I don’t live in the past—I only visit—and so can you!

Into Each Re-Creation Some Fantasy Must Fall

Let’s talk about Otzi. Otzi is the name given the so-called Iceman who lived a few thousand years ago, died and was flash frozen (not literally of course), existing with clothing, tattoos, weapons, etc. We probably know as much if not more about his physical culture than about the cultures of the Viking Age. A wonderful looking glass into the past!

We have no real equivalent for the Viking Era. But we have fantasies. My fantasy is, of course, that a Norseman, hiking across a glacier carrying weapons, wearing everyday clothes but carrying special clothes and, what the hay, pulling his own version of a Mästermyr chest in a sled, slips and falls into the ice and is frozen. In my imagination, he will pop out perfectly preserved a week or two from now. In my fantasy, he’d have been in suspended animation and would just wake up and be able to tell us all about his everyday life.

And while we’re talking about fantasies, then, let’s talk about time travel.

Wouldn’t traveling in time be great? Well, aside from opportunistic manipulation of betting on sports events, investing in the stock market, buying shares of companies ready to go through the roof and slipping multiple copies of Action Comics 1 into mylar bags, I am disinterested in traveling corporeally in time myself. If you have to take shots to visit third-world countries today, think how much of a pin-cushion you’d be to visit 1000 CE. If you have to be careful crossing streets today, think how careful you’d have to be not to offend that guy over there with a sword length greater than his IQ. If it’s difficult dealing with insurance companies and medical care today, think how wonderful it would be if you stubbed a toe and had to go to a laece whose idea of health care was praying really really hard. If you want to communicate, think about learning a foreign language whose modern reconstruction might be a trifle dubious. Then there’s the matter of coin, precious metals or the occasional goat to trade. If one carries a modern firearm for protection, what if it falls into the possession of an inventive metalsmith? And so forth; people thinking of the romanticism of being there at an historic event don’t think of the guy who’d be sniveling and coughing next to them! As it says above: I don’t live in the past; I just visit.

For that matter, I wouldn’t want someone else to journey back in my place. I probably read “A Sound of Thunder” when I was too young and impressionable. I don’t want to step on a butterfly and elect Adolph Hitler as president!

Copyright 1962 DC Comics. From THE ATOM #3, reprinted in SHOWCASE PRESENTS THE ATOM VOL ONE

Fans of the silver-age Atom comic book might well remember Professor Hyatt and the Time Pool stories In them, a professor learns to create a small disturbance in time and lowers a magnet at the end of a fishing line into that disturbance to “fish” for objects from  the past. Of course, the size-changing super-hero is able to get into that limited area, but quite frankly his adventures in the past was not what whetted my interest. I wanted to send a camera into the past. I wanted to take videos of everyday life, and I still do, now more than ever! Just imagine what you’d find out: Period sailing methods. Period fighting techniques. What the streets of a port looked like. How people dressed. What they carried around. How they cooked things. What superfluia was universally available and used but so commonplace that nobody mentioned them! Look at the little details we know of life in the American Civil War since the camera was not an artist cleaning things up!

Excuse me, I’m drooling. Getting a snapshot of everyday life in places such as the Oseberg burial is one thing. I think the Oseberg and the King Tut’s tombs are the most wonderful discoveries of archaeology during the twentieth century! But getting a video—or even just a physical snapshot—of a culture going about its usual job would make them pale in my mind! Miniaturizing a human visitor would, in that same mind, just be slightly superfluous!

Ah, fantasies. All of living history is a fantasy no matter how accurate you are or have to be. Maybe that is what makes this particular fantasy just so gosh-darn attractive!

Fictional books such as Harry Harrison’s The Technicolor Time Machine: The Movie Industry Has Discovered Time Travel–And Hollywood Will Never Be The Same (http://www.amazon.com/Technicolor-Time-Machine-Discovered-Travel–/dp/B003AWPZJ6/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1307838313&sr=1-2 are fun to read and dream about. The Atom stories (http://www.amazon.com/Showcase-Presents-Atom-Vol-1/dp/1401213634/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1307838086&sr=1-2) even more so. Just remember, that you can’t read the academic journals all of the time!

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