Saturday, August 13, 2011

Maggin's First Law Of Recursive Tourism

"People seem to love a crowd - the bigger the crowd, the more people show up for it"

I've gone on about this before, in my recent piece on my other blog about Miracle Monday, a work of fiction by Elliot S! Maggin. Long story short, a time traveler comes back to witness a historical event, only to find the hotels are choked to bursting with, as she learns, OTHER time travelers, ALSO there to witness the event.

That idea has sat in my mind since I read it, fascinating me.  It's one line in one panel of a pretty good story, but it's just perfectly elegant.  It should be as big a part of the mythos of time travel, but it's never addressed. 

Think about it - say you give a Christian a time machine.  Assuming he doesn't hack it to bits with an axe for the sin of being complicated, you ask him, what are you going to do with it?  They respond immediately "I want to meet Christ. I want to hear The Sermon on the Mount myself".  And so they go, wisely wrapping their modern clothes in homespun robes of the time and disguising their digital camera as a gourd.  And when they get there, in between sighing at the important words being spoken, they notice that a lot of other people are holding gourds, and self-consciously tugging at their robes.

Before time travel, Jesus probably spoke to about fifty people, tops. The Beatles played to mostly empty rooms at the Cavern.  Shakespeare and Hitler seemed to draw more crowds than all lived in London or Germany at the time.  Heck, Woodstock...just Woodstock.

All time travelers.

It's not impossible that up to 95% of people at important historical events are populated by people from the future coming back just to see what the big deal was.  And since they're only coming to see events that were interesting in the first place, they're not creating the event out of whole cloth, merely magnifying the demand.

And that's only for just coming to SEE the event.  Let's cast the net a little wider.

Only seven copies of Action Comics in existence? Really?  Nope.  Once we get past the date that time travel was (will be) invented, they'll be as common as Goblin Tinker cards.

How did so many pet rocks or any other fad get sold, yet you could never find anyone who actually owned one? Futur-eBay.

They sold like 4 frillion copies of those Image titles. Yet there's not NEARLY as many available as you'd expect.  Where are all those copies of Spawn #1?

Right now, in the 53rd century, a guy has invented an engine that runs on the ink used on early nineties comic books. and he needs fuel.

And that engine...runs time machines.


  1. LOL-funny and smart to boot! Now imagine all the chaos that would erupt between the time-travelers who want to see historic events life, and all the babies that would be, say, born in our time as a result of a romance (or one-night-stand) with that modern-day comics fan and that time-traveler from the 53rd century.... :-)

  2. What an odd, but completely logical to me, thinking track! I love it. You know, am I mixing this up with something, or didn't Ray Bradbury write a similar story? I'm not talking about the one where hunters go back to the dinosaur age and end up changing the future.

    I remember a story about a man from the future who traveled back in time to Mexico I think pretending to be just a time tourist, but actually intending to escape his time and stay for good in the past. He was followed back by authorities, however, and I don't think his plan worked. Is that a Bradbury, or am I remembering Maggin's actual story without remembering his name?

    Oh, and I have an odd thought too. You know that no one can find anyone who ever owned a pet rock because no one would EVER ADMIT to having been sucker enough to buy one!

    Love this stuff, Team B. Since Dorian offered, I'm going to have to get over here with some of the more bizarre things that occur to me! I have that in common with you two!

  3. Vinnie: Next time I find myself at an important event I'll check around for telltale signs of travelers from the future. Ha!

    This all sounds very logical. Scary.

  4. Our friend Amy Alkon, who's also one of our favorite authors and witty advice columnists (if you haven't read her column THE ADVICE GODDESS, what are you waiting for? :-)), had this to say:

    "I'd like to go forward to a time when I'd have a flying car and a manservant."

    Works for us! :-) Thanks for joining the conversation, Amy!