Friday, 30 January 2015

Time travel bartering...

A character in my WIP is recalling when, having got his hands on a time travel device, he attempted to visit the Colosseum and see the gladiators. Before going, he researched and purchased a toga and sandals, so he could pass in a crowd. He thought his public-school Latin might come in handy. And he took some items to barter, because he wasn't sure if you had to pay an entrance fee to the Colosseum (coincidentally, neither am I). Needless to say, the trip did not go well.

And serve him right - what sort of person would want to watch the nasty stuff that went on in the Colosseum in ancient Roman times?

I wondered a) where you lot would go if you had a time machine - the discreet sort that goes round your wrist, and b) what you would take to barter for money? My character, Quinn, takes glass spheres in various sizes, drinking glasses, pads of paper and colouring pencils - unless you can make a better suggestion?


  1. If you are in an agricultural era (after 2000 B.C.E or so) your probably going to have problems many places you go. Strangers without some sort of pass and or a very obvious reason to be there, generally got in a lot of trouble in pre-modern societies. Where there is trade, there is often a lot of restrictions (guild rules, mercantile/tax monopolies)so processed or finished goods can be problematic.

    That being said, ingot silver and gold probably gets you in the least trouble. If you are in a civilized area, you need to put it in the local currency quickly though. I don't recall there ever being a restriction on jewelry either, and it would have the advantage of making people assume you are some wealthy higher up sort, and thus possibly not subject all the rules. If the local is not too hot, sweet stuff would go over very well, but I would avoid chocolate if you are going someplace where people don't digest milk products.

    If you are going to bring a firearm to protect your wealth, you are probably going to want something larger than a pistol caliber weapon if you want to be sure to get through their body armor.

  2. Thanks, Russell - you've confirmed my idea that visiting the past, hundreds of centuries ago, would be dodgy. A firearm would be a wise precaution. I hadn't thought of guild rules, either. Or chocolate. Also, turning up alone carrying bullion might be asking for trouble.

    People are suspicious of strangers who look wrong. Brooding about this, I reckon I could pass in my current clothes any time, going backwards, until the 1950s, when I'd look odd - trousers instead of skirt, no hat, no lipstick, unusual hair...

  3. Touche, Lexi. My WIP is about a time travelling writer who visits his past, 2030... Having previously been to Roman Vindolanda and Arthur's Cadbury... I agree, fitting in is always going to be the problem, not to mention the lingo!

  4. E. Nesbitt got round the language problem by simply saying she was not going to explain how the children could understand and speak the language anywhere they went.

    I think that's a bit of a cop out, myself. If you have the language, then you can talk yourself out of most difficulties wherever you are.

  5. I have a strong suspicion that the Latin pronunciation I learned at school bears little relation to the Latin that was spoken in Rome at the time of the Colosseum. For a while at least I'd seem like a really weird foreigner.

    I can't imagine myself in the wealthy group if I went back in time, probably because that's not how I grew up. Any trip to the past would involve a lot of smells and dirt that I'm not used to. Going around smelling of shower gel and shampoo might seem very odd to the locals.

    The recent showing of "The Castle" on tv, where they were building a medieval castle in France, made the middle ages look quite fun but I think they really weren't. I might want to visit that time, though, if I could guarantee to get away whenever I wanted to.

    For trade at that time I'd take spices and dried fruit because their value is high compared to their size.

  6. Good point, FH, one would smell wrong. And we are used to the disadvantages of our own time, but not those of the middle ages.

    Plus there'd be the local germs waiting for you - stomach bugs and virulent cold viruses.

    Spices are a good idea, if Russell's merchants' guilds didn't notice and object.

  7. For travelling back in time I think that I would 'borrow' a few things from a suitable museum, with the promise of replacing them with great riches on return. Roman coins should be possible.

    My preference would always be for the future. I'm sure that they would be more enlightened and fascinated to meet a visitor from their past ..... just take anything portable from this world!

    As an initial trial of the time machine ... I'm always a bit sceptical of newfangled technology ..... I would go forward to read this latest Lexi novel! :)

    1. Q, the museum idea depends on their having confidence in you and your time machine. If you are the only person with one, and are keeping it sensibly dark, they might take some persuading.

      I'd be a bit worried about seeing the future just in case it's bad. I'd rather not know that.

      Good thought - and when you read my finished WIP in the future, could you bring back a copy for me to save me the labour of writing it? (Also, I've just been reading about consistent causal loops, and want to know if they work.)

  8. Lexi, I think that a romantic thread could overcome the problem of persuading a museum to lend. Handsome time traveling hero persuades gullible attractive museum curator that he is God's gift .... or if that fails maybe try a Russian museum where a little corruption may be possible?!

    On consistent causal loops, I think they may be possible at the sub-atomic quantum level, but for living macroscopic objects the time-reversal symmetry is broken by dissipative processes. Technically this is known as entropy increasing, which ensures that the 'arrow of time' is to the future, and living things age.

    Though I guess your time machine will eliminate dissipation so that time can travel backwards. In that case everything will be determined so that the future determines the past and vice versa with everything consistent apart from the fundamental quantum uncertainties.

    Hope this helps! LOL

    1. A Russian museum is a really good idea. Might have to incorporate that - assuming Russia would still be in a bit of a state in thirty years' time.

      In my novel, it's suspected that the inventor of a time travel device used his first crude model the size of a barn to travel into the future and obtain a more sophisticated version. But then, who would have made the later version?

    2. No doubt the barn size version would have inspired an inventor in the future to modify and miniaturize the machine, thus maintaining the causal loop.

      This is all sounding fascinating!

    3. I like your thinking, Q :o)

  9. I'd return to Christ Church Oxford in 1860 so I could see what Lewis Carroll was up to - I'm just revising his biography. For barter I'd take something amazing and electronic. I am afraid they'd have to live with the happy memory of it once the battery ran out!

    1. Any mathematician would love a sophisticated calculator, maybe a solar-powered one. Think of the effort you'd have to put in to wear the correct clothes, though, so as not to attract attention.

      Also, how difficult would it be to get to meet him? Probably not too hard in Carroll's case, but people often seem to think they'd have access to important/famous people in the past, when it would actually be no easier than having a word with David Cameron now.

      One could probably have warned John Lennon, but not JFK or Princess Diana.

  10. Off the top of my head, I'd take back matches x 200 boxes, ball point pens and notebooks x 200, and solar/wind up lamps. Yes I realize the general population probably could not write, but that is how I'd worm my way into more comfortable situations.

    Another interesting post and comments, Lexi.