Maybe the Future is Bright, Maybe?

In H.G. Wells’ The Time Traveler, our protagonist travels deep into the theoretical dimension of time. Coming out on the other side, he experiences a few realities that all show the fate of earth as a bleak outcome for humanity. I, like many of the narrator’s guests, do not believe the traveler’s stories. I choose not to believe, not because time travel is impossible but because I have faith that humanity will not evolve and transform the earth into something as cruel and unfortunate as the scenes that the readers are introduced to.I don’t remember who said it, but there is a quote that says something along the lines of ~the universe had the infinite possibility to be ugly, yet somehow it is beautiful. Instead of the protagonist tales, let’s actually imagine a world that isn’t ugly.

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In this day, social media is huge and there is no way that it will become less relevant. In my opinion and highest hopes, social media will be what prevent humanity from crumbling to war, crime, and evil science that may have led to the creatures that are seen in a large part o the novel. As a future officer in the Marine Corps, I believe now that the most powerful weapon in the world is finally the common people. It’s not ballistic missile submarines or bombers, it’s the easy of communication and way that sympathy spreads like wildfire that is truly humanity’s hope. A few decades ago, atrocities did not get the coverage they demanded to end, but now nation’s are being held accountable by citizens. I’d like to think that this shift in power will never be undone, when people are in control instead of power craving individuals, then the true nature of humanity comes to light.

This guy. Such love.

Thousands of years of change are impossible to predict, but I refuse to accept Wells’ weak faith in us, as I ultimately see the novel as a refection of human’s direct influence on their own future. I think our future is bright. With so much possibility to be ugly, the universe has continued to choose beauty and I don’t think it’ll ever change it’s mind.

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I’d be willing to bet Einstein said the quote btw.

By Squidward

Varied Representations of Time Machines in Media

For centuries (and possibly longer) humans have written about, fantasized about, and even studied time travel. Time travel appears in many different types of media like books, movies, tv shows, games, and more. There have been many methods used throughout history for characters to time travel ranging from small devices like wrist bands to full size cars. Let’s take a look at a few of the most well-known ones.

Back to the Future – DeLorean

DeLorean time machine car from the Back to the Future series

This is arguably the most iconic time machine device. Created by Doc, the time machine uses the famed “flux capacitor” to travel the car forward and backward in time. As a result of the movies, the DeLorean car has become a prized item among collectors who are looking to recreate the film’s car.

Hot Tub Time Machine – Hot tub

In Hot Tub Time Machine, four guys are discussing the woes of life when they spill an energy drink on the controls of the hot tub that cause it to teleport them back in time to 1986. While not that great of a movie (in my opinion), it portrays a unique take on the “time machine” by using another everyday device to travel through time.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Time Turner

In the third installment of Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Hermoine and Harry are forced to travel back in time a few hours. Hermoine gets a Time Turner – a device that looks like a normal necklace used to travel in time. For many movies, books, etc., time travel capabilities is unknown expect to the few that use it. However, since Harry lives in a world filled with magic, the existence of such a device would not surprise many readers/watchers.

The Time Machine – a Time Machine (great name, I know)

In H.G. Well’s story The Time Machine, a British inventor creates a machine to travel through time. A device like this is what most people would picture when thinking about a time machine. It is a complicated device with many moving parts, levers, and gears, but seems to be based on simple mechanical concepts.

It is interesting to see all the different interpretations of time travelling machines throughout many different genres and mediums. Some devices are everyday things that have been altered to travel through time, and others are entirely new inventions design just for time travel. I’m excited to see what other time travel interpretations directors and writers can create in the future.

Thomas Adams

The Secret Life of the Time Traveller

In The Time Traveller, H. G. Wells paints a picture of a future where humanity has eliminated all struggle and strife, and spends every waking hour in mirth and merriment. Humanity is described as a smaller, dimwitted, and more feeble version of current homo sapiens, and the difference between the appearance of the sexes almost completely gone. In their world of splendor, humanity has forgotten most negative emotions, although fear is very much a part of their life, as a result of the twisted species that their own negligence created. Forced underground by the graceful Eloi, the Morlocks are the workers who dwell in the darkness and return to the surface during the night, hunting the Eloi. The Time Traveller speculates that the Eloi forced them to work on machinery underground, and by adapting to the darkness of the caves, they became a different species of animal. For the first half of the story, the Time Traveller is fascinated with the lives of the Eloi, trying to learn their sweet-sounding language, and even making a close friend, Weena.

