Sources and Further Reading

tt-gif-241x300The books, movies, television shows, and other stories and studies on which I most relied when exploring time travel. The same list appears in the book, but here I’ll be adding a few notes and elaborations from time to time.

A list of true “sources” for Time Travel might start to look like Borges’s Library of Babel. At some point everything starts to be at least a little time-travelish, or timey-wimey. So this is a peculiar sort of bibliography.

Some of the books (and movies and television shows) I list here are very much in the foreground. Of course the beginning is H. G. Wells’s Time Machine. I discuss certain landmark works at some length, from Robert Heinlein’s early story “By His Bootstraps” to William Gibson’s recent novel The Peripheral. Some extremely important works are not obviously time travel at all, like Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven. There’s the hard-to-find film La jetée (inspiration for the more mainstream Twelve Monkeys) and the amazing, mind-twisting episode of Doctor Who titled “Blink.”

But others are lurking, let’s say, in the background. I may not actually mention Alan Lightman’s Einstein Dreams, but it was often on my mind: a brilliant set of variations on the possibilities of altered time. My thinking about free will and determinism was shaped—altered—by Ted Chiang’s remarkable “Story of Your Life.” And so on. Critics, philosophers, and historians, too, have tackled these deep questions in ways that influenced me.

These works stand the test of time.



  • Edwin Abbott Abbott
    • Flatland (1884).
      • Not a time-travel book at all, really. Just a fable that got people thinking about higher (and lower) dimensions.
  • Douglas Adams
    • “Pirate Planet” (episode of Doctor Who, 1978).
    • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980).
  • Woody Allen
    • Sleeper (1973).
      Sleeping into the future is one way to get there.
      sleeperWoody Allen’s first (and not last) time-travel movie honors the tradition of Rip Van Winkle. Up to a point. “I haven’t seen my analyst in two hundred years. He was a strict Freudian. If I’d been going all this time, I’d probably almost be cured by now.”
    • Midnight in Paris (2011).
  • Kingsley Amis
    • The Alteration (1976).
  • Martin Amis
    • “The Time Disease” (1987).
    • Time’s Arrow (1991).
  • Isaac Asimov
    • The End of Eternity (1955).
  • John Jacob Astor IV
    • A Journey in Other Worlds (1894).
  • Kate Atkinson
    • Life After Life (2013).
    • A God in Ruins (2014).
  • Marcel Aymé
    • “La Décret” (1943).
      Marcel Aymé deserves to be much better known.
      Marcel Aymé
      Marcel Aymé walking through a wall in Montmartre, Paris.
      English-speaking readers can start with this collection, which includes “La Décret,” the darkly fantastic, ineffably poignant story I write about in Chapter Four. It is set (and was written) in German-occupied France. The narrator becomes an accidental time traveler. And so have we all.

      It became obvious that the notion of time, as our ancestors had transmitted it down the millennia, was in fact absurd claptrap.

  • John Banville
    • The Infinities (2009).
    • Ancient Light (2012).
  • Max Beerbohm
    • “Enoch Soames” (1916).
      What a wicked sense of humor had Max Beerbohm.
      I won’t give away the story (I do spoil it in the book), in which the devil enables our hapless time traveler to make an unwelcome discovery about himself. Instead, here is a Beerbohm drawing of H. G. Wells meeting himself.
  • Alfred Bester
    • “The Men Who Murdered Mohammed” (1958).
  • Edward Bellamy
    • Looking Backward (1887).
  • Michael Bishop
    • No Enemy but Time (1982).
  • Jorge Luis Borges
    • El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (1941).
    • El Aleph (1945).
    • Nueva refutación del tiempo (1947).
      “Our heresiarch uncle ...
      with his doctrines of circular time, his invisible tigers, his paradoxes, his knifefighters and mirrors…”
      —William Gibson
  • Ray Bradbury
    • “A Sound of Thunder” (1952).
      You've heard of the Butterfly Effect?

