The Novel – Timeshaft
You’ve probably noticed that when you stand on the beach and watch the waves, every now and then there’s one that comes in which just seems to stand out from the rest. It’s bigger, noisier and has the most impact. That’s the one which will make you wake up and step back in amazement and wonder…how?
In the raging sea that is the world of time travel novels Timeshaft is such a wave!
This is one of the best time travel novels I’ve read and stands above many other novels I’ve given the full 5 stars to. It covers time travel mechanics, plays with time travel paradoxes, looks at the whys of time travel, and the characters do something when they’re at their (varied) temporal locations.
Timeshaft has it all, and it’s all written up in a wonderful and varied writing style!
The Author Interview – Stewart Bint
The author swirling up the time travel waters is Stewart Bint, and in this interview Stewart fills us in on a few more details behind the time travel mechanics, the characters and his thoughts for the future.
Stewart, many thanks for your time – and for casting Timeshaft out into the time travel ocean for us to enjoy!
I understand that Timeshaft arose from combining two novellas; “Malfunction” and “Ashday’s Child”. Would you consider melding others of your short stories into a full length novel?
Stewart: Well I hadn’t. But now you’ve planted the seed, who knows how tall the resulting Oak might grow? I have 17 short stories to choose from, which comprise my Thunderlands collection. For example, The Twitter Bully, which tells how a Twitter troll gets his come-uppance in a particularly horrific way, could combine with the nonsense poem Ree – The Troll Of Dingleay (the story of how a troll of the living-under-the-bridge type – although he does actually live in a cottage by a stream – finds true love). A Timely Murder, about a man in the UK concocting a perfect alibi, could combine with The Growing Thing’s tale of an alien eating children and dogs in a Los Angeles park.
Don’t ask me how, yet. That’s the beauty of it. When I wrote Malfunction and Ashday’s Child they were completely stand-alone stories, and indeed, still are. It was only when I was plotting the storyline for Timeshaft that I began to see how I could link the two and make them an integral and absolutely vital part of the novel.
You’ve written two other novels (“The Jigsaw and the Fan” and “In Shadows Waiting”) but Timeshaft is your first feature length time travel novel. Did you come across any specific difficulties in writing when it comes to dealing with time travel?
Stewart: The main difficulty was keeping the sequence of events in the right order for the complicated time travel paradoxes to unfold naturally, and in a fully understandable way. Also, the interaction between the two main characters, 73-year-old Ashday’s Child and Caitlin Lang, who is in her early 20s, was difficult to keep on an even keel. This got even more complicated when the pair met the other two times travellers who are also in their early 20s.
Timeshaft is all about the causal loop – is there are a reason why you chose this particular time travel paradox over any other to focus your attention on?
Stewart: Timeshaft’s overall story arc incorporates two main causal loops – the explosion in Australia, and of course the epic loop of Ashday’s Child’s very existence and his personal mission (or as he likes to constantly remind us, his destiny). I have always been fascinated by the concept of going back in time to prevent something from happening and then inadvertently causing it to happen. I actually started to write a story based on that when I was 19, but it never got beyond the first chapter. But the legacy it left in my mind gnawed away at me until I wrote it as Malfunction in 2012, which went on to became Timeshaft’s opening chapter.
The timeshaft exists in every single point of Earth’s time – and in a separate dimension. But it seems that travel through it is done so in chronological order, i.e. we must go through 2020 on the way from 2016 to 2026 (for example). I didn’t understand why – can you explain (maybe again!) why time travel in the timeshaft isn’t done in ‘parallel’ allowing movement directly from 2016 to 2026?
Stewart: I see the timeshaft as a highway with the portals being the entry-exit intersections. Because the timeshaft uses ley lines as its “host” the explosion blasted the sun’s energy along those ley lines, but in time rather than space. But the only way to travel through time in them is linear. Hope that makes sense!
Ashday’s Child’s right-hand wingman is a wingwoman, and equally, Nadia is a more than capable pioneer of time travel. Was it a deliberate decision to have strong female characters?
