Why Genealogy and Time Travel are a Bad Match

“If you could go back in time and change one thing in your life, what would it be?”

I have the great fortune of having had a wealthy great uncle invest some money into my family’s genealogy. He had 50 beautiful, hard-cover books printed that extends one branch of my family back to the 1400s or so… I don’t know where 49 of those copies are, but my aunt has one, and over the past several years she has meticulously transcribed its contents into Geni.com. With Geni’s matchmaking capabilities, I am very lucky to have a family tree that I’ve been able to trace back as far as Ancient Rome.

Which is really cool.

Now, there’s an interesting thing that happens when you do that. We all like to think that we’re related to famous people – and the truth is that we are. We just can’t all trace it. With the work that’s already been done on my family tree, I have been able to confirm that among my direct descendants are Charlemagne, Augustus Caesar, John I “Lackland,” King of England (signer of the Magna Carta) and my personal favorite, Gor Thorrasson, Sea King and Founder of Denmark (Gor’s brother, Nor, my 41st great uncle, founded Norway).

So, this is a fun game to play, and it’s good for some (I think) impressive social media posts. But, as Jeff Daniels said in the outstanding time travel movie Looper, “This time travel crap, just fries your brain like a egg.” You look at this family tree, and realize that there exists a bloodline that travels from Gor Thorrasson the Sea King to me and my children.

That’s mindblowing. And you realize that there is an awful lot of things that could’ve happened between grandpa Gor, who lived roughly between 342 and 402, and now that could’ve easily spun my personal timeline off in a different direction. It’s extremely humbling to grasp what it took to get me here.

So that question – if you could go back and change something? – I take very seriously because I’ve dug into time travel, I’ve spent the last ten years or so playing with loops and changes and the butterfly effect, and I know just from writing about it that it’s not nearly as clean as we make it in science fiction. But that’s the beauty of science fiction, and I have no intention of stopping playing with time travel, because it rocks!

I hope you enjoy THE GARDEN, and when you read or watch time travel fiction, you can appreciate the deviations that even the most minute changes to history can cause.