      Embedded in the mud, glistening green and gold and black, was a butterfly, very beautiful and very dead. ‘Not a little thing like that! Not a butterfly!’ cried Eckels.

  • Ted Chiang
    • “Story of Your Life,” (1998).
  • Ray Cummings
    • The Girl in the Golden Atom (1922).
  • Philip K. Dick
    • The Man in the High Castle (1962).
    • Counter-Clock World (1967).
    • “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts,” (1974).
  • Daphne du Maurier
    • The House on the Strand (1969).
  • T. S. Eliot
    • Four Quartets (1943).
  • Harlan Ellison
    • “The City on the Edge of Forever” (Star Trek) (1967).
  • Ralph Milne Farley
    • “I Killed Hitler,” (1941).
  • Jack Finney
    • “The Face in the Photo,” (1962).
    • Time and Again (1970).
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” (1922).
  • E. M. Forster
    • The Machine Stops (1909).
  • Stephen Fry
    • Making History (1997).
  • Rivka Galchen
    • “The Region of Unlikeliness,” (2008).
  • Hugo Gernsback
    • Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 (1925).
  • David Gerrold
    • The Man Who Folded Himself (1973).
  • William Gibson
    • “The Gernsback Continuum,” (1981).
    • The Peripheral (2014).
  • Terry Gilliam
    • Twelve Monkeys (1995).
  • James E. Gunn
    • “The Reason Is with Us,” (1958).
  • Robert Harris
    • Fatherland (1992).
  • Robert Heinlein
    • “Life-Line,” (1939).
    • “By His Bootstraps,” (1941).
    • Time for the Stars (1956).
    • “‘—All You Zombies—’” (1959).
  • Washington Irving
    • “Rip Van Winkle,” (1819).
  • Henry James
    • A Sense of the Past (1917).
  • Alfred Jarry
    • “Commentaire pour servir à la construction pratique de la machine à explorer le temps,” (1899).
  • Rian Johnson
    • Looper (2012).
  • Ursula K. Le Guin
    • The Lathe of Heaven (1971).
    • Hardly a book of time travel.
      More a book of dreams.

      We also have been variously disturbed. Concepts cross in mist. Perception is difficult. Volcanoes emit fire. Help is offered: refusably. Snakebite serum is not prescribed for all. Before following directions leading in wrong directions, auxiliary forces may be summoned.

      lathe-jacketA small masterpiece. Le Guin asks us to stretch our imagination, our sense of what is and what might be, in a unique direction. She does not make matters easy for the reader. She draws us no diagrams. We must drift in her currents and listen carefully. The music changes. The weather changes.