The Time Traveller’s foray into the lives of the Eloi sparks the question: what’s the purpose of a life without struggle? The Time Traveller, of course, has challenges of his own in trying to return to his own time period, and he learns much about the two races along the way. By the end, he finds that humanity has doomed itself through the desire to make life easier. But when the Traveller returns to tell the story to his friends, he is met with disbelief, despite the flowers he brings back as evidence. He sees this and doesn’t let their doubt make him falter in his conviction to continue whatever project he has planned with the time machine. In the end, the Time Traveller gathers some supplies and disappears for good on his machine. He may have ended up dead or mad, but it was clear that he went out into the unknown, determined to explore whatever he found. The Time Traveller’s determination reminds me of Walter Mitty, from the 2013 film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

[Trying to withhold spoilers] The movie is about a man who abandons his normal life working for “Life” magazine to embark on a journey in search for a picture that will save his career. Along the way, he goes through challenges and experiences that few would believe, given his boring past. He succeeds in the end, but doesn’t return to his job, and doesn’t really tell anyone the full story of his experience or show pictures (he didn’t take any). Instead he takes a lesson from one of the people he met on the journey: to take in the moment, and truly enjoy it, without distractions. In watching the movie, Mitty reminded me of the Time Traveller, and his boss reminded me of the friends that doubt the story. Much like the Traveller, Mitty doesn’t care about the approval of his boss as much as he did before his life-changing journey. Taking himself out of the narrow view of his life in New York to obtain a more meaningful perspective, Mitty makes a change for the better. As indicated in the epilogue of The Time Traveller, the Traveller goes further in time, maybe seeking to improve humanity and avert our path to a feeble, unintelligent, and divided species. While the stories are different, both characters go through unbelievable adventures in an unlikely place, and find direction and purpose as a result, leaving behind their former lives.

-Chall

When The Hero Cannot Return

By: Carly Vaughn

The Time Machine is an enduring work of science fiction, but reading it again in the context of this class I was struck by the ending more than I have been before and I was reminded forcibly of the ending to Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings.

In The Lord of The Rings, when Frodo completes his quest, he has changed too much to return back to the Shire. Instead he decides to leave Middle Earth forever and sail to the Grey Havens.

We’ve already discussed the imagery of this scene in Tolkien’s work, and I found similar imagery in The Time Machine. The Time Traveller, like Frodo, has gone on an incredible journey and attained knowledge and experience and that sets him apart from the others when he returns home. “‘I’m damned if it isn’t all going. This room and you and the atmosphere of every day is too much for my memory. Did I ever make a Time Machine, or a model of a Time Machine? Or is it all only a dream? They say life is a dream, a precious poor dream at times—but I can’t stand another that won’t fit. It’s madness. And where did the dream come from? … I must look at that machine. If there is one!'” As he says, the “atmosphere of every day is too much”; he can’t handle being back in the company of his old friends with his knowledge of “‘the destinies of our race'”.

The imagery of the setting sun is also apparent in Wells’ story, but this time it takes on a foreboding quality as well as one of finality: “‘Overhead it was a deep Indian red and starless, and south-eastward it grew brighter to a glowing scarlet where, cut by the horizon, lay the huge hull of the sun, red and motionless.'” Though in this story the sun lies immobile in the east, instead of setting in the west, the image foreshadows the Time Traveller’s disappearance from his own time.

Must Be Some Kind Of.. Hot Tub Time Machine, or How Time Machine Creates Meaning in Our Modern World

By Sparling Wilson

H. G. Wells’ Time Machine may at first not seem like a romance akin to the stories by Spenser and Mallory. After all, Wells’ work reminds us more of something we would expect to find in the current Young Adult section of the library. While its Divergent and Hunger Games style of dealing with future dystopia is interesting, what is really special about this story is the way that Wells is able to use the romantic genre to critique society and at the same time use the protagonist’s struggle to inspire hope.

The story follows the hero’s journey pattern pretty closely. The hero, the Time Traveler, departs on his journey through time. He arrives in the year 802,701 to find that civilization as we know it has completely changed. His discovery of the changed Earth represents a kind of “crossing of the threshold” as Joseph Campbell would put it. He experiences varying trials, from communicating with the Eloi (future humans), his descent into the “Underworld” (or plainly speaking, discovering and fighting his way out of the underground world of the Morlocks), and even has a temptress/ romantic interest, Weena. The story is even complete with the Time Traveler returning home, entirely changed by his journey, and then setting out again. Similarly to other works we have explored, such as The Lord of The Rings, The Fairie Queen, and Ready Player One, our romantic hero even has a moment where he is so changed by what he has experienced, that he cannot stay home and continues West. In this case, “West” is the future, which Wells represents by depicting a big, red, setting sun.

While it is very interesting that this story follows the hero’s journey and fits into the category of romance, it is also significant. Wells is able to place his story within a different kind of mythological context, the far-future, whereas stories typical of this genre take place in a mythological form of the past. When romances take place in the past, they tend to serve as a kind of contemplation of our own nostalgia for simpler times when good and evil were black and white. However, by placing this story in the future, Welles flips the genre on its head. Times are no longer simple, but far more complex, hence the dystopia. Good and evil is not as well defined. Yes, the Morlocks attempt to kill the Time Traveler, but we also know that they are the prodigies of an enslaved human race, forced to labor under the ground as a result of a system of massive economic inequality. Thus, we see the remnants of our own society within the framework of the one the Time Traveler visits. However, similarly to the epic struggles of other romantic heroes, the strife of the Time Traveler gives us hope. Unlike typical romances, there is no epic struggle of good versus evil, but the struggle to find meaning within a meaningless world, which is one that we can relate to in modern society. It is the Time Traveler’s struggle, and his ultimate decision to return, that allow us to identify with him and see heroism within ourselves.

