Ray Bradbury is the man.
Every time I pick up one of his books or short stories, I know I'm in for a treat. I'm immediately transported to the world of his imagining, hanging on to every word like my life depends on it. As a reader, isn't that what I'm always looking for in a book? As a writer, isn't that what I'm trying to do? Bradbury does it every time. Like I said, he's the man.
By far, my favorite short story of his is A Sound of Thunder. Big surprise: it's about time travel!
The first time I read it, I was in a middle school language arts class. I was supposed to be reading a different short story for a class discussion, actually, but as I flipped through the pages, my eye caught some of the first lines of the story.
That was the sign hanging on the wall in front of Eckels--the hunter who was after the ultimate game. Imagine going back in time to shoot a Tyrannosaurus Rex! I couldn't stop reading until I finished the story. At this point, everyone else in class had finished the story we were supposed to be reading. I was completely lost for the entire class discussion.
No regrets. I'd discovered one of my favorite stories--and one of my favorite writers, too.
Ever since, I've read A Sound of Thunder at least once a year, though I try not to pick it up unless I've actually got time to spare. Without spoiling the ending, I love Bradbury's concept of time travel--that even the barest change to the past could have disastrous consequences.
I thought a lot about Bradbury as I was writing my own time travel stories. In the Time Wrecker trilogy, changes to the past do affect the future--but not as drastically as Bradbury imagined. I imagine that timeline rectification is actually legal in the United States and has been for a decade. In that time, thousands of criminals have gone through a rehabilitation program and been given a parole-alternative: with their victims' consent, the criminals can go back in time and undo their crime. Even though the morality of timeline rectification (aka "time wrecking") is hotly debated, everyone can agree that the ripple effects from all these time wrecks can't be that bad. Otherwise, ten years of legal timeline rectification would have sent the world straight to the apocalypse--right?
But it still doesn't make it easy for my main characters to decide whether or not to approve a timeline rectification. Will and Mara Sterling already survived a campus shooting once. If they give the gunman a chance to put things right, isn't it possible he could go back and make things even worse?
If you love time travel stories as much as I do--or speculative fiction in general--I bet you'd love Ray Bradbury's work. I don't claim to have anything close to Bradbury's prowess with words, but his work definitely shaped me as a reader and a writer. I've been reading and re-reading A Sound of Thunder for over fifteen years now, and this story still carries me back to Time Safari, Inc. every time.
Do you like time travel stories? So do I! I'm preparing to release EVERY LAST MINUTE, the first novel in my time travel trilogy, this fall! Drop your name and e-mail in the blue bar at the top of the page to receive news and updates!