Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891


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

Po’Boy and the Arcane Practices of History

Penned upon the 21st of November, 2010

My old chum Andrew has a new project which you really should see – a marvellous mag which goes by the name of Po’Boy! You can already read my debut article there – So You’ve Travelled Back In Time, a string of antique conchiolin deposits of wisdom for the cautious Connecticut Yankee. I thought I might expand on some of the topics I raise there, with particular reference to the esoteric study known to certain scientists and mystic thinkers as Retroprophecy.

I first discovered this discipline in my researches with the Antipodean League of Temporal Voyagers, assisting with their chronocartographical projections. The classic problems of time travel, well-known to physicists and logicians, remained stumpers – if it is possible to change the past, can one then paradoxically prevent one’s present actions? And why is there no evidence of any future travellers having passed by? If time travel were impossible, neither would be an issue – but the League’s experiments had demonstrated that time travel certainly was possible, and made for a charming Saturday outing at that.

With time, contemplation, and an endless parade of cheese sandwiches, I had a startling realisation – that the mystery suffered for being attempted by such strict rationalists as it had. Its framing assumed that all the variables were known, that motives and actions and consequences were perceptible and measurable – but this is history we’re talking about! If a historian says they’ve measured a motivation, you know it’s time for Nursie to come wheel them off to bed. History, like its practitioners, is vague, grimy and shrouded in mystery and inaccurate lecture timetables.

Another staple of history, like much of cautious academia, is the ornamentation of established ideas with small but striking adornments of revision – the buttonholes of progress, we might say. With this in mind, I recalled a popular theory: if we can travel to the past and still retain the present, then what has already happened – including what has happened to time travellers – is set, fixed, unchangeable. The present we now enjoy relies on time travellers having done their work, and could never have been otherwise! Our records show no evidence of time travellers, exactly… which proves that what time travellers there have been have avoided being recorded! What alterations they have made to the timeline (in order to keep it exactly the same) have been masterfully subtle, possibly by chance, or out of fear of discovery… or of those damnable time-moths!

*ahem* Sorry, became incautiously academic there. To return to my sound, valid, and extremely persuasive reasoning… the “closed loop” theory, as it’s titled by people a good deal clever than me, allows for time travel by predestining the actions of time travellers. In such a system, you can’t go back and prevent, say, World War II – and it’s entirely possible that your meddling in the affairs of the Weimar Republic actually contributed to causing it all along. Do you really want something like that on your conscience? Better to stay out of mid-twentieth-century politics altogether.

Now, you may well ask: does this mean I have no control over my own fate? If I would be powerless to act on past events, would it not be foolish to assume I had free will in the present? Perhaps, but, again, we must consider the possibility from a historic viewpoint. The closest we can come to knowing to determining for certain what may have happened to any given temporal voyager – barring chancing it ourselves – is through examining accounts and records the same as we would any other event. The future might be predetermined, but we cannot know it with certainty – and what difference is there between an uncertain future, and a certain future that is not known? Thus, Retroprophecy; the finding of future-knowledge in the study of the past, endowing visions and predictions with all the glorious uncertainty of historical fact.

The waters of this practice run deep, but I can think of an immediate application: the vetting of any potential time traveller against records of individuals of similar appearance, who have seemingly appeared from nowhere and who either disappeared just as mysteriously, or met nasty (possibly moth-related) ends. With the identification of these cases, and the blacklisting of any who may have been time travellers one doesn’t wish to become, I imagine the rates of death by Bronze Age-weaponry, matchlock pistol-fire and Borgia-related dismemberment could be reduced significantly. What do you think? If you have some ideas for Retroprophetic methods – or are even an established practitioner! – write to FrillyShirt here or at the address below, and share your views!

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