Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891

Lettres

Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

A Catalogue of Chrononauts

Penned upon the 20th of September, 2012

I have theorised before, here and elsewhere, about the possibilities of time travel. Time is a slippery fish indeed, and its very definition is difficult to pin down… assuming one pins down a fish. Perhaps we ought to hook it. Or perhaps, rather than a fish, time is a fearsome moth… but, fish or moth, we can be certain (possibly) that time is a perceived sequence of events, light meeting retina, cause meting effect, thermodynamics rolling relentlessly on like so much cosmic brie down the hill of entropy. Perhaps time travel is no more than a curiously persistent folie à deux shaped by internalised social conceptions of reality, like religious crazes, or the prevalence of Dickenskin*. Perhaps it’s an allergic reaction to the varnish used in police-boxes. Whatever its origins, there are, shall we say, more than a couple of societies dedicated to the exploration of past and future, and they differ considerably in their means, motives and marmalades of choice.

The League of Temporal Voyagers, of course, favours travel for non-interventionist observation purposes, typically utilising small groups of scholars. To this end, they have been at the forefront of development of grandfather-proof technology, which allows a one-way transfer of knowledge but leaves the historical record unchanged. The engines to facilitate these jaunts have a high power draw, but early experiments succeeded in sending a drawing-room back a number of decades, and the League was recently able to send a moving tram-car to the turn of the century with minimal disruption to the schedule.

The Chronological Ramblers Uniting Millennial Paradox Engineers & Temporal Specialists – originally the Time-Men’s Society of Ramblers – began as a Communist-affiliated labour union for time-machine operators, working in the notoriously capital-friendly time-machining industry. Following a general strike, the occupation of the Mesozoic Era by armed workers, and a series of First World Wars, most time-factories were nationalised and heavily regulated – all at once a victory and a death sentence for the militant wing of the Ramblers. Continuing amalgamations softened its edge, and its calendar is now largely dedicated to hosting leisure hikes and picnics in the eighteenth century.

Ordo Tempi Pangolinis is an esoteric society, largely comprising past, present, and predicted future members of the Hermetic Order of the Gilded Pangolin. Shrouded in mysticism, arcane ritual, and a number of deliberately misleading pamphlets, the Order’s true purpose is the practice of cliomancy and retroprophecy – the divination of coming events through the observation of past time travellers. Cautious to a fault, the Order rather suffers from a non-existent central leadership and its headquartering in the entirely fictional Ninth Circle of the Labyrinth of the Society for Farcical Research.

The Council of Yesterday are the most active and perhaps the most sinister of the major time powers. Born of the machinations of the continental Great Game, it now serves as an extension of every spy operation with the wherewithal to clothe and equip an epoch-agent. Members are typically armed and always dangerous, and employ a number of tricks to expose fellow travellers while remaining inconspicuous to natives – for instance, whistling to imitate a phone’s ring, or the opening of a future popular song, and observing the reactions of the crowd.

I don’t tell you these things to alarm you, but simply that you will be aware of the risks, and able to distinguish a sinister future-assassin from a harmless Rip van Winkle or an Urashima Tarō in need of a hug. Be not afraid but vigilant, and remember that the past is another country – you can’t get there without a valid passport or if you’ve recently been in contact with livestock. One sound piece of advice for the historical layperson is that any past figure you can recognise has already had their allotted time in controlled circumstances, and shouldn’t be tootling about the present day – or, as they say in China, if you see the Buddha, kill him, because he’s probably a dastardly impostor!

* Dickenskin: Those suffering under the perception that they are secretly a character from the works of Charles Dickens; usually Mr Guppy, but sometimes Mr F’s Aunt. There is no known cure for Dickenskinism, but leaving two Mrs F’s Aunts in a room together is recommended by doctors as “a galloping good wheeze.”


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Commentary upon “A Catalogue of Chrononauts”

  1. Madam C was heard to remark,

    Upon the 20th of September, 2012 at 5:28 pm,

    This completely cheered me up. Your whimsical brand of nonsense should be bottled and sold by giant faceless pharmaceutical companies as a cure for stress, the common cold, and aging. In fact, I believe I’m almost seven minutes younger after having read this article on time travel- waaait a minute…


  2. The Notorious L.Y.N.Z. was heard to remark,

    Upon the 20th of September, 2012 at 6:45 pm,

    I’m certainly experiencing a lifting and tightening effect as we speak.


  3. Sir Frederick Chook was heard to remark,

    Upon the 21st of September, 2012 at 3:21 am,

    Oh, that will be my complimentary Leopard Oil-Style Facial Corsetry! Nothing promotes a taut countenance like them! Leopard Oil-Style Facial Corsetry: Rumours of Nasal Collapse have been Greatly Exaggerated!


Further remarks are not permitted.