Time Traveling through Books

Susan over at the Dab of Darkness blog tagged me in a post about books and time travel. This seemed like a fun topic near and dear to my heart and a good way to start a new week.

What is your favorite historical setting for a book?


The hard part about this one is that I love history and I usually find something to enjoy in any historical setting I explore. However, I think if I had to pin down one era it would be the Victorian era that’s so near and dear to the steampunk I write. In fact, I’m delighted to have added a signed copy of Gail Carriger’s Changeless to my collection. That said, although I do enjoy a good novel set in Victorian England itself, my favorite books are ones set in other places of the world at the time, including the Wild West such as Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century novels or India, such as Eric Brown’s Jani and the Greater Game or even the Africa of Jack Tyler’s Beyond the Rails series.

What writers would you like to travel back in time to meet?

There are lots of writers whose work I admire, but two of the writers who most interest me are Robert Louis Stevenson and Lafcadio Hearn. Stevenson and I share share two initials, a birthday, and a love of pirate stories. Hearn was captivated by the stories of the places he immersed himself in from New Orleans to Japan. Not only have their writings inspired me, they both traveled extensively at a time when it was not always easy to do so and I’d love to hear some of the stories they didn’t have a chance to write down.

What books would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?


The books I’d point my younger self to actually existed back then, but I’d kick myself and actually get myself to read them! I would go back and hand myself Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot. I had preconceived notions that I wouldn’t enjoy King’s work because it was horror, but I would have loved his spooky tale of vampires and I would have been captivated by his great use of characters. I could have learned a lot from reading that book which took my many years to figure out on my own—that I’m still figuring out. Discovering King at a younger age would have started that process a lot earlier!

I’d also encourage myself to read Heinlein’s young adult novels. I remember them on the bookstore shelves when I was a kid, but for some reason never took them home. I would have had a blast with them and their sense of adventure.

If I had to pick a contemporary novel to take back in time, it would have to be a steampunk novel. Clementine or Ganymede by Cherie Priest would have been good choices that my younger self would have liked. It might have kickstarted the idea that I could write steampunk earlier than I did. (Although arguably I started pretty early since I sold “The Slayers” in 2001!)

What book would you travel forward in time and give your older self?

I’d give myself a copy of James Cloyd Bowman’s Pecos Bill: The Greatest Cowboy of All Time. That’s the book that started my love of tall tales and strange stories set in the wild west. It’s actually a book I don’t own, but have recently discovered it’s still in print, so I do need to remedy that. It would be fun to go back and see how Bowman’s version of the Pecos Bill story and the wild west inspired me.

What is your favorite futuristic setting for a book?

It depends on what your asking. Would I like to live in that futuristic setting, or do I think a good story is told there? There’s lots of futuristic settings that make a good story, but I wouldn’t want to live in that world! The Star Trek universe is an example of a futuristic setting which both has great stories, including many great novels, and where I’d like to live. The same is true of A. Bertram Chandler’s John Grimes novels. Both give generally optimistic visions of the future while suggesting plenty of adventures and many worlds to explore. I’m also fond of Ray Bradbury’s Mars, where the past meets the future in a kind of rustic setting on an alien world.

What is your favorite book that is set in a different time period (can be historical or futuristic)?


The hard part about this question is that so much of what I read is set in a different time period, it’s hard to pick just one! However, I’m going to pick The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein. I love its mix of engaging characters, politics, and attempt at examining the hard realities of making a colony on another world. This is one I remember enjoying a great deal and is one of the books that inspired me to sit down at the keyboard and actually try my hand at writing. It has been a long time since I’ve read it and it’s one of the books I’d like to go back to and see how well the book stands up to my memory.

Spoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book to see what happens?

I used to do this all the time when I was a kid, but I stopped. I’m not exactly sure when that happened. My best guess would be during my college and graduate school days when most of my reading swapped over to comics and graphic novels for a time. In those, a glance at the end can be a major spoiler!

If you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?

It would be seriously tempting to go back and “fix” painful incidents in my life. For example, I could take some modern textbooks on cardiac care back to doctors who were tending my dad in the 1980s. However, I’ve read enough books cautioning about the dangers of time travel to know how fraught with peril these kinds of well-meaning things can be! Even Hermione Granger was cautioned about interfering with her own time stream.

So, with that in mind, I’d probably use the time turner to give myself some extra time to work on writing at home while I’m also operating telescopes at Kitt Peak. Heck, using the time turner to go back a few hours and get some extra sleep would be pretty amazing.

Favorite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods.


Of course, the original and classic is The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, but perhaps my favorite is The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold. Instead of avoiding possible time travel paradoxes, Gerrold embraces them and looks at what happens when someone tampers with time, including his own timeline. The book’s open discussion of sexuality kind of freaked me out as a kid raised in a conservative, Christian household, but it also opened my eyes to other lifestyles than the one I was told was “correct.”

What book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?

I think it would be Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series. I hate to admit, but I still haven’t read all of them and those I’ve read have been in kind of a haphazard fashion, so I’d love to go back and make a real dedicated reading of the complete series.

Inviting others to play along.

I’m always a little hesitant to tag lots of people in these kinds of posts since I don’t want to make anyone feel obliged to play along. Also, it’s always possible someone was already tagged by someone else and I just missed their post. That said, if you’ve read this post and would like to take a crack at the answers, you’re more than welcome. If you tag me as the guy who inspired you and let me know, I’ll mention you here.

