Tag Archive: time travel

alternate wednesday: Dickens Around

Last week, I was delighted and astonished to learn that Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson had reprised their iconic roles as Blackadder and Baldrick in a stage sketch written by Ben Elton for a benefit titled We Are Most Amused. If you aren’t familiar with this British comedy, it’s about a scheming man named Blackadder whose cunning plans for power and fortune are frequently thwarted. Each season took place in a different historical period in England, along with a few one-off specials, capped by a time-traveling adventure called Blackadder: Back & Forth, which I’ll probably write about here in more detail later. It was a clever approach to the show, allowing Atkinson to reinvent the character in different incarnations, much like our favorite Time Lord (a role he has also portrayed.)

Anyway, this and the impending holidays reminded me that it had been a while since I had rewatched Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, which I quickly remedied. Clearly it’s based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the ubiquitous seasonal classic which has been adapted, parodied, and referenced countless times since it was first published in 1843. This has to be one of the earliest instances of time travel and alternate universes occurring in fiction, though it employs magic (through the visions visited upon Ebenezer Scrooge by the spirits of Christmases Past, Present, and Future) and could be read with some ambiguity. If you know of other stories that predate it, I’d love to hear about them.


Of all the different versions of A Christmas Carol out there, my favorite is this Blackadder special from 1988. (Alas, I have never seen Patrick Stewart’s one-man show. Bad Trekkie!) It’s fairly standalone, but you’ll probably enjoy it more if you’ve seen and loved the preceding two seasons of the series and/or get a kick out of Rowan Atkinson. The reason I like it so much is because of its twist, which I will now spoil: When the story begins, Ebenezer Blackadder is a good, altruistic man who gives so much to beggars and family that he and Baldrick are left with no food or presents at Christmas. The spirit of Christmas (Robbie Coltrane!) turns up and makes the mistake of showing him how horrible his ancestors were, with fresh scenes taking place in the 16th century and 19th century eras of the series. But Blackadder’s nasty, clever, charming predecessors only convince him that there’s more fun and profit to be had in being bad than good, although this naturally backfires on him in the end.

"This is all getting a bit sillah!"

The biting, offensive humor may not work for you; much of it relies on Blackadder coming up with brilliant insults of other characters, particularly Baldrick. And some of the jokes made me wince this time around. But I still think it’s great fun and the cast is terrific: Jim Broadbent as Prince Albert; Hugh Laurie returning as George, Prince of Wales; Miranda Richardson as Queenie; Stephen Fry as the obsequious Lord Melchett. And then there are their futuristic counterparts in the Grand Admiral Blackadder segment.

And of course there’s a moral to be taken away from this, that you shouldn’t let people take advantage of your kindness–in a rare instance, most of the people Blackadder eventually lets loose on actually deserve it. And it turns out that even when he’s being nice, there’s a subtle nastiness to him. It’s kind of interesting to see him insult Baldrick and the others good-naturedly. If it’s one thing he has going for him, it’s that his barbed comments are so clever that many people don’t even realize they’ve just been verbally assaulted to their faces.

Mrs. Scratchit: No goose for Tiny Tom this year.
Ebenezer Blackadder: Mrs. Scratchit, Tiny Tom is fifteen stone and built like a brick privy. If he eats any more heartily, he will turn into a pie shop.

If someone asks if you're the Ghost of Christmas Past, you say "Yes!"

My other favorite A Christmas Carol “adaptation” is an episode of The Real Ghostbusters, “X-mas Marks the Spot,” written by J. Michael Straczynski. I just rewatched it and it’s a bit goofy, but it’s also brilliant in a Saturday morning cartoon kind of way. You have to forgive a lot and suspend disbelief, but the Ghostbusters accidentally get time-slipped to Victorian England, where they encounter Ebenezer Scrooge. Yeah, I know.

But see, they’re Ghostbusters, so they capture the spirits that haunt him before they realize who he is, and when they get back to their own time, everyone else hates Christmas. So to restore the proper timeline, they have to retrieve the Christmas ghosts from the containment unit and return them to Scrooge–meanwhile, Peter, Winston, and Ray try impersonating the ghosts, which gives us scenes like Peter in a dress and wig pushing Scrooge around in a wheelchair with a Viewmaster strapped to his face to provide the “visions” of his past. Silly, but fun! I particularly liked that this startling development was foreshadowed early on: When the Ghostbusters try to collect their fee from Scrooge, he asks, “How do I know they were real ghosts? Maybe this was all some kind of trick.” In a way it was; if I’m interpreting it correctly, all of this happens just so that Peter will learn the true meaning of Christmas, which is that it isn’t so bad. *shrug* Oh, and Santa is also real, probably.

