Presently - Time Travel: A History (2016)

Time Travel: A History (2016)



We’re well past the end of the century when time, for the first time, curved, bent, slipped, flashforwarded and flashbacked yet still kept on rolling along. We know it all now, with our thoughts traveling at the speed of tweet, our 140 characters in search of a paragraph. We’re post-history. We’re post-mystery.

—Ali Smith (2012)

WHY DO WE NEED time travel, when we already travel through space so far and fast? For history. For mystery. For nostalgia. For hope. To examine our potential and explore our memories. To counter regret for the life we lived, the only life, one dimension, beginning to end.

Wells’s Time Machine revealed a turning in the road, an alteration in the human relationship with time. New technologies and ideas reinforced one another: the electric telegraph, the steam railroad, the earth science of Lyell and the life science of Darwin, the rise of archeology out of antiquarianism, and the perfection of clocks. When the nineteenth century turned to the twentieth, scientists and philosophers were primed to understand time in a new way. And so were we all. Time travel bloomed in the culture, its loops and twists and paradoxes. We are experts, we are aficionados. Time flies, for us. We know it all now, as Ali Smith says semi-ironically, with our thoughts traveling at the speed of tweet. We are time travelers into our own future. We are Time Lords.

Now another temporal shift has begun, hidden in plain sight.

The people most immersed in the advanced technologies of communication take for granted a persistent connection to others: habitually bearing mobile telephones, flooding the channels with status reports, rumors, factoids. They, we, engage or inhabit a new place, or medium (there is no escaping the awkward terminology). On one hand is the virtual, connected, light-speed realm variously called cyberspace or the internet or the online world or just “the network.” On the other hand is everything else, the old place, the “real world.” One might say we are living simultaneously in two contrasted forms of society and experience.*1 Cyberspace is another country. And time? Time happens differently there.

Formerly communication occurred in the present, perforce. You speak, I listen. Your now is my now. Although Einstein showed that the simultaneity was an illusion—signal speed matters, and light takes time to travel from one person’s smile to another person’s eyes—still, in the main, human intercourse was a melding of present tenses. Then the written word split time: your present became my past, or my future your present. Even a blaze of paint on a cave wall accomplished asynchronous communication. Telephones delivered a new simultaneity—stretching the present across the spatial divide. Voice mail created new opportunities for time shifting. Messaging returns to the instant. And so it continues. The devices, wired and wireless, are always sending and always listening. With persistent connectedness time gets tangled. You can’t tell the recaps from the prequels. You scrutinize time stamps like tea leaves. The podcast in your earbuds seems more urgent than the ambient voices bleeding through. A river of messages is a “timeline”—you’re in my timeline; I heard it in my timeline—but the sequence is arbitrary. Temporal ordering can scarcely be trusted. The past, the present, the future go round and collide, bumper cars in a chain of distraction. When distance separates the thunder from the lightning, cyberspace puts them back together.

A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT. A young woman wanders through a boarded-up house snapping photographs. She disregards the posted warning: Danger Keep Out Unsafe Structure. Peeling wallpaper reveals letters scrawled on the wall beneath. “Beware…” She peels back more paper. “Oh, and duck!” she reads.

“Really, duck!”

“Sally Sparrow, duck, now.”

Sally Sparrow (for that is her name) ducks, just in time to avoid a thrown object that smashes the window behind her. Apparently an exercise in asynchronous communication is under way.

This is London, the year 2007, and the writing on the wall is signed “Love from the Doctor (1969).” You, the viewer, know the Doctor as the protagonist of the long-running and multiply reincarnated television series Doctor Who. The program had its first go-round on the BBC in 1963, inspired partly by The Time Machine—not the book so much as the George Pal movie, released three years before. The Doctor is a survivor of the ancient alien race of Time Lords. He travels through time and space in a vessel called the TARDIS, which for reasons understood only by the most devoted fans has the permanent outward form of a twentieth-century blue British police telephone kiosk. Although the Doctor is an alien from far, far away, with the entire universe at his disposal, his travels are highly Earth centered, and his time-travel adventures favor historical tourism in the style of E. Nesbit’s magic amulet and Mr. Peabody’s WABAC Machine. He meets Napoleon, Shakespeare, Lincoln, Kublai Khan, Marco Polo, and many English kings and queens. He swaps tradecraft with Einstein. He discovers a time-traveling stowaway called Herbert, whose calling card gives his name as H. G. Wells. Time travel in Doctor Who is always good for jokes. Occasionally, however, the problems and paradoxes come to the foreground—never more acutely, never more cleverly than in the story of Sally Sparrow, the episode titled “Blink,” written by Steven Moffat and broadcast in 2007.

