Saturday, January 5, 2013
The book on time travel with a doll inside
I have two well-read, elegantly dressed male visitors, perhaps from Buenos Aires. Among the books they have with them is a blue-jacketed volume titled H.G.Wells on Time Travel. I realize I have this on my own shelves, though I haven't looked at it in a long time and possibly never read it closely.
I get down my copy, and find curious things interleaved with the pages. A tiny dress, folded into a neat triangle. The dress is lacy and pretty. Does it belong to a very small girl, or to the doll I also find pressed among the pages? The doll has long curly fair hair and is wearing a different dress. Where did these come from? I set them out on a child-sized writing table.
Feelings: Curious and excited. Also annoyed that noises from the street ripped me from my dreams before I had completed my adventures.
Reality: I last read Wells' The Time Machine in 2006 or 2007, when researching a chapter about Churchill for my Secret History of Dreaming. Wells wrote other things about time travel, including the early story "The Chronic Argonauts" from which he developed The Time Machine as a serial novel. Despite their political differences, Churchill was a great admirer of Wells and valued the prescience of his science fiction stories, which frequently previewed future events and technologies. He especially liked The Time Machine and told his physician in 1947 (when he was very ill and conscious of his own mortality) that he would take a copy of the novel with him into Purgatory.
Are the tiny dress and the tiny doll connected with the tiny, elegant but terminally effete Eloi in the future world Wells' Time Traveler visits? Or with a different trans-temporal story, maybe one of my own? Is the doll a part of soul, or a clue to soul identity that will be discovered and reclaimed in a journey across time?.
The bookish visitors from Buenos Aires make me think of Borges and his friend and collaborator Adolfo Bioy Casares, another great Argentine writer of fantastic tales. Borges' interest in time travel extended to exploring parallel event tracks in parallel universes, as in "The Garden of Forking Paths" and he read and appreciated H.G. Wells; he credited Wells for inspiring his own celebrated short story "The Aleph".
I am leading an adventurous new workshop titled "Time Travel and Reality Creation" near Seattle next weekend, so my dream is rather timely.
Action: Dreams set us research assignments! Look for a book like the one on my dream, which is an anthology and may contain essays on Wells as well as selections from his own writings. See if I can reenter the dream, identify the little girl whose things are inside the book, and interview the visitors from Buenos Aires.
Feedback: Early feedback on this dream is giving me further interesting leads. A dear friend recalls 1940s-style paper dolls she used to dress and play with as a small girl and how she would use them and their paper clothes as bookmarks. Being a boy, I may not have recognized exactly what I was looking at.
After mentioning the paper dolls, she dug up some papers I had sent to her while working on The Secret History of Dreaming. These include detailed reports on the importance of dreams in the writings of H.G.Wells, and how he moved beyond the linear technology-based model of The Time Machine to describe in later stories (like "A Dream of Armageddon") how dreaming is the key to time travel and gives half-awakened individuals the ambivalent power to make choices about where in time they will place their focus and their identity. I had quite forgotten that I wrote these papers. I did not draw from them in my Secret History. So, as in my dream, I was guided to something I had in my personal library, something on "H.G.Wells on Time Travel" written by none other than myself.