So what are your favorite versions of A Christmas Carol? Maybe Scrooged with Bill Murray? The Muppet Christmas Carol? Mickey’s Christmas Carol?

alternate wednesday: Sliders Re-Watch: “Pilot”

I’ve been kicking around the idea of blogging more about some of my favorite stories about parallel universes and time travel in books, film, comics, and television, but it’s been hard to set aside time to do it, and I didn’t want to write posts randomly based on whenever I get around to them. So I’ve finally hit on a blog series I’m calling Alternate Wednesday: Every other Wednesday I (and/or a guest blogger) will highlight a different take on multiple worlds, time travel, and related topics—movies like Back to the Future, shows like Quantum Leap, and so on.

Given the rich history of science fiction and fantasy, I don’t anticipate ever running out of things to cover for as long as this series continues. I’ve decided on a bi-monthly schedule to hold me accountable while also ensuring I still have time to write other things, like fiction; I’m timing this series so that I can update this blog on the alternating weeks when I’m not writing a Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch post over at The Viewscreen. If this somehow gets popular or I have a lot of extra content for it, I may just have two different tracks of posts alternating every Wednesday. Who knows? Anything is possible.

To start things off, I decided to follow through on another ill-conceived plan I had a while back, to rewatch Sliders. (You remember Sliders, don’t you?) I’m flattered that my editor at Pyr, Lou Anders, describes my book Fair Coin as “Sliders if it were good.” I’ve wanted to defend the show as at least occasionally good, but I couldn’t back that up since I hadn’t seen it in such a long time; knowing the obvious similarities, I consciously tried to make my novels as little like Sliders as I could, with mixed results.

But I recently picked up seasons 1 through 4 on DVD on the cheap, and I’ve never even seen the last two seasons (along with most other people), so I figured I would give this a shot. I don’t know how often I’ll post recaps and reviews of subsequent episodes, but I do intend to watch them all eventually, in the originally intended order. It all depends on if anyone cares–and hey, if another blog wants to pay me to do more of these, that would be all the justification I need! (Hint hint, nudge nudge, wink wink.) At the very least, you can expect sporadic Sliders Re-watch posts here until I or my readers lose interest. Posts will loosely follow the Recap/Analysis format Torie and I established for our Star Trek Re-Watch.

That’s enough exposition for now. Let’s enter the wormhole…


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

Harry Potter and the teamTEENauthor Topic

Every month, members of teamTEENauthor write a blog post for teens on a specific topic. September’s topic is Harry Potter. For links to more posts on this topic, scroll to the bottom.

I came to the Harry Potter books pretty late, a little before the fourth book, Goblet of Fire, was published. I had heard of the series, but it wasn’t until the recommendations from friends came in force that I decided to give them a try. I was so confident I would love them that I ordered the first three books from the Science Fiction Book Club, and started reading The Sorceror’s Stone while I was trapped in an airport overnight. It was the best book I could have had with me, because I was immediately hooked, and once I’d caught up, I was looking forward to the next one along with the rest of the world.

For some reason I’ve only ever re-read the first three books though, maybe because the later ones are so much longer and I barely have time to read new books, let alone visit favorites. Or maybe it’s because I always hit my favorite, Prisoner of Azkaban, and then don’t feel the need to read more. I consider the third book to be Harry Potter at its best: It had just begun to deal with some darker themes, it was delving into Harry’s past, and yet it still had a sense of innocence about it that diminished with later books.


Book review: Tempest by Julie Cross

Tempest by Julie Cross
St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication date: January 17, 2012
Review copy: NetGalley

I’ve been looking forward to reading Tempest ever since I saw its striking cover and read the synopsis. I’m a sucker for a good time travel story, but the more such stories I encounter, the harder it is for them to impress me. After a while, they all seem somewhat familiar—which makes it even more important to focus on the characters and relationships. Fortunately, Julie Cross manages both to create sympathetic, interesting characters and offer a surprisingly fresh take on time travel.