Still baffled by the writing on the wall, Sally returns to the abandoned house with her friend Kathy Nightingale. Sally loves old things, she says.*2 We already know that old houses are redolent of time travel. Kathy wanders offscreen. The doorbell rings. Sally answers. A young man hands her a letter from his late grandmother, Kathy Nightingale: “My dearest Sally Sparrow. If my grandson has done as he promises he will, then as you read these words it has been mere minutes since we last spoke—for you. For me, it has been over sixty years.”

We have a puzzle to solve, we viewers and Sally both. We’re getting hints. There are monsters about. Their victims are liable to be transported into the past, willy-nilly, with no way to return.

If you were trapped in the past, how would you communicate with the future? In a general way, we are all trapped in the past and we are all communicating with the future, via books and epitaphs and time capsules and the rest. But we seldom need to message particular future people at specific future times. A letter for hand delivery by a trusted courier might work, or writing on the wall of an old house. In Terry Gilliam’s 1995 movie Twelve Monkeys (an elaborate remake of La jetée) the unwilling time traveler played by Bruce Willis dials a mysterious telephone number and leaves voice mail. These are one-way messages. Can anyone do better?

Kathy’s brother Larry works at a DVD store—that is, he is a specialist in a particular short-lived information medium (“new, second-hand, and rare”). We glimpse television screens in the background. Many of them display the face of one man, whom regular viewers will recognize as none other than the Doctor. Why is he on TV? He seems to be trying to say something urgent. “Don’t blink!” for example. He speaks in disconnected fragments. He can be heard explaining in the classic time-traveler tradition: “People don’t understand time. It’s not what you think it is.”

Larry has discovered this man in a hidden track on seventeen different DVDs: “Always hidden away, always a secret,” he tells Sally. “It’s like he’s a ghost DVD extra.” Sometimes Larry senses he’s hearing one half of a conversation.

The screen starts up again. The Doctor appears to be answering the big question. “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,” he explains, “but actually from a nonlinear, non-subjective viewpoint it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly…timey wimey…stuff.”

Started well, that sentence,” Sally snarks (for who among us has never talked back to the TV?).

The on-screen Doctor answers, “It got away from me, yeah.”

SALLY: Okay, that was weird. Like you can hear me.

THE DOCTOR: Well, I can hear you.

Now the conversation begins to get complicated. The Doctor must persuade Sally (and us) that he is a time traveler who has been separated from his time machine (a blue phone box) and hurled back to 1969, that he has been trying to send her messages through an old house and various long-lived human couriers, and that now they are talking to each other via a recording he has concealed on seventeen DVDs, all of which she happens to own in 2007. Larry has heard the Doctor’s side of the conversation many times. For him it is preordained: bits laser-engraved on a plastic disc. Finally he is hearing the stereophonic version. Sally talks to the screen, the Doctor talks from the screen, and Larry writes it all down.

SALLY: I’ve seen this bit before.

THE DOCTOR: Quite possibly.

SALLY: Nineteen sixty-nine, that’s where you’re talking from?

THE DOCTOR: Afraid so.

SALLY: But you’re replying to me. You can’t know exactly what I’m going to say, forty years before I say it.

THE DOCTOR [pedantically]: Thirty-eight.

How is this possible? Let’s review the rules of time travel. Sally is right: he can’t hear her. That’s an illusion. It’s really quite simple, he explains. He possesses a transcript of the entire conversation and is reading his lines, like an actor.*3

SALLY: How can you have a copy of the finished transcript? It’s still being written.

THE DOCTOR: I told you. I’m a time traveler. I got it in the future.

SALLY: Okay, let me get my head round this. You’re reading aloud from a transcript of a conversation you’re still having.

THE DOCTOR: Yeah. Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey.

The TARDIS still needs to reunite with the Doctor. The Doctor still needs to get his hands on the transcript. Before the intricate machinery of this plot is complete, Sally, who now understands the whole story, will have to meet a version of the Doctor who has not yet grasped it. Now her past is his future. “Blink” is all the paradoxes rolled together with a Möbius twist. It’s Predestination and Free Will conversing in real time, via technology new for one and obsolete for the other.

