A Blog Devoted to Exploring and Explaining the World of Military Science Fiction.
25 November 2011
FWS Topics: Temporal Warfare
Recently, io9.com posted a list of sci-fi works where the time is the primary battlefield (http://io9.com/5858758/when-time-is-a-battlefield-the-most-bewildering-time-wars) and not some far-away planet. These time-wars are not waged over where but when. While these time-wars are not the standard vision of traditional military science fiction, it is subelement of futuristic warfare, and presents a different idea of how and why future wars could be waged.
When it comes to presenting the concept of temporal warfare, those of us that grew up watching Doctor Who and Star Trek, the concept was often seen, but few works have been able to bring this home. This could be do with temporal warfare lacking in a realistic approach with its delivery, overall lack of thought and hard science behind it, because at its core, MSF is natural more realistic and hard science than traditional sci-fi.
Could there be a Time-War?
If time was the batteground of the future, what would it look like? Would there be massive armies of futuristic warriors blasting each other with rayguns? Or would it be spy vs. spy type of warfare? Could there even be a war over the course of different time periods, without destroy the totality of the universe? Certainly any soldiers of the future that were deployed to another time period would have to be careful when engaging in any type of gunfight...one stray round could change the future in a vast unseen ways, butterfly effect, indeed. The main reason behind the use time travel as a weapon would to even the odds in a losing conflict or even changing the conditions to bring about their adversaries. When really thought of temporal warfare, it brought a quote of President Kenned from 1962: "this is another type of warfare- new in its intensity, ancient its origin-war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins; war by ambush instead of combat, by infiltration instead of aggression, by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him. It preys on unrest."
Temporal warfare never really entered by own writings until 2007. After reading Maus by Art Spiegelman, I explored the possibility of a temporal war in my still-unfinished-short-story, The Murder of One. In this far-future story, Dr. Misha Fischer develops time travel in the 36th century, and it leads to a war over the technology by governments and corporations, however, once the technology falls into he hands of various religious groups, they trying to prove the existence of their god and assassinate each others prophets to prevent each other religion's from existing.
To end the conflict and preserve the human race, Dr. Fischer escapes with the technology off-world, goes back several years before her development of time travel, and attempts to use the technology to explore the past with trained historical anthropologist-travelers that wear "encounter suits."
This story picks up when a traveler goes to a Nazi Death Camp, and ends with the death of Hitler during World War One, and once Dr. Fischer is aware of the altered timeline and she comes to the realizationthat the only to prevent time-travel, is to kill herself.
This story taught me that if and when humanity achieve ability to travel through time, someone will exploit the technology for their own gain. This will distort how history originally unfolded, and the change our reality ways we cannot imagine or control. Making time travel one of the most dangerous technologies the world will ever see. This could be why the that laws of physics prevent it from happening.
"Reality is, what we think now, a string that someone else can pull, and history is how far they pull it..." -Dr. Misha Fischer, 3581 AD
Here is a list of some examples, most not covered in the io9 article, of temporal warfare:
In this 1985 First Comics graphic novel by Timothy Truman, as the great time steam of the universe and its dam, being guarded by gun-carrying Beavers (I shit you not). Their enemy? Rats that seek to control the dam and become a time lords devoted to chaos. During a successful raid, the Rats get control of three important artifacts from Earth, and seek to use these objects to destroy the flow of time, while the Beavers hunt for the rat teams throughout certain time periods. Time Beavers was a wonderful graphic novel and is better than my summary of it. Truely, one of the lost gems of 1980's comics.
The show itself was never that focused on warfare or gunfights, especially when concerning the Doctor himself. However, within the background of the longest running sci-fi show, there was the shadow war between the Daleks and the Time Lords of Gallifrey, over the destiny of the universal timeline. This came to an apex with 'The Last Great Time War' that cost Gallifrey its very existence. While the storylines that played through the original (or classic) Doctor Who series where Time Lords attempting to prevent the Daleks from achieving time travel technology were interesting, the new series having Gallifrey destoryed seems like bad written and destory a certain something that the classic series had.
