Tag Archive for 'back to the future'

Happy Back to the Future Day!

Unsurprisingly, I am a huge fan of the Back to the Future films. When my first book was published, I immediately thought of the ending of the first film. And as I wrote the sequel, Quantum Coin, I kept thinking about Back to the Future II and what I enjoyed about it and time travel stories, how it raised the stakes and advanced the characters’ lives and maybe enriched your enjoyment of the first movie. And other BTTF fans can see its influence in my book.

Quantum Coin opens with Ephraim thinking his life is great now until Zoe shows up and says, “You have to come back with me — everything is messed up!” And like Marty, he makes the mistake of bringing his girlfriend along for the ride, which only complicates things further. They travel to possible futures (some of them very dark), even using a car for part of the journey, which definitely hits 88mph. They meet multiple versions of themselves, one of whom is Dr. Jena Kim, who the others sometimes call simply “Doc.” There are probably other little references that I’m forgetting.

Anyway, this is an important day for geeks like me, because it’s the day Marty travels to in the future! But it’s also a big deal because it’s my son’s first birthday! Happy birthday, Spud! So to commemorate this once in a lifetime occasion, we had a special photo shoot:

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How did you celebrate Back to the Future Day?

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alternate wednesday: the time traveler’s watch

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We always pay a lot of attention to the mechanisms of time travel–a DeLorean, the Millenium Shortcut, slingshotting around the sun at warp speed–but every time traveler has another important tool: a watch.  Sometimes it’s just there for symbolism, like the paradoxical pocket watch in Somewhere in Time, but often it serves a more practical purpose, what it was made for–to keep track of time.

martyClocks are everywhere in Back to the Future, and Marty McFly’s digital watch is more than just a gag; there’s a reason that the poster shows him checking his watch: being in the right place at exactly the right time is a major plot point. Recently, another timepiece caught my eye in one of my favorite science fiction shows, Fringe.

Without spoiling the surprising twists the series takes, in its final season, there’s a certain amount of time travel involved. In episode seven of season five, “Five-Twenty-Ten”, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) needs to pay very careful attention to the time at which specific events take place… and I really liked the watch he used. (I have no idea how you keep that synced while jumping around in time, but whatever.)

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I figured it would be tricky finding it since the brand name was blacked out for the episode, but naturally, someone else on the internet had already identified it. Thanks, internet! (It turns out that identifying watches worn by celebrities is a hobby for some people.) Ultimately, I learned it’s a Fossil Relic watch, model ZR15552… which is no longer in production. Darn! But hey, there’s eBay. Thanks again, internet! In short, I now own a little piece of Fringe history and I’m prepared for my next temporal displacement.

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I’m really gonna miss that show.

Watches almost seem like anachronisms today, with many people just using their cell phones to tell the time. Do you still wear one? Have you ever bought something because you saw it in a TV show or film?

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alternate wednesday: my favorite time machine

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“Might solve a mystery / Or rewrite history…”

Most people would probably guess that my favorite time machine in fiction is the DeLorean from the Back to the Future films. That’s a pretty good guess, and I would definitely like to own one someday! Preferably one that runs on a garbage-fueled fusion reactor and can fly. But the time machine I like the most is the Millennium Shortcut.

vlcsnap-2013-02-26-19h07m56s104Never heard of it? The Millennium Shortcut, likely a riff on Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon, was the time machine used in the five-part DuckTales miniseries, “Time is Money.” I loved the simple yet elegant design, clearly inspired by old-style alarm clocks—a giant leap forward from the first time machine Gyro Gearloose invented, the time-tub.

If you never saw it or no longer remember the premise of the story, which first aired as a TV movie in 1988, Scrooge McDuck tries to claim prior ownership of a cave of diamonds—before Flintheart Glomgold can steal it from him—by traveling back in time and scrawling his symbol, $, all over its walls with a laser. Through a series of mishaps (after all, Launchpad McQuack is piloting the Shortcut), they accidentally go much farther back, to prehistoric times, where they pick up two stowaways: cave duck Bubba and his pet triceratops, Tootsie. Hijinks ensue, and in the end, Bubba Duck joins the main cast for a season, and Duck Tales jumps the megalodon.

Okay, so the plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, even for a time travel story. But it’s so unabashedly nonsensical, with plenty of sappy moments, I couldn’t help loving it. And I always enjoyed multi-part episodes of my childhood cartoons because stories spread out over two, four, or five episodes were so much bigger in scope than your usual 22-minute episode.

vlcsnap-2013-02-26-19h11m59s33But my favorite thing about the Millenium Shortcut (other than its name) was the unique power source that enabled it to travel in time: bombastium. It was a rainbowy element that took the form of a popsicle, and it had to remain frozen in order to work. You didn’t even need a time machine to use it, but without a computer to control it, licking it would take you to a random time period, with no reliable way home. I had thought Gyro somehow invented bombastium, but when I just researched it, I learned it isn’t even original to DuckTales.

