Time Travel Meme Secrets Revealed!

Ding-dang-dong, the bells ring out…it’s morning in Blogland.

12:01, to be precise, and all the contest deadlines have blown away like smoke on the breeze.

Oh, who am I, you ask?

Well, don’t you know?

I’m the goddamn Sean Witzke.

Ha! So since nobody guessed it, Sean, you’re winning a prize. And hey, thanks for voting for Velvet Shadows Of Night anyway, even when you didn’t have to! It worked well as a ruse, but also: I’ll take that as a very flattering vote of confidence. Not quite as big a vote of confidence as I got from those who thought I was Matthew E., Formerly Mike, or Jonathan Burns! But a big one nonetheless. So, thanks again; and enjoy your well-gotten gains.

Now, on to the main attraction.

You know, back at the beginning of this thing, I was absolutely positive that I was going to end up making one of my picks Bill & Ted’s Excellent TV Show. You must admit, it’s a natural; and so many things could be done with it that the mind simply boggles. Mind you, I knew this was probably going to be a minority opinion, if only because most people have never read Evan Dorkin’s awesome Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book.

It’s worth a read, people!

But, after the entries kept rolling in, and kept being really, really good, I realized I had to let Bill and Ted go. Sad! But with so much great stuff in the mix, and so much labour being put out in service to it all, the odds started to become stacked against our heroes…and besides, they’ve had their shot, haven’t they? While meanwhile others have been kept waiting. Like:

1. Distant Mirrors, by Formerly Mikesensei. Although RAB’s observation about the difference between ongoing television shows and long-form television novels is a good one, this hook was just too deliciously baited for me to resist. To paraphrase Matthew: Dude, what? That’s so awesome! As I said before sometime recently, one of the things that’s so interesting about these time-travel ideas is that they’re all, to one degree or another, shuffling the same influences…but Distant Mirrors is positively cryptoamnesiac, from top to bottom, and filled with all kinds of little familiar things in fresh combinations. And part of its charm as a proposed series lies, I think, in the very fact that its form cries out “book!” or it cries out “movie!”…also the characters, if you think about it, are hardly there at all. Nevertheless, damned if I wouldn’t tune in next week to see what happened to them! And if that isn’t the soul of serialized entertainment and art, I don’t know what is. Bill & Ted’s Excellent TV Show doubtless would’ve been a romp through the timestream, made from novel revistations of the events of High History; in my opinion, Formerly Mike’s Distant Mirrors has the potential to be a romp through, and novel revisitation of, the history of time-travel as literary conceit…and that’s cool, man. Even if I don’t know how many seasons it would end up lasting. But then again, who cares about that? I want to see this show now.

And so, I’m sure, would Gregory Benford.

2. Tourists, by RAB. Similarly, I think what RAB’s got in Tourists probably would be most likely to come to life as a decently-good TV movie in the SF allegory style…but as an ongoing TV show (oh, if only!), it’d be that much better and more densely-textured, another example of an exception proving a rule. The “expat angle”, applied to the character of the Guide, is something I find particularly gripping, and (potentially) terrifically productive of character interest and conflict…especially inasmuch as it produces a “secret history” that descends into our present from his imagined future. In a way it’s like a war story, only without the war…like China Beach without Vietnam or the Sixties, or M*A*S*H without Korea. Not only does it recall Robert Silverberg’s “Up The Line”, one of my favourite time-travel stories ever, but very probably it’s an SF allegory whose time has come, and which deserves some prolonged exploration. This, too, I want to see on my TV screen, like today; and I honestly believe it would win awards.

3. Threshold, by Matthew E. A difficult choice, for me: I was looking for a way to vote for Tontine in this spot, but in the end I couldn’t turn away from the impressive latticework of character that Matthew’s assembled for Threshold. It would be a gross understatement merely for me to say I’m impressed with Tontine: I read this as Neil Gaiman by way of James Clavell, and it’s got so many attractive details woven into it that I just keep thinking about the damn thing, and thinking and thinking…but I’m just as impressed with the careful balancing of character on character Threshold offers, and characters tend to make me curious, and so it’s Threshold. Like Stargate by way of Hill Street Blues, perhaps…or, maybe with just the slightest hint of LSH thrown in there as well? It might not win awards; but, it’d win my attention for sure.