By 2007 the internet was in full flow, but it plays no obvious part in the story. Cyberspace is an offstage presence—the dog that doesn’t bark in the night. This unusual episode of Doctor Who expressed something about our complexified relationship with time. Nowadays, Sally Sparrow’s in-box will be overflowing with thousands of emails, mingling past and present, which she may view threaded or flat, and the number only grows, and she is entirely capable of carrying on multiple conversation threads, SMS and MMS, emoji and video, simultaneous and asynchronous, with two participants or many, and meanwhile, with or without earbuds, she hears voices and glimpses screens everywhere, in waiting rooms and on signposts, and if she pauses to think, she may have trouble placing all the information in proper temporal sequence—wibbly wobbly, timey wimey—but who pauses to think?

WHEN THE BROTHERS Louis and Auguste Lumière invented the cinématographe in the 1890s, they did not begin by filming actors dressed in costumes. They did not make fictional movies. They trained operators in the new technology and sent Clément and Constant and Félix and Gaston and many more across the globe to record snippets of real life. Naturally they filmed workers leaving their own factory—who could resist La sortie de l’usine Lumière à Lyon?—but by 1900 they were filming a cockfight in Guadalajara, and the foot traffic on Broadway, and men smoking opium in what is now Vietnam. Audiences flocked to see these scenes of faraway live action. The creation of these images marks an event horizon. When we look back, the pre-1900 past is less visible. It’s good we have books.

So much of the world comes to us on screens now, with sound as lifelike as the picture. The screens range farther than anyone could ever see unaided. Who is to say that these are not time gates? People “stream” music to us and video, the tennis match we’re watching may or may not be “live,” the people in the stadium watching the instant replay on the stadium screen, which we see repeated on our screen, may have done that yesterday, in a different time zone. Politicians record their responses to speeches they have not yet seen, for instant broadcast. If we confuse the real world with our many virtual worlds, it’s because so much of the real world is virtual. For many people, there is no personal memory of a time without screens. So many windows, so many clocks.

“Internet time” became a term of art. Andrew Grove, chief executive of Intel, 1996: “We are now living on internet time.” Often this was just a cool-kids way of saying “faster,” but our relationship to time was changing yet again, even if no one quite understood what or how. On internet time the past bleeds into the present. And the future? There seems to be a feeling that the future is already here. Blink and it has happened. Thus the future vanishes.

“Increasingly, our concepts of past, present and future are being forced to revise themselves,” wrote J. G. Ballard in 1995—science fiction, as ever, the canary in the coal mine. “The future is ceasing to exist, devoured by the all-voracious present. We have annexed the future into the present, as merely one of those manifold alternatives open to us.”

We are annexing the past as well. Institutions from Scientific American to The Bridge World spill open their archives to reveal what was new 50 Years Ago. The online front page of the New York Times recycles its first reporting on bagels and pizza. Backward reels the global mind. Just when the obsession with newness seemed more ferocious than ever, Svetlana Boym, a time-twisting theorist of nostalgia, observed: “The first decade of the twenty-first century is not characterized by the search for newness, but by the proliferation of nostalgias that are often at odds with one another. Nostalgic cyberpunks and nostalgic hippies, nostalgic nationalists and nostalgic cosmopolitans, nostalgic environmentalists and nostalgic metrophiliacs (city lovers) exchange pixel fire in the blogosphere.” For all this blooming shape-shifting nostalgia we can thank the time travelers. “The object of romantic nostalgia must be beyond the present space of experience,” Boym writes, “somewhere in the twilight of the past or on the island of utopia where time has happily stopped, as on an antique clock.”

What a strange ending for the twentieth century! The new century—the new millennium, for those who were counting—arrived with televised fireworks and bands playing (and computer panic) but scarcely a glimmer of the glorious optimism that lit up the year 1900, when everyone seemed to be rushing to the prow of a great ship and gazing hopefully toward the horizon, dreaming of their scientific future: airships, moving sidewalks, Schönwettermaschinen, underwater croquet, flying cars, gas-powered cars, flying people. Andiamo, amici! Many of those dreams came true. So when the new millennium dawned, what bright dreams for the year 3000? Or the year 2100?