    • A Fisherman of the Inland Sea (1994).
  • Murray Leinster (William Fitzgerald Jenkins)
    • “The Runaway Skyscraper,” (1919).
  • Stanisław Lem
    • Memoirs Found in a Bathtub (1961).
    • The Futurological Congress (1971).
  • Alan Lightman
    • Einstein’s Dreams (1992).
  • Samuel Madden
    • Memoirs of the Twentieth Century (1733).
  • Chris Marker
    • La jetée (1962).
      “I will have spent my life trying to understand
      the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but its other side.”
      La jetee
      I want to call La jetée the greatest time-travel movie ever made. Yet it’s a bit obscure—rare and hard to find. It’s black-and-white, and short (28 minutes), and barely a movie at all. Its creator, Chris Marker (not his real name) called it a (in French) “un photo-roman,” a photo-novel. Mainly it is composed of still photos. But not entirely, and beware, the exception can make your heart stop. I write about this movie at some length in the book and won’t say more here.
  • J. McCullough
    • Golf in the Year 2000, or, What Are We Coming To (1892).
  • Louis-Sébastien Mercier
    • L’An deux mille quatre cent quarante, rêve s’il en fût jamais (1771).
  • Edward Page Mitchell
    • “The Clock That Went Backward,” (1881).
  • Steven Moffat
    • Blink (Doctor Who) (2007).
  • Vladimir Nabokov
    • Ada (1969).
  • Edith Nesbit
    • The Story of the Amulet (1906).
      The dark backward and abysm of time
      E. Nesbit—her gender-free authorial name—was the first English writer to explore the new possibilities of time travel by hurling her child heroes into the past.
      The road that starts with this charming tale led, much later, to such classics as Peabody’s Improbable History (with the time-traveling cartoon beagle and his pet boy, Sherman), and to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. C. S. Lewis said of this book: “It first opened my eyes to antiquity, the ‘dark backward and abysm of time.'”
  • Audrey Niffenegger
    • The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003).
  • Dexter Palmer
    • Version Control (2015).
  • Edgar Allen Poe
    • “The Power of Words,” (1845).
    • “Mellonta Tauta: On Board Balloon ‘Skylark,’ April 1 (2848),” (1849).
  • Marcel Proust
    • À la recherche du temps perdu (1913–27).
  • Harold Ramis & Danny Rubin
    • Groundhog Day (1993).
  • Philip Roth
    • The Plot against America (2004).
  • W. G. Sebald
    • Austerlitz (2001).
  • Clifford D. Simak
    • Time and Again (1951).
  • Ali Smith
    • How to Be Both (2014).
  • George Steiner
    • The Portage to Cristobal of A.H. (1981).
  • Tom Stoppard
    • Arcadia (1993).
  • William Tenn
    • “Brooklyn Project,” (1948).
  • Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
    • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1899).
  • Jules Vernes
    • Paris au XXe siècle (1863).
  • Kurt Vonnegut
    • Slaughterhouse-Five (1969).
  • H. G. Wells
    • The Time Machine (1895).
      Where it all begins.

      The night came like the turning out of a lamp, and in another moment came to- morrow. The laboratory grew faint and hazy, then fainter and ever fainter. To-morrow night came black, then day again, night again, day again, faster and faster still.

      The first novel of a striving writer in Victorian England. He received £100 for it.

      The golden age of sci-fi book jackets had not yet arrived.
      The golden age of sci-fi book jackets was still to come.
      Tour de force of ghastly imaginings,” wrote one reviewer, while another sniffed, “We have some difficulty in discerning the exact utility of such excursions into futurity.” By now The Time Machine is one of those books you feel you must have read at some point, whether or not you actually did. One way or another, the inventions of H. G. Wells color every time-travel story that followed. When you write about time travel, you either pay homage to The Time Machine or dodge its shadow.

    • The Sleeper Awakes (1910).
  • Connie Willis
    • Doomsday Book (1992).
  • Virginia Woolf
    • Orlando (1928).
  • Charles Yu
    • How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (2010)
    • A brilliant fiction—or metafiction?—about a time-machine technician named “Charles Yu.”
      “He sleeps alone, in a quiet, nameless, dateless day . . . tucked into a hidden cul-de-sac of space-time, and he feels safe there. yuHe has his own mini-wormhole generator that he can use to spy on other universes. Sometimes he has to explain the facts of life to his customers, people who rent time machines in hopes of going back and changing history, or people who rent time machines but worry about inadvertently changing history: ‘Oh God, they say, what if I go back and a butterfly flaps its wings differently and this and that and world war and I never existed and so on and yeah.’ The rules are that you can’t. People never want to hear it, but you can’t change the past.”
  • Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale
    • Back to the Future (1985).


Many anthologies of time-travel stories have been assembled over the years, reflecting changes in fashion as well as the varied tastes and interests of the collectors. These five are my favorites.

