First the interesting news.
So this hasn’t been the smoothest book launch I’ve experienced. . . Everyone’s up on the drama that led me to tank the pre-orders and release the book a day ahead of schedule, but it’s turned out there are other errors that didn’t get caught by the last editing round. None were so egregious as the one that caused me to drop the pre-orders to fix it, but still. Fortunately, a bunch of readers were happy to point them out! (And now I’m seriously considering formally crowd-sourcing my editing on the next book.)
So the good news is that after a final final editing round, the ebook was re-uploaded to Amazon and KDP was alerted to the changes. I checked this morning, and, per my request, they’ve set it so that if you go to your Amazon and click on your Content and Devices under your Account and Lists drop-down bar, you will find the above Update Available button on your Recursion purchase.
Click on it, confirm your choice, and you’re good to go.
And now, let’s talk about time.
Before launching Recursion, I promised everyone that it wasn’t a ret-con (retroactive continuity change) or alternate-history story. I hope I delivered to everyone’s satisfaction, but one thing I did drop from the book was the lengthy reason why Shell was absolutely convinced that Hope hadn’t time-traveled and wasn’t in her own past. I referred to the immutability of history and left it at that. So I thought I’d drop the explanation here. This is considered The Way Things Work by post-Event scientists (and is a direct excerpt from the soon-to-be-finished sourcebook for the RPG).
Past Tense, Future Imperfect
Breakthrough powers opened space, although we have yet to do more than establish a foothold on the closest island beyond our own in its infinitely vast ocean. That alone changes everything, but breakthroughs have gone much further than into space. For one thing, in a handful of cases breakthrough powers have enabled time-travel. TIME TRAVEL. Oh, the horror, the horror. . . Wait, it’s not so bad. Nobody has started rewriting history, in fact it can’t be done. And nobody has come back from the future to tell us that we’re Doomed, nothing we can do about it but enjoy ourselves and leave the future to the Morlocks, the Machine Overlords, or whatever.
You can’t break history, and the future isn’t set. Again, it’s not like the comics. This is because, whatever breakthrough power is used to travel, the nature of time appears to be the same for all travelers. It’s divided into the Past, Present, and Future, each of these being territories with different properties.
Time’s Moving Arrow
The easiest way to think about time is as an arrow, represented by a point, launched along a vector, represented by a line, at the moment of the Big Bang. From the moment of “launch”, the speeding point of that arrow (traveling at 1 second per second, of course) is the present, defined as the moment where the sequential possibilities of the universe become actualities. Ahead of time’s arrow are only sequences of possible events. The wake of the arrow is the sequence of decided actualities running back to the beginning. We live in, and our consciousness is ordinarily limited to, that moving possibility-to-actuality convergence point. Let’s call that point P.
P minus x: The Past
What does this mean for time traveling breakthroughs? For starters, for visitors to the past, it means that nothing new can happen in P – x. It’s a fully realized actuality. You can’t go back and murder your own grandfather to commit suicide so thoroughly that you were never born to go back and murder your poor innocent grandfather before he and grandma conceived your dad. Read that sentence again. He wasn’t murdered, so he won’t be murdered, even by you. You can’t change the past. What stops you? That’s up to the GM; it could be hilarious or lethal coincidence, or you could just get popped back to the present the instant you commit to a course that would change history if you carried it through. Because history is fixed, if you go back in time then you are limited to actions that don’t change P. This can be done through a Situation Aspect (or even Campaign Aspect) like You’re History. Literally. The GM can simply point to Aspect Denial whenever you knowingly, or even unknowingly, attempt to do something that will change history and rewrite the present. Alternatively, he can compel the Aspect if it will get your PC in serious trouble.
Which doesn’t mean that you can’t interact with P – x. You could, for example, go back with a backpack full of synthetic diamonds, convert the diamonds to cash, and use the cash to buy carefully picked shares of preferred stocks. Set up a trust to curate those investments for you, and then return to the present and collect your earnings. Go buy an island.
Anything you do in the past was part of the past before you were born. Ironically, this means you could be your own grandpa. Actually, could is the wrong word; you either are or you aren’t, there is never a time where you weren’t but then you were. This means that all actions time travelers take in the past are, in a weird way, fated. Try not to think about it too much. The good news from all of this is that, knowing that time travel is possible, you never need to wonder if you’ve been retconned, or someday might get written out of existence, by a time traveler going back to change things. It. Can’t. Be. Done.
P plus x: The Future
So what about the future, the P plus x point ahead of the moving arrow, the territory full of unactualized possibilities? Well there you can do anything. Anything, that is, except visit the same possible future twice. Why? Because P + x isn’t real in the same way as P and P – x are. P + x depends on the conditions of P. When you visit P + x (really visiting just one of the infinite array of potential Ps, usually the most likely one), and bring back knowledge of what might happen in that unactualized country, or bring back future-tech or whatever, you change P. Change P and you change P + x; any visit to P + x, that you return from, automatically retcons P + x. It’s not going to happen now, whether the new potential future is only different in a trivial way or in every way. This doesn’t make the knowledge or stuff you brought back to P disappear, since it is now actualized, a part of P.
Breakthroughs and P
The concrete inviolability of the past, and the transience of the future, still leaves time traveling breakthroughs with a lot of play. If you can go back, then simple tricks like going back and putting a gun in a location you know you’re going to need it to be later, work just fine. If you need to get somewhere fast and undetected, travel back or ahead far enough that whomever is looking for you in the present isn’t looking yet or anymore, make your trip, and then return to the present. And of course, as the Teatime Anarchist demonstrated, future tech and future knowledge is power. One last limit on temporal hi-jinxes is that your personal P is synced to the universe’s P; if you spend an hour in the future or past, an hour will also pass in the present—you can’t be gone a year and come back to the second that you left. Which still leaves many possibilities. See Ami Hasikawa (p. XX-p. XX) for an example.
Psychics and the Duplicate Solution
Researchers are now fairly certain that the existence of P – x and P + x is the basis for psychic powers like precognition (the ability to “see” the future) and psychometry (the ability to read the history of objects). The transient nature of P + x may also explain the power some breakthroughs possess to duplicate themselves; they are pulling future-selves from some number of potential futures into P with them. These “temporal copies” would be from only fractions of a second into the future. Of course it’s possible that some breakthrough duplicators work this way, while others don’t. In any case, until a Verne-Type develops a time-barrier that blocks travel to and from P + x, it’s only speculation.
So there you have it; the rationale behind the first Wearing the Cape story. And now moving on (like we have a choice, we’re always moving on), I thought I’d throw this offer up here:
LET’S MAKE THIS THE SPOILER POST
Anybody who wants to reply to this post with questions about the ebook update, or about P, P – x, and P + x, feel free. But also, lets make this the post for discussing anything related to Recursion. Your favorite scenes. Confusing scenes. Stuff you thought worked, stuff you thought didn’t. Ideas launching from the story. Praise, criticism, whatever.
But if you do, start your reply with a capitalized SPOILER ALERT. That way anyone looking for non-spoiler topics can avoid your reply until they’ve read the book.
Looking forward to it.
Marion G. Harmon