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Here's a rambling:
There's been a little debate in the comment room, regarding the Archmage
time travel loop, time travel in general, and the subject of free will in
the Gargoyles universe. I posted my two cents, but thought I should include
it here too, in case anyone missed it:
Oh, I'm probably going to regret this, but...
Gary, Gary, Gary> Yep. There is a loop. And you're comparison to the
classic "Kill your own grandfather" chestnut doesn't parallel.
I could show you this pretty easy on a diagram, but it's a little more
complicated in type. But let me give it a shot.
The grandfather thing is a "non-working" paradox. The timestream short
circuits. [No cheating, now. No "Well, it turns out the man I always
thought of as my grandfather wasn't really my biological grandfather" and no
"He had sex with my grandmother just before I killed him." None of that.] I
go back in time to kill my grandfather. He dies. My father's never born.
I'm never born, therefore I don't exist to go back in time to kill my
grandfather. Since I don't exist, my grandfather never dies. So my father
is born, and, subsequently, so am I, allowing me to go back in time to kill
my grandfather. And so on, and so on, and so on... It iterates without
fusing. Again, short circuit.
Compare another chestnut that I made up a few years ago. I am a historian.
My specialty is Abraham Lincoln. I travel back in time and meet him just
before he's scheduled to give the Gettysburgh Address. To my horror, I
discover that he's got writer's block. The most famous speech a president
ever gave, and Abe can't think of what to write. I panic. And "write" the
speech for him. Of course I didn't compose it. I simply write down the
Gettysburgh Address from memory. Abe loves it. Gives the speech. Reporters
transcribe it. Historians put it in history books. I study it and go back
in time. Time flows unbroken. It is a "working" paradox. A paradox that
doesn't short circuit the time stream. Now it raises a HUGE question? Who
composed the Address? Not Abe, he got it from me. Not me, I got if from a
history book. Not the historians or the reporters, they got it from Abe.
The answer is it was born with the timestream, created by God or the Big Bang
or whatever. It is mysterious. But it works.
The best example of a working paradox story I've ever read is Robert
Heinlein's "All You Zombies". It's a brilliant, subversive little piece of
The Archmage (and/or the M.I.A.) loop has much more in common with the
Gettysburgh chestnut than the Grandfather chestnut. It is a working
paradox. Simpler even than Gettysburgh. You are the Archmage. Once upon a
time, you were a kid. Then you grew up to be a man, and you wind up falling
into a chasm. You're rescued by a "STRANGER" who looks something like you,
but not quite. The "Stranger" mentors you and gives you power and actually
changes you so that you look more like the stranger than like your old self.
Then the "stranger" sends you back in time to that point where you rescue
your old self. Now to that old immature version of you, you seem like "the
stranger". You mentor the old you, you give him power. Then you send him
back to effect the rescue. It's a loop, because you don't go back again.
You continue forward until Goliath does you in. There's a beginning and an
end and a loop in the middle. It IS a paradox. But it's a working paradox.
There's no short circuit. Time flows. THERE IS A BIG QUESTION! Where did
the Archmage get the idea to save himself. Well, he knows to do it because
his old self was a "witness" to the rescue. His old self was the rescuee.
But where did the IDEA come from? Again, a quirk of the timestream.
Many people have asked me why I made this the time travel rule in Gargoyles.
It's a very conservative approach. You can't change history. Period. Sure
we may not know the whole story. But what happened, happened. We can't
change it. That's the rule as I established it in "Vows," and as we stuck
with throughout the series. Why? Time travel is all theoretical. I could
have chosen any rule I wanted. I could have chosen no rules. Why did I
chose this rigid approach? Basically, cuz I thought it was MORE fun. I hate
feeling cheated at the end of stories. Time travel stories are easily
subject to this abuse. So many great Star Trek episodes full of time travel,
wind up wimping out in the end. Cheating. Using non-working paradoxes or
breaking any semblence of rules they've already established. I always felt
ripped off. I didn't want that for Gargoyles. Also it presents our
characters with a greater challenge. Griff vanished in WWII. Goliath goes
back in time to change it. AND HE CAN'T!!!!!! So he has to find another way
to solve the problem. It also explains why our guys just don't go back and
fix things so that the Wyvern Massacre never happened. Once you open a a can
of worms, you're stuck with a lot of worms (or worse, you pretend they aren't
there). That seemed lousy to me, so I made it clear that once an event is
absolutely known, you can't dodge it. Only work within it's frame. It's all
a matter of opinion, but that seemed like MORE fun to me.
And now...DAH DAH DAH. Predestination vs. Free will. This is an ancient
argument. God is omniscient. He knows what Eve is going to do. So she had
no free will, right? Well, most theologians would say she does. Eve is
created with free will by God. She doesn't have to take that apple. Cain
doesn't have to kill Abel. Sure, God knows that Eve is gonna take it, that
Cain is going to kill, but he doesn't impose that knowledge or his authority
on either Eve or Cain. (He's God. He can make those subtle distinctions in
his creations.) The fact that Mom tells you not to eat the cookies and
nevertheless knows you're going to, doesn't mean that you have no free will.
You could surprise Mom and skip 'em. Now you can't surprise God. He's God.
So he knows ahead of time what you're going to do. But it's still your
choice. Nothing touched your free will.
Now, I'll admit, that at times in Gargoyles, that distinction seems less
clear. I'm the main (though not the only) god of the Gargoyles Universe.
(At least I used to be.) But, obviously, I'm not GOD, and I don't have his
subtle powers of creation. But I tried. I suppose it's tough to figure how
the Archmage could choose not to save himself. But I think the key is that
he wouldn't want to choose anything other than what he did. So his free will
isn't touched. Griff chooses to fight in the Battle of Britain. He chooses
to risk his life. He doesn't know about Phoenix Gates or time travel. But
he knows the risks of war. He doesn't make it home for forty years. Maybe
that's a consequence he couldn't predict, but it's better than dieing. His
free will isn't missing from the equation just because the time stream (or
God or whatever you believe in) knows that he's not coming back even before
he departs. In GONE WITH THE WIND, Rhett Butler doesn't join the Confederate
Army until he knows the Confederacy is doomed. HE KNOWS. But that doesn't
effect his free will. We all make decisions. Maybe someone out there knows
the results. God. Or a psychic palm reader living in Petaluma. Or your
Uncle Ralph, who did the exact same thing when he was your age. But the fact
that someone else know, whether we know they know or not, does not effect our
Anyway, that's my two cents. (GDW/1-26-98)