As a science fiction and fantasy book and film fan of sorts, I relish the opportunity to respond to Red Room's blog topic of the week on time travel. The paradoxes and conundrums connected to this topic make excellent fodder for narrative exploration. Are there perhaps parallel universes where multiple time lines co-exist, multiple versions of ourselves? Could we somehow pass through a portal and have the chance to change the past and the present by making a crucial choice differently? These are topics we all love to ponder in our own fantasies, and favorites also of speculative physicists and cognitive scientists.
My favorite time travel book is probably Octavia Butler's novel Kindred. Butler herself is an interesting figure. A black feminist science fiction writer, winner of the MacArthur prize, Butler writes in a very accessible way, yet her work is actually quite complex. This novel has often been classified as a YA work, but it works well for me, and when I have taught it at the college level, leads to interesting and productive discussions on topics like slavery, feminism, and personal responsibility.
The book's main character, Dana, is a writer in L.A. of 1976, married to a white man. Her time travel adventure occurs when she is suddenly and repeatedly transported back into the past, to the 19th century plantation where her great, great grandmother was born and lived as a slave.
As a denizen of 20th century California, Dana evidently feels alienated from her own family history and that of the U.S., as does her husband. However, this experience inevitably changes her perspective. She must acknowledge her own part in the history of racism and sexism, recognizing that all of us, whether we are aware of it or not, have been touched in some way by our nation's historical traumas.
For her part, Dana finds herself enmeshed in repeated ethical dilemmas when she must save a child who turns out to be not only her great great grandfather, but also her great great grandmother's master. If she allows him to die, thus saving her ancestor from suffering slavery, she will never be born.
An excellent introduction to the work of a fascinating writer, Kindred is a quick read, well worth reading. I recommend it.
Causes Robbi Nester Supports
Anti-slavery and human trafficking
Advocating for disabled children