Looking back in time (literally) and forward (fictionally)

 I had a brainstorm the other day and frantically started jotting notes down so that I might scout the internet later.  Sadly, I was not the first to consider this possibility, and spent an hour surfing the many high-level nerd forums where people discussed this at length.
My idea revolved around the speed of light.  Light may seem instant, but it has a speed limit just like the speed of sound.  Where sound travels at roughly 700 miles per hour at sea level, light travels at around 186,000 miles per second.  Yes, that’s pretty fast.

We’ve all heard a jet, fast car or train pass by, noise arriving in force only after it’s gone past.  That’s the sound it makes catching up to it.

Light is the same way; it takes time to travel.  Take our sun; it’s about 8 light minutes from Earth.  Put another way, we’re seeing what the sun does 8 minutes in the past.  Go outside and look at the sun right now.  For all you know, it just blew up or was stolen by alien pirates.  You’ll find out for sure in 8 minutes when the light that was emitted at that moment finally reaches us.

Scientists talk about learning more about the creation of the universe by looking through telescopes such as the Hubble, which is seeing galaxies that are thousands or millions of light years away.  They could have fostered sentient life and collapsed into black holes last week, but we won’t know for untold ages yet.

So, how can I use this to my advantage?  🙂

What if I was to create a wormhole and travel to a point 250 light years from Earth?  I’d turn around and look at the planet and would then be seeing the light that was emitted 250 years ago.  I could view the Industrial Age, revolutions, countries being born, etc etc.  All I’d need was a powerful enough telescope.  Imagine if a computer could catch and record all the light that passed by and build for us an interactive world of the past?

This is a close parallel to an old Isaac Asimov short story I read years ago called The Dead Past.  It’s about a government funded research project that allowed them to see a limited distance into the past.  There was a catch, though, and an impatient professor finally found a way to build his own telescope.  Caution: there’s a really fun twist ending, and I’m not going to spoil it for you.  Imagine that; a twist ending in the 1950s!

I also turned my thoughts to the future, once again inspired by books and movies.  The love of apocalypse and dystopia is still alive and well in modern fiction, but rarely do you ever see the long term run-out of events.  Sure, the Walking Dead, Revolution, Falling Skies, The Last Ship,  Maze Runner, and tons more deal with the plucky survivors of whatever cataclysm torches life as we know it, but it’s always pretty much present-day.

I always wonder, though, about what comes after.  Imagine the zombies are all dead (again/for good), the planet is clean, people are ready to behave, all of that.  Now what?

Few shows or books ever centered on rebuilding.  But it begs the question: how hard would it be to reorganize a government, a ruling cadre?  We put up with it, accept it as it were, because that’s what we all know.  And I’m sure everyone complains about having our money taken via taxes, fees, surcharges, etc, and spread around in ways we probably don’t all agree with.

So what if you just spent years scraping by, toughing it out and managing to live through the apocalypse?  And then one day a guy with some police, troops, etc, comes by and says “Good job not dying out there. Now, we’re going to need thirty percent of your stuff so that we can tell you how to go about your business once again”.

Would you tell the man to shove it?  Doesn’t that sound a lot like Negan from the Walking Dead?  Give me your stuff or I’ll beat you, says the villain.  Give us thirty percent of your money or we’ll put you in jail and take it anyway, says the government.

Damn, makes me think longingly of invading aliens.  Ahh, those were simpler times…

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3 responses to “Looking back in time (literally) and forward (fictionally)”

  1. Jeff Watkins says :

    It is an interesting take, and I recall that Saxon Andrew was another author who explored the looking at the past from the light of events. i think the rebuilding notion is a fresh approach, while my interest dabbed with post-Apocalyptic genre when I was younger, I don’t find it interesting now, this approach though might change that. Oh, my reason for posting was to ask, what forum is available to ask questions about your stories. I have a question about the ending of the Birthright series. Not a what, more a why that ending with Loren, it felt…off, although very grand and heroic.

    • Ryan says :

      First off, thanks for your comments; it’s alway great to hear from people regarding whatever ramblings I’m on about at present.
      If you’d like to ask a question, I’d say this is the place; either in this thread or via a message using the ‘contact me’ link on the blog.
      I’ve had a few readers contact me over the years and it’s been varied and sporadic so I haven’t established any sort of ‘official’ forum.
      I’d definitely like to hear your thoughts, though!

      Thanks,
      Ryan

      Ps- As far as the ending, I’ll try to preempt a bit. In the beginning of the series, Loren is at a crossroads and decides he’s going to get out. After battling the Primans for a couple years and seeing what his own efforts have done to help, he’s been forced to see a different side of that equation; maybe he’s exactly where he belongs. So, it’s all part of his character development going from reluctantly deciding to leave to becoming the captain of a starship. In addition, it leaves him in the driver’s seat for follow-on stories and gives me a cast of characters with a rich history to draw on.
      Is that what you were wondering? Even if not, I’d be eager to hear your take on the story.

      • Jeff Watkins says :

        Wow! Thank you very much. Some authors I hear back from, others nothing. Its great to know, but it sounds as if you have answered my question. I read Loren as wanting to go be with his wife, he sacrificed and even killed for her, so originally, the ending felt off, nice, great in a sci-fi hero ending, hero-gets-the-ship., but not the relationship. That said, yes, I see where you are coming from and hope to see Loren and company in some future story. I love your series and often compare your work to others I have read, especially how you mix action, humor, friendship and yes, romance, and unlike (sadly so many) you never hit someone over the head with the latter. Its so evident just the way you write them during the story, I never feel as if a scene is inserted because, oh, time to show the reader they really love each other. I sometimes grimace at other writing where it feels like that. Anyway, sorry for rambling, guess I was so excited to hear back and see the point I wanted to ask about covered so well. Best to you and thank you for the series, and the reply.

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