First of all, to steal the picture from Jae’s central ‘Things I Love’ post! It was this picture, actually, which helped me pick what I am going to talk about. Whilst this is an astrological clock/astrolabe and not a general time-keeper, it illustrates how I am drawn to images with such wonderful patterns.
I don’t know which came first: the fascination with time and clocks themselves, or the idea to write a story involving those elements. Indeed, I began to notice the ornate patterns on clock faces more since I finished [draft one of] the novel, but it’s quite probable that the interest was already there long before I started writing and had chosen the genre.
You see, I grew up on Star Trek and Doctor Who, so it would have been odd if I hadn’t turned out to have a love of sci-fi and time-travel. In fact, time-travel is the only sub-genre of sci-fi that I find easy to write. There’s something about the way that anything can happen within reason…
Of course, effectively, that’s what writing any genre is about. I have other works in simpler genres where coincidences become the lead-in to main story-lines.
With time-travel, however, it’s a little different. Let’s forget, for a moment, about the process of ‘world-building’ the future. Let’s say we’ve already done that or we are going to the past; we – the author – know what’s going to happen when said character reaches said place, but the getting there is a little difficult.
In my novel, supporting character Zara has a wristwatch with six hands, which you wind like the usual three. It’s press the button and off she goes! Easy, right? Not when you’ve only got day, month, year, which is not even guaranteed to work. A watch like that could set you down anywhere…
Now, one of the things I like the most about time is its ability to be unpredictable, and the philosophy behind that. Zara has no ‘Prime Directive’, no moral code she follows when discussing the future with the MC, but there are automatically some boundaries that talking about time-travel brings up. When you don’t know quite what’s guiding you, you don’t want to go spilling all your secrets in one go (plus, that would make for no fictitious intrigue!). Because time fluctuates and changes as every past second goes by, there’s no guarantee that when Zara returns to her time it will be the same. Thus, there’s nothing she can actually be certain of when she makes her moves in the past.At the heart of the story, time is animate, with its own, animalistic ‘mind’; without that, there wouldn’t be the problem of time not following a linear path. This, too, I like to imagine in reality. How do we actually know that there are no parallel dimensions or worlds around us?
Do you believe in paradoxes? I think they’re wonderful, especially if they lead to the time-travel in the first place. In a short story I am working on, The Happiness Machine, the MC is tricked into time-travelling into the future so that the civilisation there can send back a time-machine to the people who tricked the MC in the first place.
“How did you know?” I asked Ariadne.
“Self-fulfilling prophecy. One day, another Happiness Machine will be built, in order to send us the information we need to build the component- in the same way that someone must have told the Cohens how to build their one-way device. We have information. We have known that you would come here and stay, as part of our community.”
Now, back to the physical. What I love about time-keepers is that they are usually pretty ornate, since the three hands have to be dainty, yet visible. Digital clocks just don’t give the same impression. However, the intricate lacing of designs I have seen on the faces of clocks were not the inspiration for the following passage of description, which actually comes from ‘what I know’, an old-fashioned clock that sits on the mantelpiece of my house:
Barely four inches high, the face was white but the body gleamed gold and had a handle, designed for it to be hung by, or clutched at, such as carriage clocks had been designed to give the time on a carriage-train without sliding about. It could not, however, have been one from the railway, for, as Aidelle looked, she could discern that its body would be far too weighty to travel with a train. Its ornaments would have been lost amid the station. Numbers in Roman numerals winked with the hands as they circumnavigated the light.
Nowadays, however, I’ve gained an eye for spotting those sorts of steam-punk-esque designs. I wouldn’t have said that steam-punk was my kind of genre, at least, not for writing or drawing, but, recently, it is those sorts of cogs and keys patterns that I have become interested in. As a member of the web-art community, DeviantART.com, I have subscribed to a maker of keys with cogs designs, so my ideas have turned to those sorts of images (though I’ve not yet incorporated them into a novel!).