IFComp 2020: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Sir Isaac Newton finds himself mysteriously transported to the year 2020. This is a very short work, and barely interactive, in a way more often seen in Twine than in a parser-driven work like this one. And it’s rather silly, in sort of a Bill & Ted way, but without the self-awareness. I don’t want to be too mean here — that’s not why I’m singling it out for attention — but I can’t let it go unsaid.

Why am I singling it out for attention, then? Because of the implied time travel mechanics. In 2020, Newton finds a world where his own Principia is unknown, presumably because he hadn’t written it yet when he left 1673. Instead, Einstein wound up having to spend years doing the same work instead of coming up with general relativity. So Newton winds up stealing a copy of Einstein’s Principia from a public library and plagiarizing it in the past: standing on the shoulders not just of the giants that came before him, but those who came after as well.

It’s implied in a few places that he’s doing this to restore the timeline to its proper state — the witch who initiates the story talks about “something wrong with the future”. But what caused this wrongness? Was it just that Newton was absent from the timeline? But the only reason for his absence was that he had gone into the future to see what was wrong so he could correct it, so that’s kind of circular. And the end result consists of not of removing alterations to the timeline and restoring it to its natural state, but introducing an alteration of his own. The story frequently makes mention of how smart Newton is, but the implication of the time shenanigans, if you follow them that far, is that he really wasn’t smart enough to do the things he’s remembered for. It really casts him in a poor light. But in that case, we somehow have a natural timeline that’s “wrong”, and an altered timeline that’s “correct”.

But I suppose it’s best not to give it any more thought than the author did.

No Comments

Leave a reply