The following people have tagged me back, so go check out their answers!

Join the Clockwork Legion!

I need your help. I’ve written nine novels and I have a tenth on the way later this year. I Want You The objective is to get those novels into the hands of the people who will enjoy them. There are lots of ways to help. People on Twitter can tweet and retweet about books. People on Facebook can share my posts. Readers can share their reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Several of you reading this post have done so already and for that I am extremely grateful. As long as I’m writing books you like, please continue.

That said, I’m hoping I can encourage a few of you to step up for an additional challenge and commit to helping me spread the word about releases and events as they happen. Perhaps you could help recruit people to sign up for my newsletter. Maybe we could create a group on Facebook where I can share news and ask for you to share it among your friends. If you attend conventions, perhaps I could send bookmarks or postcards to you. Perhaps you have an idea you’d be willing to share in the comments. There would be rewards for those committing to the promotional effort, such as the hand-crocheted airship I’m holding, courtesy of my wife. If you think joining the Clockwork Legion and helping me get the word out would be fun, send me a message or leave me a comment and we’ll discuss it further.

Apocalypse 13

For those who might have missed it, I was featured this week in Padwolf Publishing’s March of Authors event on Facebook. My story “A Garden Resurrected” appears in the anthology Apocalypse 13, which is available at Amazon. During the event, they asked me if my story were to be made into a movie, who would direct it and who would star in it. Here’s what I answered: “My Padwolf story ‘A Garden Resurrected’ is being made into a movie with Joss Whedon directing. It stars Bill Murray as the vampire Graf Schaefer with Karl Urban as the Burgermeister and Emma Watson as his daughter Heidi. By turns, funny, thoughtful, and frightening, ‘A Garden Resurrected’ tells the story of a Burgermeister who fights to save his idyllic mountain village as an asteroid plummets toward the Earth. He dares to wake an ancient vampire who once saved the town from plagues and invasion, but what is the cost of such a savior?” Hope you’ll take some time and check out this great little anthology.

Completing the Enterprise Bridge

I’ve been a Star Trek fan for a long time. The original series was in first run when I was born and I started watching regularly when the show was in its first set of reruns in the early 70s. As a kid, I built the AMT model kits of the Enterprise and even the Enterprise’s bridge. Soon after Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out, Pocket Books released a punch out paper bridge that was very cool. I had two of them — one I made up as the bridge from the first movie and one I modified to look like the bridge from The Wrath of Khan. Sadly, all of those models have since been lost to the ravages of time.

When the new Star Trek movie came out in 2009, Playmates Toys started a new line of action figures. Along with their Galaxy line of 3.75″ action figures, they marketed a playset of the bridge. I saw photos of the bridge and was pleasantly surprised that it was a decent replica of the bridge as shown in the movie. This just seemed like too much fun — a good, sturdy model of the bridge and there are action figures that fit it. The only catch was, the bridge playset was not complete. You had to collect action figures to get all of the stations for the bridge.

I was somewhat hesitant to buy the bridge playset since it wasn’t complete. However, my wife ended up buying it for me, so I started collecting the figures so I could have the complete bridge. Now, Playmates had released only a few of the bridge pieces in their first wave of action figures. They had announced a second wave of action figures that would have more bridge pieces. I had just finished collecting all the pieces in the first wave of toys about the time the second wave was due to be released. The only problem was the second wave never came.

A couple months after the second wave was due out, I saw a post at trekmovie.com that indicated that sales had not done as well as Playmates had expected and they weren’t releasing the second wave of toys. However, Playmates was looking into a way of releasing the rest of the bridge pieces for those of us who had started collecting. So, I waited.

A year after the new Star Trek movie came out, I had still seen no sign of an announcement from Playmates about how collectors could complete their bridge playsets. So, I wrote to Playmates to ask them about it. A Consumer Service Representative wrote the following to me: “I am sorry the line is not going to be coming out. None of the 2nd wave was ever produced or distributed. Playmates Toys has been trying to come up with several alternative ways to continue distributing our Star Trek brand of toys to our consumers. Unfortunately, we have been unable to come up with additional distribution options and have discontinued the Star Trek line.”

I still wanted to complete my bridge and I noticed that the Star Trek figures were on clearance for $2.25 apiece at my local Walmart. I pulled out the original playset and noticed that several of the consoles that had already been released were simply duplicates and mirror images of other consoles. I realized that I could mix and match pieces that had already been released and come up with a fairly complete bridge. So, I went off to Walmart, picked up a few duplicate action figures and put together my bridge. Here’s the result:

Here it is from the front:

Now, it’s not perfect. The four stations at the back of the bridge were supposed to be slightly different and bigger than the ones I used. Also, there were supposed to be two stations on either side of the captain’s chair and two more of the stand-up displays. However, I’m much happier with this than the partially completed bridge I had before.

If you’re like me and you had collected all the pieces you could collect in Playmates wave one and would like a more complete bridge, here’s what I bought to get the set where I have it: 3 Scotty figures with piece B11, 3 Pike figures with piece B2 and 1 Kirk figure with piece B9. Hope this helps a few frustrated collectors out there get a more complete set as well.

You might well wonder what became of the extra Scottys, Pikes and Kirk. As it turns out, my daughters were happy to give them a home. Turns out the Galaxy set of Star Trek figures are almost the same size as Polly Pocket.