Star Trek: Enterprise: The Temporal Cold War
"And that's where I had sex with your Great-Great Grandma..."
Throughout the Star Trek saga, the subject of time travel and travelers as been covered...alot; and at times, these time travelers have attempted to change the time line in their favor.
These lame attempts pale in comparison to the 'Temporal Cold War' of the best the Star Trek series, Enterprise. During the pilot episode until season four, different factions from the 31st century that possessed time travel were attempting to alter the 22nd century, during which, the Federation was formed, by the use of proxy forces. Despite my recent falling out with Star Trek, I believe the Temporal Cold War of Enterprise is one of the best example of temporal warfare in mainstream sci-fi.
In the mid-80's, the Mad Max post-apocalyptic nuclear holocaust was big business and DC Comics wanted a piece of the mushroom cloud pie. So, they took their Western gunfighter anti-hero Jonah Hex, and transplanted him to a 21st century post-nuclear war apocalypse to do battle with biker gangs and giant worms (not kidding). During his eighteen issue run, Hex, Jonah Hex ran into other time travelers, that were sent to stop him.
Here is one of the concepts of time being a battleground that featured the men and women that protect the timeline for being altered. Sadly, the Timecop movie and the short-lived TV series were not done well enough to unlize the concept and suffered from a lack of realism and general chesseiness. The good news is that there is a relaunch coming soon, and there is a fair possibility that this movie could be remade with a more solid concept and without a certain Martial Artist...
Millennium: "Owls" and "Roosters"
One of the offshoots of the success of the X-Files was the show about the end of the world, a secret society, a gifted profiler, and serial killers, and it was called Millennium. The show itself didn't have any time travel storylines, but the secret society that former-FBI profiler Frank Black worked for, the Millennium Group, had been waiting a thousand years for the turn of the next century, when the end of the world would occur. However, two sides within the Millennium Group battled for control, the Owls and the Roosters, one believed a scientific event would happen in 2000 AD, another believed that it would be the fulfillment of the end times. It was a group moving through time and battling about time, which was interesting concept and done extremely well...I miss the 90's at times.
The X-Files "Synchrony" (4x19)
I was massive fan of the X-Files up until its Fifth season that is, and one episode that as stuck with me is the low-rated "Synchrony" from the middle of season four. Murders are being committed against a select group of MIT researchers using a freezing compound. It is later learned that the elder man committing these murders is an time traveler and is the older self to one of the researchers. This time traveler explains to his younger self about the horrors of a society that can travel through time: "What she created. What you - we - helped to create. A world without history, without hope. Where anyone can know everything that will ever happen. I've seen that world"
This quote has directly impacted my thinking on time travel and what might happen in December of 2012.
Star Trek: Voyager "Year of Hell"
The majority of ST: Voyager's episodes were complete dogshit and helped end my long love affair with Star Trek, until Enterprise, however, Voyager did have a two-parter called "Year of Hell", where an alien species is using surgical insurrections into the timestream to restore their long-dead empire./ The captain of the alien time warship's was also a personal quest to restore his dead wife as well, and the other all story was similar to Moby Dick. This was one of the more brutal and violent episode of Voyager, where all seemed lost, until Janeway gives the time warship a taste of the divine wind.
The Forever War by Joe Haldmen
In a odd way, the Forever War is a book about soldiers fighting their way across time. The method of FTL for the aliens and humans fighting this war involves collapsers (wormholes), but the laws of time dilation still apply, causing the war to be waged over 1,143 years. This causes battles to be seperated by hundreds of years, and the soldiers to lose all concept of home and time.
Seven Days (TV series)
This UPN series ran from 1998 to 2001, and featured an NSA program called Operation: Backstep that created a time machine from a reverse engineered crashed alien craft from 1947. The time machine was in two parts, one opened the crack in time back seven days, and the other was the Chronosphere, where the time traveler was encased, which had flight controls and readouts, but wasn't a time machine in of itself.
