Archive for time travel

Influences on Johnny Mackintosh: Edith Nesbit

Posted in Battle for Earth, Influences, Writers with tags , , , , , on August 30, 2011 by keithmansfield

One of the great things about books is how long they last. We’re still able to read stories from thousands of years ago, many of them being continually remade as films or television stories. One book that made a lasting impression on me as a child was something that was written over a century ago: Edith Nesbit’s The Story of the Amulet.

The book features some brothers and sisters who acquire an ancient amulet that will apparently give them their hearts’ desire – to be reunited with their parents. But there’s a catch. They only have half the amulet and only when whole will their wish come true. But there’s hope because the amulet can form into an arch through which you can cross time and space. Sound familiar? Of course Clara Mackintosh is always creating such archways, which she models on the Arch of Lysentia that she and brother Johnny pass through in the Spirit of London.

What was great about the stories was how the children affected time through their travels. For instance, I think when they were being held prisoner in ancient Babylon they showed their prison guard a twopence piece and that was apparently how the Bablyonians came upon the idea of a minted coinage/currency.

*****SPOILER ALERT – DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU’VE FINISHED JOHNNY MACKINTOSH AND THE SPIRIT OF LONDON*******

Along the same lines, something that always stayed with me was when the protagonists travelled to Atlantis. They were there right at the end of the legendary city and escaped through the amulet’s arch just in time. This was very much my inspiration for having Johnny and Clara visit Atlantis and do a very similar thing. And another example, similar to Nesbit’s weaving in the Babylonian coinage, was the way I had Johnny wipe out the dinosaurs by accident, being responsible for diverting an asteroid onto a collision course with Earth.

***********END OF SPOILERS******************************

There’s so much great new writing nowadays that it can be easy to forget the classics of the past, but Edith Nesbit was a great writer and definitely deserves to be read and remembered. She also wrote The Railway Children, which is always being performed on stage or serialized. Tomorrow though, I’ll bring us right up to date with unquestionably the biggest influence on Johnny Mackintosh and the publishing phenomenon of recent times.

Influences on Johnny Mackintosh: The Flipside of Dominick Hide

Posted in Influences, Science, television with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2011 by keithmansfield

When you’re a writer you have a whole lifetime of experiences to draw upon that can go into your creations. Some things stick with you. When I was fifteen I watched a Play for Today (a great vehicle for writers to get onto television at that time) called The Flipside of Dominick Hide. Dominick (played by Peter Firth, nowadays known better as Harry Pearce in Spooks) was from the future but had travelled back to our time searching for a distant ancestor. Early on in the show he’s in a bar when someone asks his name. Not wanting to give himself away, he looks at the bottles behind the counter and chooses “Gilbey”, a brand of gin.

So now you know where Mr Wilkins, the cook at Johnny Mackintosh’s children’s home, gets his own hilarious first name from but you’ll have to read Battle for Earth to find out why.

I presume it’s not just me but many writers who sprinkle their creations with little homages to things they’ve enjoyed or have had an effect on them. The show had a great time travelling story arc where the future affects the past every bit as much as the other way around. After all, it was the great American physicist Richard Feynman who pointed out that an electron can simply be viewed as a positron (the antimatter equivalent of an electron) but travelling backwards in time, something I think is an incredibly deep observation – if only I could work out what it meant!

One of the arguments against being able to travel into the past is the so-called grandparents paradox: if you were able to do it and you killed your own grandparents, you could never have been born to travel back into the past to do it. While I’m very sceptical about time travel in the backwards direction (of course we know how to go forwards) this particular argument holds no water at all. It’s a fallacy brought about by our limited three-dimensional perspective of the universe. if instead we think about four-dimensional space-time as one continuous present, then the paradox vanishes. An interesting twist on it in Dominick Hide is that the title character sets out searching for his great great grandfather and ends up becoming him!

Timeslip Tuesday Review from America

Posted in Book news, New York, reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2011 by keithmansfield

Some of my favourite stories include the possibility of time travel. From Hermione’s time turner to Clare Abshire being forever left behind, it’s a theme that can lead to engrossing books. So it was exciting to discover a whole review section of Charlotte’s Library (a book site for kids and teenagers) called Timeslip Tuesdays.

For the weekly feature, Charlotte’s reviewed Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London. As far as I know, it’s the very first US review of Johnny’s books and hope it paves the way for more to come. Having lived in the US (I spent some time growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania) and travelling there often for work, it’s a country I’m especially fond of and I hope New York readers of Johnny Mackintosh: Star Blaze will vouch for the accuracy of Johnny’s escape through the city.

Readers of this blog will know that there was recently a review of Star Blaze from Australia. For an author, it’s an amazing treat to discover people in other countries reading your stories. I’ve also seen reviews from South Africa and heard of people seeing the books on the shelves in Singapore! Sadly, world domination still seems some way off, but it’s good to know that the books are slowly percolating around the globe.

Charlotte’s timeslip review says:

“Lots of action, twists and turns of plot, and a generous dollop of suspense make for a page-turning adventure that is, I think, just the ticket for a sci fi loving upper middle grade reader (and the sort of book an adult reader who’s willing to suspend disbelief and who’s looking for something fun should appreciate as well). The story is told strictly from Johnny’s point of view, so the reader only knows what he does, keeping things very interesting indeed.

“… I’ll be passing this one right over to my ten-year old, and I bet he enjoys it (space ships! computers! aliens! dinosaurs! sinister bad guys!).

“Time travel-wise–the journey of Johnny and Clara back in time leads to interesting sub-plots and intriguing explorations of paradox. It’s a key part of the plot, in a very sci-fi way (as opposed to time-travel for the sake of exploring the past, or for the sake of exploring characters). And as such it works well, adding zest and excitement to a story already full of both.”

For those who want to read more about time travel, take a look at my Science of Johnny Mackintosh page.

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