Stephen King novels always get a ton of press. The dude has written 50 books now, not including his short story collections, all of which have spent time at #1 on the charts. So it’s no surprise that with the release of the horror author’s next piece, 11/22/63, right around the corner, King is back in the spotlight talking up his latest opus.
This time around, King is taking a step he hasn’t yet taken, he’s dabbling with full-on time travel. Sure some of his novels have taken place in the past, and some have characters crossing dimensions, but this will be the first time a hero will step into a time bubble and travel to a different era altogether. Wired recently caught up with the author to talk about 11/22/63, which follows Jake Epping on a quest into the past to stop the assassination of JFK.
King first explained how time travel works in his world. It actually sounds a lot like Terra Nova, where a time rift appears at two points in time allowing people to pass between them, but not allowing them to travel Bill & Ted-style to any time in history they please.
My hero, Jake Epping, is befriended by a short-order cook who has a kind of a time bubble in the back of his diner. When you go through it, you always come out at the same time: two minutes before noon, on a day in September 1958. Originally the cook uses it to buy meat at ’50s prices for his restaurant and bring it back through. He always has to buy the same meat because he goes into the store at the same time, every time.
Sounds simple enough, but complications arise when time starts fighting back against those who suppose that they can change the course of history.
There’s a kind of a rule that you’d express as a ratio: The more potential a given event has to change the future, the more difficult that event would be to change. If you wanted to go back and speak to somebody on a street corner so that they were five minutes late to an appointment—that might not be too hard. But if you wanted to stop the assassination of a president, that would be really difficult. The past would try to protect itself.
Just based on this, it sounds like King is ditching some of the horror elements that we’re used to seeing from him, and diving head first into a hard sci-fi world. Going ever further, he introduces guardians of the time-space continuum who may present themselves as yet another antagonist for Jake.
There are these guardians who stand watch over all the time portals, because they understand that whenever you go back, you damage the time-space continuum. At the end Jake meets one of them, who tells him, “Every time you did this, you made the situation worse. And if you continue to do it, everything collapses.” To me that’s pretty horrible.
King outlines a couple more small details about his rules for time travel, but this really gives you an idea of what he’s trying to do both with the story and the way time travel works. It doesn’t sound like he’s doing anything that we haven’t seen before, but everything is better with a bit of a Stephen King spin on it so hopefully when this book hits next Tuesday it will impress the same way Under the Dome did.