Sorry if this gets cheesy : My personal experience with Gone Home

In our discussion of Ready Player One’s cheesy ending, we all pretty much agreed that is was a bit heavyhanded and overly cloying. As one of my fellow classmates noted “ It’s a nice sentiment” but its sentimentality felt forced, empty and unrewarding. Gone Home’s ending which could also be critiqued as sentimental on the other hand rings through with more depth and although disjointed from the misleadingly tense horror motifs, its tenderness resonates through its impression by osmosis rather than a direct handout like in Ready Player One. Also the overwhelmingly intricate amount of irrelevant detail that as Professor Clayton noted is characteristic of contemporary realism further helped create a more subtle effect in its emotional impact.

It also works for me because it literally hit close to home. The deep emotional resonance with this game for me at least worked in part because it eerily felt like The Fullbright company had digitally reconstructed my own childhood. Set in rural Oregon, the game surreally references real life places close to where I grew up like the location of a wedding the family is invited to where I spent many childhood summers in, or in the brochure for Reed College that Sam’s teacher had given her, a real quirky and bohemian school across the city and “the gorge” where the parents have gone to for their couple’s retreat, a scenic spot only an hour out from the city that I frequently visited growing up.

It was only a year and a half ago that I myself came back to a house that was disjointingly familiar yet also changed in my time away after a time abroad in Europe. The rising guilt for leaving a sister who you’re incredibly close to and looks up to right when she’s about to start high school and a whole new vulnerable stage of her life, tasted faintly familiar. Don’t even get me started with the cracks and tension in the parent’s marriage.

Theres a further sense of bittersweet nostalgia that rose in me as I flipped through Sam’s teenage odds and ends. That’s where the difference between Sam and my sister stopped. Where as just like Sam I had a wall covered in photo collages cut from magazine and polaroids of my friends, my sister has Pinterest boards and Instagram picstitches. Instead of doodled upon composition notebook diaries, my sister has a tumblr and livejournal in which she types away her angsty teenage thoughts. Instead of a collection of cassette tapes, she has a favorite Pandora station or Spotify playlist to blast. The nostalgia I know must have been shared by everyone else in the class, in seeing a collection of artifacts that probably weren’t so different from the odds and ends scattered around our teenage bedrooms.

While I think there’s a unique coincidence in the alignment of the game’s narrative with my own life. I do think that the game makers have intentionally placed this game in the 90’s and not contempory times for a reason. I imagine (perhaps wrongly) that the audience for this game is narrower than the typical demographics of popular AAA games, clustering instead around the college aged or older educated and slightly more intellectual crowd that this story-centric game would appeal to. Many of us grew up or came of age in the 90’s and I think the game must resonate in this deeply nostalgic and personal way for others too. It makes a universal call back to the lost analog physicality within which we constructed our identities that is no longer true of the younger generations.

If I had walked into my own house with my family gone and my sister missing, it wouldn’t take more than a few clicks through her Instagram, texts and Facebook (that I’d have to hack into, analogous to finding the combination for sam’s locker) making a much less personal narrative for the game. The world the game recreates is one of a more romantic past where we left bits and pieces of ourselves through physical evidence scattered around us in the physical world. The irony is this memento of a game memorializing an analog past is done through a digital virtual reality. I can only wonder if this interpretation comes only from my coincidental similarity of the game to my own life. Either way, while playing this game I truly felt like I had gone home.

Where will gaming go next?

By Carly Vaughn

In what has to be the best idea ever, Nashville has a new classic-gaming-themed bar/restaurant called Two Bits. It’s right on Demonbreun Hill and I had no idea it was there until this weekend. As a concept, it’s one I’ve seen before. There’s a bar called Penn Social in Washington DC with a similar kind of idea, but that one is mostly focused on board games or games like shuffleboard or cornhole.

Two Bits has some really great classic arcade games, most notably Donkey Kong Jr. which I failed at miserably. There’s also a Ms. Pacman and a Space Invaders machine, along with some newer games like Mortal Kombat II (which I was great at). All of these games are free to play, so I got to try my hand at Donkey Kong Jr. over and over without having to feed in any quarters. But the best part were the old gaming systems they had hooked up to TVs hung over the booths in the back. They had an old N64 with Super Smash Brothers and it was amazing to play with friends like I had when I was younger.

Not only was this a really fun place to hang out and eat fried pickles, I think it speaks to the fact that gaming, even arcade gaming, is not an exclusive culture anymore. It’s being coopted by everyone from t-shirt designers to bars, and I wonder if the widening of the barrier to entry is kind of scary to anyone really engrossed in gaming culture. If developments like this mean that anyone has access to a game like Donkey Kong Jr., does that make its mastery less impressive? If bars let anyone play games like Super Mario Bros on NES, does that cheapen their cultural value?

We were talking about how there are no really literary gaming novels out there yet last class. But I think that’s going to change soon. As gaming becomes more mainstream and accessible, someone will write that Great American Gaming Novel we’re all waiting for. Until then, head over to Two Bits and enjoy the fruits that are already being harvested from gaming’s increased popularity.