Newspapers and websites polled their readers for predictions. They were disappointing. We will control the weather. (Again.) Deserts will become tropical forests. Or the reverse. Space elevators. But not much space travel. Warp drive and wormholes notwithstanding, we seem to have given up on populating the galaxy. Nanorobots. Remote-control warfare. The internet in your contact lens or brain implant. Self-driving cars, a comedown, somehow, from i futuristi and their fearsome roaring racing machines. The aesthetic of futurism changed, too, without anyone issuing a manifesto—from big and bold, primary colors and metallic shine to grim, dank rot and ruins. Genetic engineering and/or species extinctions. Is that all the future we have to look forward to? Nanobots and self-driving cars?

Card produced c.  1900  by Hildebrands chocolate company

Credit 14.1

Card produced c. 1900 by Hildebrands chocolate company

If we lack space travel, we do have telepresence. “Present” in this context pertains to space, not to time. Telepresence was born in the 1980s, when remotely controlled cameras and microphones came into their own. Deep sea explorers and bomb squads can project themselves elsewhere—project their souls, their eyes and ears, while the body remains behind. We send robots beyond the planets and inhabit them. In the same decade the word virtual, already by then a computer term, began to refer to remote simulations—virtual office, virtual town halls, virtual sex. And, of course, virtual reality. Another way to look at telepresence is that people virtualize themselves.

A women finds herself piloting a quadcopter in a slightly creepy “beta of some game”—like a first-person shooter with “nothing to shoot”—and because she is a character in a novel by William Gibson (The Peripheral, 2014) we must already wonder what is virtual and what is real. Her name is Flynne and she seems to live somewhere in the American South—back country, trailer down by the creek. But in the present or the future? Hard to know exactly. At the very least, waves of the future are lapping at the shore. Marine vets have scars, physical and mental, from implanted “haptics.” The era’s namespace includes Cronut, Tesla, Roomba, Sushi Barn, and Hefty Mart. Roadside storefronts offer “fabbing”—three-dimensional printing of practically everything. Drones are ascendant. Every buzzing insect is a potential spy.

Anyway, Flynne leaves her reality behind to pilot her drone through a different, virtual reality. A mysterious (virtual?) corporate entity is paying her to do it. She hovers near a great dark building. She looks up—camera up. She looks down—camera down. “All around her were whispers, urgent as they were faint, like a cloud of invisible fairy police dispatchers.” Everyone knows how immersive a computer game can become, but what is her goal? Her purpose? Apparently she is meant to chase away other drones, which swarm like dragonflies, but it doesn’t feel like any game she has played before.*4 Then—a window, a woman, a balcony—Flynne witnesses a murder.

We have met Gibson before: the futurist who denies writing about the future. It was Gibson who invented the word cyberspace in 1982 after watching kids playing video games at an arcade in Vancouver, staring into their consoles, turning knobs and pounding buttons to manipulate a universe no one else could see. “It seemed to me that what they wanted was to be inside the games, within the notional space of the machine,” he said later. “The real world had disappeared for them—it had completely lost its importance. They were in that notional space.” There was no such thing as cyberspace then—as Gibson imagined it, “a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation.” The space behind all the computers. “Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data.” We all feel that way sometimes.

At some point it occurred to Gibson that he had been describing something like the “Aleph” of Borges’s 1945 story: a point in space that contains all other points. To see the Aleph you must lie flat and immobile in darkness. “A certain ocular adjustment will also be necessary.” What you see then cannot be contained in words, Borges writes,

for any listing of an endless series is doomed to be infinitesimal. In that single gigantic instant I saw millions of acts both delightful and awful; not one of them occupied the same point in space, without overlapping or transparency. What my eyes beheld was simultaneous, but what I shall now write down will be successive, because language is successive.

The space in cyberspace vanishes. It collapses into a network of connections: as Lee Smolin said, a billion-dimensional space. Interaction is all. And what of cybertime? Every hyperlink is a time gate.*5 Millions of acts both delightful and awful—posts, tweets, comments, emails, “likes,” swipes, winks—appear simultaneously or successively. Signal speed is light speed, time zones overlap, and time stamps shift like motes in a sunbeam. The virtual world is build on transtemporality.