4. Rip Hunter: Time Master! by Shane Bailey. Finally, what can I say? Have you seen Shane’s episode guide over on NMH? I said sell it to me, and boy did you sell, Shane, even if you did go a bit Saturn Girl in the voting…but it was always going to be hard for me to say no to Rip anyway, because, you know…ape civilizations. Marketed straight up as the Doctor Who of the DC universe, I think it’d be just okay. But located in a murkier middle ground, as a showcase (if you’ll pardon the expression) for DCU-isms? You’ve got me: I can’t stop imagining the non-comics fan watching this stuff and suddenly thinking “waitaminute, ape civilizations? Say, just what the hell’s going on here, anyway?” I can’t help it. It tickles me. I mean, we’re all familiar with (or we think we’re familiar with) the more audacious story elements from our beloved comics, so the idea of a standalone episode about Solivar’s son probably doesn’t exactly shock us…but put yourself in the place of the person who knows none of this, and Good. God. A romp? It’d be like a bomb went off in their heads. The SF TV-show conventions familiar to a non-comics-nut would still be there, still relatable, something to serve as an anchor, but…

Rip’s Companion: Rip…what is all this?

Rip: Well, what’s it look like? It’s the first ape civilization, circa 900 B.C. Look at them: they’ve already passed right by most of their adjoining human tribes in terms of technology…

RC: Excuse me, but did you say…ape civilization?

Rip: Yes…

RC: Ape civilization?!

Rip: Yes…why, didn’t you know about the ape civilization?

RC: NO!!

Rip: Oh. Then I guess this comes as a bit of a shock to you.

RC: Yeah, I guess!

Rip: But think, is it really so strange? Human beings are apes too, you know. Technically. Well, branches of the primate tree, anyway. But just because we don’t have fur, that doesn’t mean we’re not…

RC: Waitaminute…

Rip: Yeah?

RC: Did you say…did you say first ape civilization?

So sue me, I want to see that. People freaked out about Lost as soon as they saw the polar bear on the desert island, and rightly so. But as Sean W. says, if he were writing Lost, the fat guy would’ve already found the Hellraiser box about nine days in…

Heh. So it could be just like Lost (or rather, it is like Bill & Ted’s), except what’s really going on is that omigod it’s the DCU, man, I swear…! And not even the TV or movie DCU, but the comic-book DCU. Except that no one really, really, really has to know it is. Pure madness. And a very neat trick, if one could pull it off…

So those are my four. And don’t think it wasn’t very, very close.

Now…would you like to know who won?

Here they are…

1. Tourists, by RAB

2. Distant Mirrors, by Formerly Mikesensei

3. Tontine, by Matthew E.

4. Rip Hunter: Time Master! by Shane Bailey

And Honourary Mention to Entangled by Jonathan Burns, a fine show idea that would’ve replaced Distant Mirrors (albeit in fourth place instead of second) were it not for my votes. So I owe you one there, Jonathan.

As to prizes, I truly regret that I can only guarantee two — one to RAB, and one to Sean W. Which doesn’t seem quite fair, does it? So tell you what, I’ll work on it, and see if I can’t figure something additional out.

Of course I’d like nothing better than to award prizes to all of you, and let RAB’s hundred flowers bloom…it may interest you to know this little exercise has put me into a whole new visit and page-view bracket, just about double my previous highwater mark (that even came from being linked at Newsarama, so wow!), and I like to think it wasn’t just down to your enthusiasm for the meme, but because of others’ interest in your really very excellent ideas. Fun! This was a lot of fun for me; thanks for playing, everyone, you’ve given me story ideas to “unconsciously” rip off for years to come.

And thus ends my fifteen minutes of Internet fame. A moment of silence, please.

See you ’round the galaxy, lunatics!

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21 responses to “Time Travel Meme Secrets Revealed!

  1. Oh, and, of course, congratulations to RAB.

    (Sorry for spreading things out over multiple comments the way I seem to be doing today.)

    You know, it did occur to me that there might be some sleight of hand going on with Sean and the whole I-can’t-post-any-ideas/oh-well-here-it-is-anyway thing. I just didn’t have it ranked high enough on my Master List of Suspicions.

