If You Could Travel into the Past, What Good Could You Do?

If you suddenly found you could time travel, what good could you hope to do by traveling into the past? Could you time travel to prevent a war or a plague? Would you want to ensure that friendly, intelligent aliens landing on our planet weren’t obliterated by weed-killer? Would you want to change your own history to become richer, more successful, or healthier? Would you try to spare someone close to you a catastrophe?

Some of those things are the goal of my main character, May Gold, in The Renaissance Club (now available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo). Time travel has been a philosophical problem ever since someone devised it. It’s the problem I asked myself as I sent May back to the 17th century.

And it’s a question I kept pondering as I thought about George St. James, the club’s guide to Renaissance Italy, and for a few the guide to time traveling.

Why did George have this gift? How did he decide to use it only to aid others? In George’s case, time travel appears to be genetic. His grandmother had the ability, though neither of his parents did. But I’m getting ahead of myself, because that’s not in the prologue of The Renaissance Club. It will appear in my third novel, Time’s Wily Thief, which features George St. James.

In The Renaissance Club, art historian May Gold time travels with George’s aid, and she finds herself face-to-face with her hero, 17th century Italian sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini. As she goes back and forth into his timeline, she starts trying to change things in his life, to prevent disasters that impeded his art.

Ever since Einstein’s theory gave rise to ideas about time travel, the physical possibilities have been considered–but how about the moral implications? Wouln’t it be like trying to play God to change history–even, let’s say, if you had the good of humanity in mind? Some novels, like H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, or a new time travel book I loved, The Scribe of Siena, contemplate the repercussions of visiting other times and trying to change things. But what would time travel do to you as an individual? How might it change you, and would those changes be for good or ill?

That’s how I began to explore George St. James’ time traveling ability. In the Prologue to The Renaissance Club, we get a taste of the origin and ramifications of his talent. Here’s a taste of George’s relationship to time.

The Renaissance Club – Prologue

Where for others time was orderly, time had always been disorderly for George, even

as a child. He had trouble keeping events in a straight line. For George, it sometimes did a backflip or side step. Where most children would be late to class, or show up eagerly early, George could be sitting in the classroom and suddenly find himself somewhere else. He went beyond woolgathering into timegathering.

He discovered he hadn’t been missing for long, because time on the flip side was different than in the present. But once a teacher caught him having been absent, and she accused him of sneaking out of the room. She asked him point blank what he was thinking about right now.

He answered with cheerful honesty. “I wasn’t gone long, and I wasn’t woolgathering, Mrs. Smith. I was talking to Julius Caesar’s youngest slave.”

He was sent to the principal for telling outrageous fibs. The second, third, and fourth time it happened, he learned from a friend that he had only been gone a short time. He then took care to prepare an excuse, such as having slipped away to the bathroom or to see what was going on in the hallway because he heard someone crying. Once the teacher asked in a warning tone if he wanted to concoct any more lies.

George said, “No, ma’am.”

Later, he asked other daydreamers from class where they had gone. They said things like, to the clouds, or thinking about breakfast.

Years later, after meeting many people on his time travels, he realized he wasn’t daydreaming in the same way. He learned to not talk about his adventures, but to write about them. Doing so, he eventually became a history scholar.

It made sense to George that time often found him and made him do a backflip or a side step. He was always meeting fascinating people. Once he met a delightful man, a poet, in nineteenth-century India, who seemed to understand him. The poet told him, “Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time, like dew on the tip of a leaf.” He suggested George start writing poetry and looking for poetry in the world around him. It was there, he advised George, but most people couldn’t see its rhythms and order, because they hadn’t cultivated silence or made friends with time.

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