Alternate Dimensions vs Time Travel

Plunderer

A while back, I finished watching the above anime and something got stuck in my head due to the plot.  I apologize in advance for spoilers, so don’t keep reading if you think you’re going to give this show a try.  Personally, it was okay, but I’ll give it credit for being ambitious.

‘Plunderer’ felt like it was attempting to use both time travel and alternate dimensions within its plot.  It wasn’t entirely clear to me as I watched in regards to the latter, but I got that kind of vibe.  Let me say now that I’m not only talking about the multiverse concept, which has been a staple of science fiction since Michael Moorcock’s ‘The Sundered Worlds’ released in 1963.  It’s been a big part of DC comics since the 1960’s as well.  I’m saying this primarily to show that alternate dimensions (and time travel) aren’t new concepts for fiction.  They are difficult to use though.

The challenge with time travel is that you need remember that the present will be altered if you change the past.  Only way around this is to explain how things are fixed. For example, ‘Futurama’ having any paradoxes get eliminated by freak accidents to revive the true timeline.  The problem is that many authors go into this plot device with the idea that it’s a trendy gimmick.  When added to an established lore, time travel can undo the foundation and create plot holes even in older movies if used without caution.  This is a big reason why I don’t think I’ll ever use it.  The risks are too high for the payoff since the audience will pick up on things the author never considered.  Still, that’s just me and the stories work if time travel is the core mechanic like in ‘Back to the Future’.

Alternate dimensions are slightly easier to work with because they’re supposed to be different than the mainline one.  You can introduce variations of characters and even replace if you feel that the current one has grown stale.  Of course, the ease of use and limited impact on the main dimension is why this tactic can become rather dangerous if overused.  An author can create so many versions of their world and characters that they’ll fracture the fanbase with everyone wanting their own favorite to get the spotlight.  So, you need to introduce an alternate dimension and keep the perspective of the true cast if you’re going to use this as a gimmick instead of a core mechanic.

So, how does this work if a story attempts to use both of these complicated devices?

It can get confusing.  ‘Plunderer’ actually used the time travel to reveal that there’s an alternate dimension type of scenario.  I think.  It’s one world having been created high above the other with its own rules and not knowing the old, dying one exists.  It was also established that while the time travelers could be killed and interact with those in the past, the events were locked in.  Although, this still created issues.  For example, they interact with the guy holding a sword when he was younger, but previous episodes had him not recognize any of them during the present.  This brings up the question on if you are now watching a new timeline or if the time travel effects don’t kick in until after the period that they jump back.  See why I don’t touch this thing?

Clearly, I prefer alternate dimensions to time travel.  It’s easier to juggle and less risk of breaking a storyline.  I do think that using the two together can help clear things up such as one being responsible for the other.  They are just similar enough in that they change primary dimensions/timelines that they can mesh.  The flaws in one can be offset by the benefits of the other to some extent.  If anything, the alternate dimension would be a clear explanation of why all previous events no longer mean anything in terms of plot holes since it’s no longer that world.  It’s a rather blunt and nuclear way to do it, but that gets the job down if time travel has created too big a mess.

So, what you think of alternate dimensions and time travel?  Ever try to use them yourself?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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19 Responses to Alternate Dimensions vs Time Travel

  1. I used time travel in Eternal Road but was careful to lay down the rules for the characters. They could take no action that would alter the time continuum including taking or saving a life. For example, they were at the Alamo at the time of the siege. They couldn’t get involved in the fighting since if they shot and killed someone who may not have been shot and killed at the battle, the future for that person and family would be altered and that small difference could change the world. I don’t have experience with another dimension but who knows. Maybe that would be fun. I enjoyed the post, Charles.

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  2. I enjoy time travel stories, but they don’t trip my trigger as an author. I almost feel like everything has been wrung from them. I’m sure that’s not true. I wrote one once for an anthology I was invited to participate in. I like alternate universes. I probably won’t go too far down that path either. I explained the hat as being from another dimension, and intend to have a couple of pocket universes coming soon.

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  3. momomanamu says:

    Very interesting point you have about time travel, it can be very tricky to keep your story straight. You would really need to remember every little detail about your story and the more books you add to your series the more difficult that can be. Honestly, I just like trans-dimensional travel better. I think it allows more variety in the story. If you’re interested in watching a really good anime about dimensional travel, I highly recommend Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, it”s a good one!

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    • I have to agree. Trans-dimensional travel seems easier to juggle. You don’t have to worry about the paradox that comes with time travel. I actually own Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle on DVD. Funny thing is that I’ve never made it beyond the first disc because something always caused me to stop and not get back to it for months/years. Really need to see if I can find it on streaming since it’s a pain to set up the DVD player now.

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  4. momomanamu says:

    Yes, it’s really good! I think Netflix might have it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. L. Marie says:

    I love time travel stories. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis is one of my favorites because it is hilarious and bold enough to discuss the paradox issue. And old seasons of Doctor Who are favorites. I’ve never written this type of story. But they are fun to read.

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  6. Neutrastaff says:

    I always saw time travel as different possibilities for a single dimension. They all have one point in history that’s exactly the same from the past up to that point. Different dimensions is more like a person making a decision on their own with different variables, such as going left or right, without any interference from something like a time traveler

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    • I think it all depends on the mechanics that an author uses. Different possibilities can create alternate dimensions and timelines if the system is set up where those exist. If you have it that there’s only one timeline then traveling to the past can alter it. This is why time travel gives me a headache. 😀

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