Stewart: Interesting you ask that! I wanted every character to fully earn their place in the story, and not simply be a passenger, and I thought I’d achieved that. But the publisher’s editor felt the original manuscript undervalued Caitlin, so I worked hard at the editing stage to develop her character. And here’s a little secret: The very last line of the original manuscript revealed Nadia Reeder to be Ashday’s Child’s daughter! My editor did not like that one little bit. So out it came…along with a few clues to that relationship scattered throughout the story.
So, to answer your question succinctly, yes, it was deliberate, but I failed originally. It shows just how valuable an editor’s role is, in taking an author’s manuscript and turning it into a marketable product.
The other time travel pioneer in Timeshaft, Phillip, mentions that the 1990s were a transition from old technology to the new. He highlights the coming of the world wide web, mobile communication and the digital age. What sort of technological developments would you like to see today?
Stewart: It would definitely have to be storing people’s memories and mental abilities in a retrievable database, so when we shuffle off this mortal coil our minds remain immortal.
The underlying motivation for time travel in Timeshaft is one of environmentalism. What’s the biggest change we can make today to make the Earth sustainable?
Stewart: Embrace renewable energy.
In your novel, insects (and spiders) appear in the future, similar to futuristic stories from HG Wells (“Empire of the Ants”) and John Wyndham (“Wanderers of Time”). What is it about these species which make them attractive for future existence and dominance over humankind?
Stewart: Two aspects: The fact that they don’t actively cause long-term damage to the environment, and their ability to adapt to changing environments. They will be able to cope with whatever horrors mankind throws at the earth. That’s why they’ll still be here when mankind isn’t.
I was interested to read that you enjoy barefoot hiking. Where’s the most ‘barefoot-unfriendly’ place you’ve walked? (And did it involve insects?)
Stewart: Barefoot hiking certainly helps me to relax and feel at one with nature…and I generally go barefoot almost all the time now anyway. I also make use of that to support and raise awareness for charities. I’ve done sponsored barefoot walks in the past, and am doing a barefoot walk in July to raise awareness for a group that collects donations of clothes for refugees. They say the refugees urgently need shoes…so what better way to promote that in the media than me going barefoot?
Most barefoot-unfriendly place I’ve walked? It was on a sponsored ten mile barefoot trek to raise funds and awareness for Lyme Disease. The terrain included gravel paths, woodland trails, tarmac pavements and grassland, all of which I love, and have no problem walking on. But of course, we had to encounter my personal nemesis – a carpet of dead holly leaves! That called for extremely careful negotiation. But no insects!
Barefoot hiking and insects. You’re forcing me into this…
Question: What do you call a fly with no wings? Answer: A walk.
My youngest daughter finds this “Dad joke” hilarious. My oldest daughter laughs, but I suspect it might be done out of sympathy. My wife looks at me as if I’m stupid (but also very macho). I’d like to think there are levels of decreasing truth in their reactions to this “Dad joke”. How did you react? (Be honest – your 5 star rating is intact! 😉 )
Stewart: I thought it was funny the first time I heard it. It probably beats my “Dad joke” in terms of cringeworthiness, though, which my daughter groaned at when she was around six: “Does Pa like Bovril? No, but Ma might.”
As one Englishman to another, if I were to offer you a cup of tea, is it milk in first or milk in second?
Stewart: Tea! I’m tea-total…totally against tea. Can we make it coffee instead? But in either case, it’s milk in first. That’s what I do with coffee, and I make my wife’s tea that way, too.
Is adding “milk in first” to a cup of tea which is yet to be poured a causal paradox?
Stewart: No. The causal paradox would be going back in time to prevent someone killing the cow before she produced that particular pint of milk.
Timeshaft screams for a place on every time travel fan’s bookshelf! I discuss why in my review (link below) as well as posing a question which has left me a little stumped…
Timeshaft now has a new publisher, Dragon Moon Press, who will have a new edition out in time for an almost seamless transition when Booktrope closes on May 31st. Seems as good a time as any to get hold of a copy!