Like many stories and plot elements in the series, bombastium was borrowed from a Carl Barks comic. (I really need to read all of those.) According to Wikipedia:

Source: http://www.cbarks.dk/

Source: http://www.cbarks.dk/

Bombastium is stated to be the rarest element in the world. Even though it is very coveted, its usage potential is not entirely known. One characteristic is that it tastes different every time you try it, and scientists eventually discovered that one atom of bombastium dropped into a barrel of water becomes one barrel of ice cream: a different flavor of ice cream each time. To avoid evaporation, bombastium must be kept frozen.

vlcsnap-2013-02-26-12h59m03s242On Duck Tales, bombastium just melts, which adds a kind of ticking clock (ha ha) to the climax of the story where Bubba is running out of time (sorry!) to get back to Duckburg. Fortunately, the computer is smart enough to locate the correct time just by fixing on his crudely drawn sketch of Uncle Scrooge and the directive, “Find Scooge!” Nonsense maybe, but the Shortcut was designed specifically for Launchpad to operate, after all.

There were some other great time machines to come out of the Disney Afternoon, which I will probably mention in later posts. But now it’s your turn: In the comments below, tell me about your favorite method of time travel in fiction.

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Quantum Coin: The Next Big Thing?

My friend Elisa Ludwig (author of YA books Pretty Crooked and Pretty Sly, which is forthcoming in March 2013) just tagged me at her blog to answer “Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing,” and who am I to pass up an opportunity to blather on about my next book, Quantum Coin? I’ll tag a few other authors at the end of this post, to hopefully keep the game moving along.

What was the working title of your book?

Once I started writing it, it was always Quantum Coin; my editor actually asked for something punnier, but I couldn’t come up with anything. Shocking, I know. My earliest working titles for a two-book series about a magic coin and parallel universes were Heads, You Win and Tails, You Lose. Obviously, those are terrible.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Part of it was suggested by my research for my first book, Fair Coin, which explained quantum events in terms of flipping a coin: in a very basic sense, there are two possible outcomes to a coin toss, but only one of them (heads or tails) can be observed. And part of the idea was suggested by Fair Coin itself; I didn’t set out to write a sequel, but while writing it, or during my first revision, I knew where the story could go next and I was excited by the potential. So of course I had to go there.

What genre does your book fall under?

Quantum Coin is pretty firmly science fiction, which is kind of a refreshing for me. And it’s young adult, of course, but the first book found a nice adult audience, and I hope this one will do the same.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Joel Courtney, photo by Mark Brennen

I’m not really up on teen actors, but when I saw the film Super 8, I thought Joel Courtney was perfect to play Ephraim, and he’s about the right age, too. Dylan Minnette (from the show Awake) would be a good choice for Nathan, and he already has some experience with stories about parallel universes. Victoria Justice could play Mary and Shelley Morales, and maybe Hailee Steinfeld from True Grit for Jena and Zoe Kim. Then there are still all the adults to cast…

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Seriously? One sentence? Um… “Ephraim ends up on the worst double date ever, when his girlfriend’s identical twin from a parallel reality drags them both away from their prom in order to save the multiverse.”

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About seven four months. I started writing it when I began querying literary agents, and I finished the same day just before I got an offer of representation. It was an excellent way to keep myself distracted through that whole process.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

This is always a tricky one for me. I’m not just being lazy or worse, arrogant, when I say I don’t think there’s anything quite like these books. I’ve read a lot, and I still can’t think of anything. I keep falling on movie comparisons, so this is Back to the Future rolled up with Star Trek and the TV shows Lost and Fringe (though I wrote the book long before that series came around) and a little bit of Sliders, with some of the wackiness of William Sleator’s books and just a touch of The Twilight Zone. But if you’re looking for recommendations for other books that deal with similar themes and plot elements, the closest and best are Ian McDonald’s Everness series (Planesrunner and Be My Enemy, also from Pyr) and Paul Melko’s Walls of the Universe. And Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Young Hugh Everett, via newscientist.com & Mark Everett

I was inspired first of all by the characters in Fair Coin, who I wanted to give one more adventure. And going way back, I was inspired by physicist Hugh Everett III, the father of the theory of multiple worlds. In some ways, I wanted Quantum Coin to be a small tribute to him and his contribution to quantum mechanics, which went largely unappreciated in his lifetime.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Fair Coin was a standalone novel, but this is very much a sequel, and you won’t find any cliffhanger endings here.

Hmm. That’s only nine questions. *shrug*

Now to wrap things up, I’m going to tag a few willing friends of mine, who will tell you about their work over at their blogs:

Gwenda Bond, author of Blackwood

Zoraida Córdova, author of The Vicious Deep

Kim Curran, author of Shift

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but wait! there’s more!

I’ve been pleased that several of the reviews I’ve seen of Fair Coin have said things like, “I hope there’s a sequel,” or “the author had better write a sequel,” or “I wonder if there will be a sequel.” Naturally, I’m flattered; when I reach the end of a good book, I’m often sad that there isn’t any more of it to enjoy, but of course, some books (I’d say many books, or even, perhaps, most books) don’t need sequels. (*cough* The Hunger Games *cough*)

However, whether it needs it or not, Fair Coin does have a sequel. It’s called Quantum Coin.

Continue reading ‘but wait! there’s more!’

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