Gibson, who always felt time travel to be an implausible magic, avoided it through ten novels written across thirty years.*6 Indeed, as his imagined futures kept crowding in on the conveyor belt of the present, he renounced the future altogether. “Fully imagined futures were the luxury of another day, one in which ‘now’ was of some greater duration,” says Hubertus Bigend in the 2003 Pattern Recognition. “We have no future because our present is too volatile.” The future stands upon the present, and the present is quicksand.

Back to the future once more, though, in Gibson’s eleventh novel, The Peripheral. A near future interacts with a far future. Cyberspace gave him a way in. New rules of time travel: matter cannot escape its time but information can. The future discovers that it can email the past. Then it phones the past. The information flows both ways. Instructions are sent for 3-D fabbing: helmets, goggles, joysticks. It is a marriage of time shifting and telepresence.

To the people of the future, the denizens of the past can be employed as “polts” (from poltergeist—“ghosts that move things, I suppose”). Money can be sent or created (win lotteries, manipulate the stock market). Finance has become virtual, after all. Corporations are shells, built of documents and bank accounts. It’s outsourcing in a new dimension. Does the manipulation of people across time create headaches? “Far less than the sort of paradox we’re accustomed to culturally, in discussing imaginary transtemporal affairs. It’s actually quite simple.” After all, we know about time forks. We are aficionados of branching universes. “The act of connection produces a fork in causality, the new branch causally unique. A stub, as we call them.”

Not that paradoxes are unknown. At one point a future law-enforcement agent called Detective Inspector Ainsley Lowbeer explains to an avatar—exoskeleton, homunculus, peripheral—inhabited by Flynne, “I’m told that arranging your death would in no way constitute a crime here, as you are, according to current best legal opinion, not considered to be real.” Nanobots are real. Cosplay is real. Drones are real. Futurity is done.

WHY DO WE NEED time travel? All the answers come down to one. To elude death.

Time is a killer. Everyone knows that. Time will bury us. I wasted time, and now doth time waste me. Time makes dust of all things. Time’s winged chariot isn’t taking us anywhere good.

How aptly named, the time beyond death: the Hereafter. The past, in which we did not exist, is bearable, but the future, in which we will not exist, troubles us more. I know that in the vast expanse of space I am an infinitesimal mote—fine. But confinement to an eyeblink of time, an instant never to return, is harder to accept. Of course, before inventing time travel, human cultures found other ways to soften the unpleasantness. One may believe in the soul’s immortality, in cycles of transmigration and reincarnation, in a paradisical afterlife. The time capsulists, too, are preparing transport to the afterlife. Science provides cold comfort—as Nabokov says, “problems of space and time, space versus time, time-twisted space, space as time, time as space—and space breaking away from time, in the final tragic triumph of human cogitation: I am because I die.”*7 Time travel at least sets our imaginations free.

Intimations of immortality. Maybe that’s the best we can hope for. What is the fate of Wells’s Time Traveller? For his friends he is gone but perhaps not dead. “He may even now—if I may use the phrase—be wandering on some plesiosaurus-haunted Oolitic coral reef, or beside the lonely saline lakes of the Triassic Age.” Entropy can be held off only here and there, now and then. Every life lapses into oblivion. Time and the bell have buried the day. Einstein was explicit about seeking solace in the spacetime view (“Now he has left this strange world a little before me. This means nothing”), and so likewise is Kurt Vonnegut’s narrator in Slaughterhouse-Five:

The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral….It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever. When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments.

Some comfort there. You lived; you will always have lived. Death does not erase your life. It is mere punctuation. If only time could be seen whole, then you could see the past remaining intact, instead of vanishing in the rearview mirror. There is your immortality. Frozen in amber.

For me the price of denying death in this way is denying life. Dive back into the flux. Turn your face toward sensation, that flesh-bound thing.

By this, and this only, we have existed

Which is not to be found in our obituaries

Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider

Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor

In our empty rooms

Every death is an obliteration of memory. To counter, the online world promises a collective, connected memory and thus offers an ersatz immortality. In cyberspace, the present moment churns and past moments aggregate. @SamuelPepys, tweeting his diary day by day, is one of “ten dead people” the Telegraph (London) recommends we follow, because “Twitter isn’t solely the preserve of living beings.” Facebook announced procedures for continuing or “memorializing” the accounts of its deceased customers. A startup called Eter9 offered to “externalize” (and “eternalize”) customers in the persons of artificial agents. Evidently corporeal death is no reason to stop posting and commenting: “The Counterpart is your Virtual Self that will stay in the system and interact with the world just like you would if you were present.” No wonder science-fiction writers despair of inventing the future. Eternity isn’t what it used to be. Heaven was better in the good old days. Peering toward the afterlife, we can look forward and we can look back.