The limit of seven days was due to their ultra-rare fuel source (Element 113) that was recovery from the crashed UFO. The time technology was also used into the future and there was attempted time machine being built by the Soviets. This little series was completely under funded and under rated during its run. Interestingly, this idea of a limited time machine being used by the US government as been seen in two recent movies.
This lackluster mega-expensive TV series as been hinting at a conflict between factions in 2149 are using the Terra Nova settlement and the breakaway Sixers in Prehistoric Earth to gain control. Maybe if the series focused on that and developed it, than Terra Nova may not be so lackluster, which is what we got on November 21st episode of Terra Nova, "Vs," that deepended the overall mystery of the power struggle for the Terra Nova settlement.
The Terminator series
Out of all the time war stories, the best explored in several types of media is The Terminator. Unlike the other stories and plots mentioned on this list, there is something so pure and natural about the basic plot of Terminator that works, and is oddly believable, especially with the realism of the nuclear Holocaust and the dark future war with the machines.. The only issue, for me, is that the entire Terminator saga as been so frakked with, that the original concept as been destroyed by layers and layers of shit. However, if you just consider the first two films, The Terminator stands above the other time-war ideas.
The Big Time by Fritz Leiber
Fritz Leiber's 1957 story was ligthyears ahead of its time, and the concept of time-travelers abducting persons from other time periods to serve as proxies in their time-war was capitalized on by other writers, like Poul Anderson's1 965 Corridors of Time and Star Trek: TOS "The Savage Curtain" The Big Time plot had two far-future factions named the Snakes and the Spiders fighting their across time using characters from different Terran time periods as proxies to change the time flow in favor of one or the other.
The Lord of the Sands of Time
Issui Ogawa is truly one of the master's time travel war books, along with All you need is Kill, he created The Lord of the Sands of Time, where mankind lost their war with the aliens, and the remnants of mankind are orbiting Jupiter. To prevent and/or reverseof Earth's fortunes, mankind and the aliens are jumping around different time periods to swing the balance one way our another.
The Corridor of Time by Poul Anderson (1965)
In this novel about time warfare, the Ranger and Wardens battle over "temporal freewill" of how the destiny of mankind unfolds, I actually read a few pages of this book in a used book store in Grandbury, Texas, and hit me at the time was the characters used different weapons in different time periods, and the characters could identify their time traveling enemies based on the weapons. Along with Corridor of Time, he also wrote the The Time Patrol.
Time-Splitters Video Game series
I've never played the Timesplitters video game series, but from Internet searches, it seems that human soldiers are using time crystals to perverse the timeline from alien "timesplitters" created by human to be the genetic superior to mankind, and they are attempting to frak with the timeline to install themselves as the dominant species.
Odyssey 5 (TV series)
During a routine Space Shuttle flight, the Earth explodes before the crew's eyes, and all seems lost, until a race called the Seekers rescues them, informing the crew of the Odyssey that fifty other worlds have been destroyed in a similar manner. The crew of five surviving members of the Space Shuttle Odyssey back five years before the destruction of the Earth prevent the destruction. The series was cancelled after fourteen episodes, so we never got to find out if the Earth was saved...bummer.
Darkest of Days
Nothing sucks worse that taking a great concept for a shooter ith a grand idea, then turning it into completely and utter dogshit.S uch was true of Darkest of Days. The story focused on time-travelers trying to save certain important individuals from dying in some of Earth history's biggest battles, while others attempt to stop them to alter the timeline in their favor. The game itself was widely panned, despite the use of ancient weapons and epic-scale battlefields, real pity.
The Guns of the South
What if, the best assault rifle in the world, the AK-47 was given to the Confederate Army by South African time travelers? Then you'd would have this novel, which is one of the classics of alternative history books by Harry Trutledove written in 1992. This book will surprise you, much of the novel was devoted not to the Civil War or even the time travelers but to the realistic aftermath of the South winning the war. Out of the rest Turtledove's novels about the alternative Earth timeline, this is his finests.