time travelling with hayley

On Friday night I dashed off to the British Library to see their exhibition, Out of this World: Science Fiction but but not as you know it and unfortunately didn’t get there before closing time. But thanks to Hayley Campbell‘s tip-off, I did get to go to the excellent panel eventThe Art and Science of Time Travel, featuring Audrey Niffenegger (here’s an earlier blog post I made about her), Stephen Baxter, John Gribbin, Paul Cornell and hosted by Jo Fletcher, who recently set up her own sci-fi and fantasy imprint, Jo Fletcher Books, at Quercus. Here are some doodles I made during the talk:

I have a lot of reading yet to do in the sci-fi genre, so I was writing down book titles as they mentioned them. It was interesting when Audrey asked the audience if they had a choice, if they’d rather time travel into the future or into the past. Hayley voted to go back in time and I voted to go into the future, and the audience was fairly evenly split. Audrey said that she’d asked this question before and had a totally gender-divided response, with all the women voting to go into the past and the men into the future.

Jo Fletcher, John Gribbin, Audrey Niffenegger, Stephen Baxter, Paul Cornell

I thought about it some more later, and stuck with my choice. There’s no shortage of material to help me travel into the past by reading, watching old film footage, seeing old photos. Well, it’s not exactly time travel, but living in London makes me aware of just how much stuff that experts have archived just in case someone like me might want to find out something about a particular time period. But I have absolutely no idea what might lie ahead, and I’d be well curious. Except I would insist on not bumping into my future self, I would hate to live knowing what was going to happen to me. But I might just have a little peek at the stock market results or the lottery.

One new way people are going to be able to time travel into the past, I discovered after the talk at the pub, is through a new internet programme called The Retroscope, featured at a TED Talk in 2010. Basically, it will work like Google Earth, where you can zoom into places and see not only the location as it is now, but keep clicking back through chronologically ordered images in its history. Here’s Chris Wild, the guy who’s organising it, showing Hayley and me on his laptop how The Retronaut will work. It hasn’t launched yet, but he has a lot of cool and quirky historical stuff on his website, How To Be a Retronaut.

Here’s Jo Fletcher with Jon Fawcett, the guy who runs the British Library events that go along with its marvelous exhibitions.

And Time Travel always attracts lovers of Doctor Who, and the evening was no exception, with three Doctor Who writers. Here are two of them: Jonathan Morris (with his latest book) and Simon Guerrier. (The other was Paul Cornell.)

Here on the left is John, aka Gaspode, who, together with his wife, are a big part of organising EasterCon Olympus, the big sci-fi and fantasy convention near Heathrow Airport. Next year it will run April 6-9th and in 2014, won’t be running because the UK will be hosting the even larger Worldcon (which is usually held in the USA).

And here was what the evening was really about, hanging out with Hayley in the pub.

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