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Time Machine

Entry updated 8 August 2017. Tagged: Theme.

One of the early key items of sf Terminology, first used by H G Wells in the title of The Time Machine (1895). It is, of course, a Machine designed for Time Travel. Less famous predecessors are Edward Page Mitchell's fantasy "The Clock that Went Backward" (September 1881 The Sun anon) – seemingly the first story of time travel effected by a machine, the eponymous clock; Enrique Gaspar's "El anachronópete" (in Novelas, coll 1887; trans as The Time Ship: A Chrononautical Journey 2012), published in Spanish and long untranslated; and the Outlandish Watch which controls time in Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno (1889).

Iconic time machines include the Victorian-technology design in the film The Time Machine (1960) and the once-surprising UK police telephone box which is the outward disguise of the TARDIS in Doctor Who (1963-current). With an eye to practical convenience, many later sf writers prefer a wearable time machine – typically in belt form as in the movie Dimension 5 (1966), Robert Silverberg's Up the Line (1969), David Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself (1973) and Phyllis Eisenstein's Shadow of Earth (1979); the last of these belt-style machines effects sideways travel into an Alternate History. The protagonist of Bob Shaw's humorous Who Goes Here? (1977) recognizes a small cage-like construction as a time machine by the way "the rods meet at strange angles and create a wrenching sensation in my eyes" ... only to learn that the device is merely bent out of shape because someone "sat on it last week". In Charles L Harness's "The Tetrahedron" (January 1994 Analog), the titular time machine is used to visit Leonardo da Vinci but proves to have been anticipated by him.

More passive forms of time machine, which do not actually transport their users forwards, backwards or sideways in Time, are the Time Viewer used (most often) by the future to spy on the past, and the Time Radio with which the future may attempt to communicate with the past. [PN/DRL]

see also: Alfred Jarry; Time Gate; Timeslip.

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