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Guest post by J W Alden: the story behind the story

This week’s sci-fi tale from Futures is the time-travelling, loop-inducing Möbius by J W Alden. The story is the author’s debut Futures appearance, but he kindly took time out to explain what inspired the tale. You can catch up on his other activities at his website. Please note this guest post contains spoilers, so read the story first!

Writing Möbius

Within the Sanskrit epic of ancient India, the Mahabharata, is the story of a king named Kakudmi, who seeks the counsel of the Hindu god Brahma to decide who should have his daughter’s hand in marriage. He waits patiently to gain an audience with the deity, only to find that time passes very differently on Brahma’s plane — millions of years have passed on Earth while he waited. His daughter’s suitors have long passed away. There’s a similar story in the Jewish Talmud. Honi ha-M’agel sleeps for 70 years and wakes to find that no one will believe he is who he says he is (written around 1,800 years prior to the publication of Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle). There are more stories like these in the Buddhist Pāli Canon, the Islamic Quran, and the Japanese Nihon Shoki. In other words, we’ve been fascinated by time travel for a very long time.

For me, it’s been about 23 years, which is most of my life. Back to the Future led to A Sound of Thunder, which led to The Time Machine, which led to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. In a way, I suppose I was traveling back in time myself as I moved from one story to the next. When I grew old enough to know I wanted to start making up tales of my own, I knew one day I’d get around to writing a time travel story. Möbius is it.

In many ways, Möbius is about the decade of my life I spent working in a dusty retail warehouse. I would trudge to this job every night (it was the graveyard shift) and perform the same menial tasks over and over again. These nights blurred together as though part of some miserably repeating loop, and the longer it repeated, the more trapped I felt. Outside the job, life went on: I met my future wife, made a home in South Florida, and began to write. But the gradual change in perspective that comes with growing up did little to distract me from the loop; it only intensified the feeling that I was wasting years of my life on a solitary track to nowhere.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to step in front of a van to free myself of that particular möbius. All I had to do was quit my job. And as miserable as those years were, I suppose I ought to be thankful for them. After all, they got me into Futures.

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