A Classification of the Sub-Genres of Time Travel, Itself a Sub-Genre of Science Fiction


Time travel enables revisiting the reader to view the past with a modern perspective. It enables going to the far future and witnessing events that transpire long after we and our society are gone. It enables interacting with famous people who are dead. It enables changing a major decision and witnessing how this would have affected us or our society. It enables creating complex, intricate stories, where past and present interact in unpredictable ways: excellent setting for mystery stories.

I have always been (almost) obsessed in reading time travel novel and watching movies. In fact, I’ve read so many that at some point I realized there are many sub-genres to Time Travel, admittedly, a sub-genre of Science Fiction. Here I try to classify the sub-genres of Time Travel. Note that obviously, some stories could have more than one classification. I also tried to pick a movie example (since these are best known) when I could think of one.

Alternate Reality: in this category of novel/movie, the protagonist travels to the past, and makes a change that affects the present. At times, this happens multiple times. The point here is usually to examine how one or more decisions, which at times could be very small, could have transformed the world. Example: A Sound of Thunder.

Anthology: a collection of multiple short stories or 2-3 medium sized stories. Although this is not specific to time travel, I feel obligated to mention this since this is one of the classifications that can be used for time travel.

Effects of Time Travel Technologies on Society: in these novels and movies, time travel is not actually achieved. However, something related does happen: certain knowledge is being transferred from the past or the future to the present. This knowledge is so important, so radical, that it affects every person on the world – and changes society. For example: Knowing (Nicholas Cage’s new movie).

Fantasy: there are numerous fantasy novels where time travel takes place (can’t think of a movie though). Although in many ways this should not make a difference, my personal feeling is that it does. Since time travel (often) enables the reader to examine a future www.ehmtic2014.com of our world – or conversely – see the world as it used to be, I don’t feel that using it in a fantasy setting has the same meaning. Consequently, I’ve given these novels their own classification.

Future Reality: in this class of novel/movie, the protagonist is being transported in some way to the future. It could be done using a time machine, being cryogenically frozen, or moving close to the speed of light. The end result is, we are being given the opportunity to witness one – or more – version of the society of the future. Example: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Planet of the Apes, The Time Machine

Historical Characters: in many novels the focus is on utilizing various real characters that have lived at some point in time, normally, to obtain their perspective on a contemporary issue. These characters are either put in contact with present-day people, or are literally moved in time to our present or future. You may be surprised, but there are quite a lot of novels with this premise. Example: the 80s show Voyagers (I used to love that one!)


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