  • Mike Ashley
    • The Mammoth Book of Time Travel SF (2013).
  • Peter Haining
    • Timescapes (1997).
  • Robert Silverberg
    • Voyagers in Time (1967).
  • Harry Turtledove & Martin H. Greenberg
    • The Best Time Travel Stories of the Twentieth Century.
  • Ann & Jeff Vandermeer
    • The Time Traveler’s Almanac (2013).
      My desert-island anthology
      No matter how many time-travel stories you choose as favorites, you’re going to omit someone’s. There’s no perfect anthology; every one is different, depending on goals, taste, and mood. 0765374218-02-lzzzzzzzBut if I had to take one to the desert island, it would be Ann and Jeff Vandermeer’s collection: a biblical tome, eclectic and wide-ranging, beautifully edited and gorgeously published. Ann is a Hugo-award winning editor, and Jeff is the author of the Southern Reach trilogy, and they include a valuable set of original essays about time travel.

About Time and Time Travel

  • Paul E. Alkon
    • Origins of Futuristic Fiction (1987).
  • Kingsley Amis
    • New Maps of Hell (1960).
  • Isaac Asimov
    • Futuredays (1986).
  • Svetlana Boym
    • The Future of Nostalgia (2001).
  • Jimena Canales
    • The Physicist and the Philosopher (2015).
    • When Albert Einstein met Henri Bergson

      ‘The time of the universe’ discovered by Einstein and ‘the time of our lives’ associated with Bergson spiraled down dangerously conflicting paths, splitting the century into two cultures.

      canalesAn original and highly creative historian of science charts the very different stories—intersecting once, in a moment of high drama—of two iconic thinkers about time, Albert Einstein and Henri Bergson. It seems that one was highly influential while the other has mostly faded from view. But they are both essential to the story of time and time travel. Canales shows how each illuminates the other.

  • Sean Carroll
    • From Eternity to Here (2010).
  • Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr.
    • The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction (2008).
  • Paul Davies
    • About Time (1995).
    • How to Build a Time Machine (2001).
  • John William Dunne
    • An Experiment with Time (1927).
      All but forgotten now, this strange book
      made a sensation in certain literary circles of the 20s and 30s. dunne-experimentwithtime-2nd-edn-2-front200 J. B. Priestly, J. R. R. Tolkien, and T. S. Eliot were all influenced by it. Dunne was an Irish-born aeronautical engineer and an admirer of H. G. Wells (who nonetheless disavowed his theories). Building on his own experience of uncanny “precognitive” dreams, the future intruding on his sleeping mind, he constructs a whole theory of time, including, incidentally, “the first scientific argument for human immortality.” Of course it’s all utterly crackpot, but it’s fun, and it’s still in print.
  • Arthur Eddington
    • The Nature of the Physical World (1928).
  • J. T. Fraser
    • ed., The Voices of Time (1966) (1981).
  • Peter Galison
    • Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps: Empires of Time (2004).
  • J. Alexander Gunn
    • The Problem of Time (1929).
  • Claudia Hammond
    • Time Warped (2013).
  • Wyndham Lewis
    • Time and Western Man (1928).
  • Michael Lockwood
    • The Labyrinth of Time (2005).
  • J. R. Lucas
    • A Treatise on Time and Space (1973).
  • John W. Macvey
    • Time Travel (1990).
  • Paul J. Nahin
    • Time Machines (1993).
  • Charles Nordmann
    • The Tyranny of Time (Notre Maître le Temps) (1924).
  • Clifford A. Pickover
    • Time: A Traveler’s Guide (1998).
  • Paul Ricoeur
    • Time and Narrative (Temps et Récit) (1984).
  • Lee Smolin
    • Time Reborn (2014).
  • Stephen Toulmin & June Goodfield
    • The Discovery of Time (1965).
  • Roberto Mangabeira Unger & Lee Smolin
    • The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time (2014).
  • David Foster Wallace
    • Fate, Time, and Language (2010).
  • Gary Westfahl, George Slusser, & David Leiby, eds.,
    • Worlds Enough and Time (2002).
  • David Wittenberg
    • Time Travel: The Popular Philosophy of Narrative (2013).