“When I look back all is flux,” writes John Banville, “without beginning and flowing towards no end, or none that I shall experience, except as a final full stop.”

What comes next? After the final full stop, nothing. After the modern—the postmodern, of course. The avant-garde. Futurism. You can read about all these epochs in the history books of the prewired world. Ah, the good old days.

When the future vanishes into the past so quickly, what remains is a kind of atemporality, a present tense in which temporal order feels as arbitrary as alphabetical order. We say that the present is real—yet it flows through our fingers like quicksilver. It slips away: now— no, now— wait, now…Psychologists try to measure the length of now as felt in, or perceived by, the brain. It’s hard to know just what to measure. Two sounds as close together as a millisecond tend to be perceived as one. Two flashes of light seem simultaneous even when they are one-hundredth of a second apart. Even when we recognize separate stimuli, we can’t reliably say which came first until they are close to a tenth of a second apart. Psychologists suggest that what we call now is a rolling period of two or three seconds. William James’s term was the “specious present”: this illusion, he said, “varying in length from a few seconds to probably not more than a minute…is the original intuition of time.” Borges had his own intuitions: “They tell me that the present, the ‘specious present’ of the psychologists, lasts between several seconds and the smallest fraction of a second, which is also how long the history of the universe lasts. Or better, there is no such thing as ‘the life of a man,’ nor even ‘one night in his life.’ Each moment we live exists, not the imaginary combination of these moments.” Immediate sensation dissolves into short-term memory.

In the wired world, creating the present becomes a communal process. Everyone’s mosaic is crowd-sourced, a photomontage with multiple perspectives. Images of the past, fantasies of the future, live videocams, all shuffled and blended. All time and no time. The path back through history is cluttered, the path forward cloudy. “Fare forward, travellers!” Eliot said, “not escaping from the past / Into different lives, or into any future.” Without the past for background and frame, the present is only a blur. “Where is it, this present?” asked James. “It has melted in our grasp, fled ere we could touch it, gone in the instant of becoming.” The brain has to assemble its putative present from a hodgepodge of sensory data, continually compared and contrasted with a succession of previous instants. It might be fair to say that all we perceive is change—that any sense of stasis is a constructed illusion. Every moment alters what came before. We reach across layers of time for the memories of our memories.

“Live in the now,” certain sages advise. They mean: focus; immerse yourself in your sensory experience; bask in the incoming sunshine, without the shadows of regret or expectation. But why should we toss away our hard-won insight into time’s possibilities and paradoxes? We lose ourselves that way. “What more terrifying revelation can there be than that it is the present moment?” wrote Virginia Woolf. “That we survive the shock at all is only possible because the past shelters us on one side, the future on another.” Our entry into the past and the future, fitful and fleeting though it may be, makes us human.

So we share the present with ghosts. An Englishman builds a machine in guttering lamplight, a Yankee engineer awakens in medieval fields, a jaded Pennsylvania weatherman relives a single February day, a little cake summons lost time, a magic amulet transports schoolchildren to golden Babylon, torn wallpaper reveals a timely message, a boy in a DeLorean seeks his parents, a woman on a pier awaits her lover—all these, our muses, our guides, in the unending now.

*1 Marshall McLuhan said that in 1962.

*2 “They make me feel sad.” What’s good about feeling sad? “It’s happy for deep people.”

*3 Like David Tennant, to be exact.

*4 “Feels more like working security than a game.”

“Maybe it’s a game about working security.”

*5 “—Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink.”

“—What’s that?”

“—No idea. Just made it up. Didn’t want to say ‘magic door.’ ”

—Steven Moffat, “The Girl in the Fireplace” (Doctor Who), 2006

*6 Completists will note, however, his 1981 story “The Gernsback Continuum,” a hat tip to Hugo. The story is at least time travelish. Semiotic ghosts. “As I moved among these secret ruins, I found myself wondering what the inhabitants of that lost future would think of the world I lived in.”

*7 Heidegger: “We perceive time only because we know we have to die.”