mystery, adventure and a large serving of wacky humor.
11/22/63 by Stephen King Jake Epping goes back in time to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Most readers consider this to be one of Stephen King’s best novels.
Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson When a man from the present falls in love with an actress from an era before his birth, he goes back in time to meet her. A good book for the romantically inclined.
The Time Machine* by H. G. Wells Published in 1895, this is easily one of the best time travel books of all time. Moving 800,000 years into the future, the time traveler finds two groups of beings. The Eloi are timid and child-like while the Morlocks are scary cave dwellers. When the time machine disappears, the traveler must visit the lair of the Morlocks.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court* by Mark Twain Hank Morgan, a nineteenth century business man, is transported back to the time and place of King Arthur’s court (don’t ask how). He meets King Arthur and his crowd, gets in a jam and then uses his ultramodern nineteenth century know-how to impress the locals. It contains social commentary and humor plus the main character’s name is Hank.
The Time Traveler’s Wife* by Audrey Niffenegger This is the story of a gallant librarian named Henry (and what librarian named Henry is not gallant). He has a girlfriend named Clare and everything is going well except for one little detail. Through no desire of his own, Henry travels back in time at the most awkward moments.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon Claire foolishly touches a boulder in one of Britain’s ancient stone circles. As you would expect, she is whisked back to the year 1743 where she makes an alliance with James, a dashing young Scots warrior.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens This doesn’t have time travel in it. Oh yes it does! Scrooge is shown the past, the present and the future by some accommodating ghosts. Even if the thought of reading a classic makes you recoil, this one is not only good but also short.
Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett More humorous fantasy by Mr. Pratchett. This time (note the play on words) a clock is to be made which will keep absolutely accurate time. The problem is that such a clock would stop time completely. Various monks, 5 (that’s right) horsemen of the Apocalypse, a sweeper, a mysterious lady and other notables interact to make sure that there is enough confusion for all.
Old Twentieth by Joe Haldeman In this novel we get a look back (and forth, and forward) from where we are now. Expect some romance and Haldeman’s dry, delightful humor as well.
* I have read and enjoyed these books.
TIDBITS OF HUMOR
Accident insurance claim forms ask for a brief statement about how the accident happened. The combination of the finger pointing instinct and the small spaces provided on the forms can lead to some curiously phrased explanations.
- “A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.”
- “The other car collided with mine without giving warning of its intention.”
- “I had been learning to drive with power steering. I turned the wheel to what I thought was enough and found myself in a different direction going the opposite way.”
- “Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don’t have.”
- “I thought my window was down; but found it was up when I put my hand through it.”
- “No one was to blame for the accident, but it never would have happened if the other driver had been alert.”
- “The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him.”
- “I saw the slow-moving, sad-faced old gentleman as he bounced off the hood of my car.”
- “I had been driving for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.”
- “I was taking my canary to the hospital. It got loose in the car and flew out the window. The next thing I saw was his rear end, and there was a crash.”
- “I was backing my car out of the driveway in the usual manner when it was struck by the other car in the same place where it had been struck several times before.”
- “The indirect cause of this accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth.”
- “The accident happened when the right door of a car came around the corner without giving a signal.”
- “I was thrown from my car as it left the road. I was later found in a ditch by some stray cows.”
- “I had been shopping for plants all day and was on my way home. As I reached an intersection, a hedge sprung up, obscuring my vision.”
- “I was on the way to the doctor with rear end trouble when my universal joint gave way causing me to have an accident.”
- “I was sure the old fellow would never make it to the other side of the road when I struck him.”
- “I told the police that I was not injured, but on removing my hat, I found that I had a fractured skull.”
- “My wench slipped, losing my balance, and I hurt my back.”
- “I was unable to stop in time, and my car crashed into the other vehicle. The driver and passengers then left immediately for a vacation with injuries.”
- “To avoid hitting the bumper of the car in front, I struck the pedestrian.”
- “The accident occurred when I was attempting to bring my car out of a skid by steering it into the other vehicle.”
- “When I could not avoid a collision, I stepped on the gas and crashed into the other car.”
- “I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way.”
- “In my attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.”
- “My car was legally parked as it backed into the other vehicle.”
- “As I approached the intersection, a stop sign suddenly appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before. I was unable to stop in time to avoid the accident.”
- “The telephone pole was approaching fast. I was attempting to swerve out of its path when it struck my front end.”
- “A truck backed though my windshield and into my wife’s face.”
- “I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.”
- “The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.”
- “An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my vehicle, and vanished.”