One Regret has now been published! You can go purchase it for $10 (plus shipping and handling), at the Dragon Kaseraak Bookstore.
With this post I want to describe one of the tougher processes I had in writing and planning One Regret. When I started to think about a time travel story, I knew I didn’t want to make it like the ones I’ve read before. In a lot of time travel stories, the mechanism of time travel itself is sort of waved away. It’s something the author asks the reader to assume, which often leads to the presentation of interesting but at times unsolvable paradoxes.
Consider the one about a person going back in time to kill their own father (or mother, or grandfather, if you prefer). At the risk of stating the obvious, this creates a paradox: how can that person continue to exist in that timeline? Some handle this by saying that the person would disappear (consider “Back to the Future”, which involves a similar concept). Some handle this by saying some sort of event would prevent the killing in the first place. Some just let it ride, unexplained.
I didn’t want to do something like that. Those solutions seem unsatisfying. I wanted to have a rationale, one that was rock solid. This was something I struggled with for quite some time.
The time travel premise for One Regret was the easiest part. Rather than true time travel, One Regret involves messages that travel backwards in time. This alleviates some of the problems, but not all. For instance, while I could not go back in time to kill my own father, I could send a message back in time to my father telling him to kill himself or, less direly, to avoid my mother and the pain of the divorce some twenty years later. Under this scenario, my own existence would become suspect.
One Regret takes the approach of an abandoned timeline. In this case, the instant a message is sent, the current situation changes to reflect the effects of the message. If that means I no longer exist, I no longer exist. The message comes from an abandoned timeline, one that is no longer visible to anyone from the changed timeline, although in some senses it still exists. That’s how I resolved the standard time travel paradox.
There are many interesting issues that arise from this approach, and a significant problem inherent in the plot. The significant problem was figuring out how One Regret could be compensated for its services. Assuming everything went well, the patient’s life would change to the point where he (the target patient is male) would no longer feel inclined to go to One Regret. Effectively, every contact, connection, or relationship between One Regret and the patient would not survive the procedure. This means there would be no conceivable way for the patient to pay One Regret. Even if someone were willing to pay millions of dollars for the procedure, he couldn’t do so and have the payment survive the procedure.
This was a problem inherent in the business model. If anything significant survived the procedure, neither One Regret nor the patient would be willing to risk the procedure in the first place. But if nothing significant survives the procedure, One Regret is left without recompense for the procedure.
At this point I owe a debt of gratitude to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In that book, Adams was confronted with a situation where any solution would be too preposterously improbable to believe. His solution was to create an improbability machine, one that provided a justification for the near-infinite improbability of the event he needed for the book.
In my case, I needed something to survive the procedure, and thus I looked to the mechanics of the procedure. The premise was that there was a part of the brain (the “Temporal Cortex”) that traveled backwards in time. This was the part of the brain responsible for premonitions. Effectively, the causality of that part of the brain was reversed: cause followed event rather than event following cause. Because of this change in causality, these cells could survive the procedure. It was then a simple matter to create a circumstance where having live samples of such cells would be very valuable for the purposes of research.
Figuring out this solution allowed me to create a story for the purpose of the cells. Having a part of the brain responsible for premonitions is a very interesting concept to play with, and it helped me fill out many a scene. It also gave a framework for convincing a patient that the procedure was possible, by demonstrating events that could only be possible with real premonitional abilities.
That’s a story for another time, though.
In any case, One Regret is now available from the Dragon Kaseraak Bookstore. You can also read a sample here. I’m selling it for $10 + S/H ($3 for media mail). I hope you’ll enjoy reading the sample and I hope you will enjoy reading the book!