  2. I don’t even care about a prize this was so much fun. Thanks!

    I’m going to keep working on Rip after this too as you can see from the next few paragraphs.

    I planned on the DCUness of the Rip Universe to be nods to certain storylines in the comics. “Command D” and “Damn Dirty Humans” is a two parter that introduces one of Rip’s cast, Kamandi, but he’s all grown up now. Command D ends with Apes charging at the group with Lasers and such firing at them.

    The next episode starts as they make it back to the Time Ship and travel back in time to find the Ape Civilization that was just attacking them, but relatively peaceful until the assasination of Solivar. Someone or something seems to be manipulating events behind the scenes and Keone tags along to find out who killed his father and led the apes down the path that ends in violence. There’s tension between Kam and Keone due to Kam’s future and the way the apes treated him there.

    The next episode involves Rip getting injured and the only way he can be helped is if the group travels into the past to find a young Rip to help. This is an origin episode.

    So it’s the DCU, but it’s not. Sound good?

  3. The sheer injustice of this outcome can only be attributed to blatant favoritism on the part of the judge.

    It feels doubly wrong to be named winner here, not only because of my anti-competitive stance but also because the entries were just so damn good. My entry was lightly sketched; many of you folks offered thoroughly developed story synopses that any fool could see were brilliant. I know this is coming across as my version of the trite “it’s an honor just to be nominated” acceptance speech, but really I was staggered by the caliber of the entries. There wasn’t one of these I wouldn’t watch every week and thoroughly enjoy. A lot of brilliant people joined in, and I feel like a rank pretender and this verdict is a horrible mistake…so I must run off with my prize before the judge comes to his senses and takes it back.

  4. And RAB…gee, they were good, weren’t they? It’s fantastic. Just goes to show what I’ve been saying, the comics bloggers sort of kick ass as an online “community”…

  5. Now, now, Erin…as any Canadian sports fan can tell you, fourth is a very respectable finish…

    Oh, I agree… but go back and read the rankings again.

    Eh, I guess I’m being a sore loser, but I really thought my contribution was good enough for 4th place.

    *shrugs*

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  7. Apropos of nothing, it suddenly occurred to me to mention that one thing that helped shape the (fair and perfectly acceptable) final results was that some people voted for themselves and some people didn’t.

  8. Sorry, I just deleted a comment — too long, and too needlessly detailed.

    Matthew, I’m happy to assure you that in my judgement the self-voting actually did not skew the results in any significant way. The top four would have been the same, with Entangled getting an honourary mention, regardless.

    Because there were only two self-votes!

  9. Not quite what I was trying to get at.

    But that’s okay; I’d rather leave it at that. Just so nobody gets the wrong idea, though, I don’t have a problem with someone voting for their own entry.

  10. So I’ve been out of town (and offline) to attend an old auntie’s funeral–what nice voting results to come back to.

    Flattered, honored, every entry deserved to win, etc….your eyes are glazing over, but I do mean it. Also, the fun in this was reading all the entries and all of the responses to them, much more than the voting/ranking.

    One more thing, seriously. Both of my pitches were straight from story sketches made when I was much, much younger, at the “anything is possible!” stage of early adulthood. I am currently a middle-aged guy with a family, a job in a cubicle that’s writing related, but doesn’t allow for imaginative flights or literary flourishes. At. All. It’s a good life, but I am a boring guy who long ago put aside creative endeavors in order to get on with trying to make a living for the sake of my family.

    So to be able to pull these little plotlines out from a dusty, mildew-smelling box down in the basement of my memory, put them out there and have real people, however few, enthuse about them…

    It’s good. Really good. Thank you. I feel so refreshed. I gotta get back in the game! After all, anything is possible!

  11. mikesensei –

    I don’t think this stuff ever gets old. Several times in my life, someone has come along with a challenge like this and I discovered I could write stories, all over again. This has just been the latest time for me. They’re never what I imagine they should be, and I forget the stamina it takes to beat them into decent shape, but they still come to creative life in my brain and bug me.

    Applause for plok for having the brass to throw out the challenge, and to everyone who picked up on it. He got a pretty good return on the effort, didn’t he? And what’s just as good for me, I’m starting to know some of you. [swirls cloak] We will meet again!

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