Time Travel Paradoxes for Fantasy Books and Science Fiction

Time paradoxes are fascinating concepts that often appear in both fantasy books and science fiction stories. They involve situations where the normal flow of time is disrupted, leading to logical contradictions or paradoxical events. Here are some different versions of time paradoxes commonly found in these genres:

  1. The Grandfather Paradox: This is one of the most well-known time paradoxes. It occurs when a time traveler goes back in time and inadvertently prevents their own existence by killing their own grandfather (or any ancestor) before they have the chance to have children. This paradox raises questions about the possibility of changing the past and the consequences it may have on one's own existence.

  2. The Bootstrap Paradox: Also known as a causal loop, the bootstrap paradox involves a situation where an object or information is sent back in time and becomes its own origin. For example, a time traveler could give a famous manuscript to a renowned author in the past, and that author publishes the manuscript, which is later found by the time traveler in the future, creating an infinite loop of the manuscript's existence without any discernible origin.

  3. The Predestination Paradox: This paradox explores the idea of determinism and fate. It occurs when a time traveler attempts to change the past but unwittingly ends up causing the events they were trying to prevent, ultimately leading to a closed time loop. In this scenario, events are self-consistent but lack a clear original cause.

  4. Parallel Universes and Alternate Timelines: Instead of focusing on paradoxes within a single timeline, some stories introduce the concept of parallel universes or alternate timelines. These narratives depict different versions of reality branching off at certain points in time, creating a multiverse. Characters may encounter alternate versions of themselves or interact with different outcomes of past events, without necessarily causing paradoxes within their own timeline.

  5. Time Dilation and Time Travel Paradoxes: In science fiction, time dilation paradoxes arise when time travel or faster-than-light travel is involved. For instance, the famous twin paradox suggests that if one twin embarks on a space journey at relativistic speeds and returns to Earth, they would have aged less than their sibling who remained on the planet. This discrepancy in aging raises questions about causality and the subjective experience of time.

  6. The Butterfly Effect: Although not strictly a time paradox, the butterfly effect is often associated with time travel narratives. It suggests that even small changes in the past can have significant and unforeseen consequences in the future. This concept emphasizes the fragility and interconnectedness of events and explores the idea that altering even minor details in the past can lead to drastic changes in the present or future.

These are just a few examples of the different time paradoxes found in fantasy and science fiction literature. Authors often use these paradoxes as narrative devices to explore the intricacies of time, causality, and the consequences of altering the past or interacting with multiple timelines. They add complexity, suspense, and thought-provoking elements to the stories, inviting readers to contemplate the nature of time and its impact on our lives.

Less Commonly Used Time Paradoxes

  1. The Information Paradox: In this paradox, a character from the future travels back in time to provide vital information or knowledge to their past self or a historical figure. However, it turns out that the information they received or discovered in the first place was actually obtained from their future self. The question arises: where did the information originally come from?

  2. The Time-Loop Paradox: This paradox involves a time loop where events repeat endlessly without any apparent origin or resolution. For example, a character finds themselves trapped in a time loop, reliving the same sequence of events over and over again, with each repetition contributing to the loop's existence.

  3. The Schrödinger's Cat Paradox: Inspired by quantum physics, this paradox explores the idea of superposition and multiple outcomes. It involves a scenario where a time traveler goes back in time and encounters a situation where the outcome could be either A or B. The act of time travel itself creates a superposition where both outcomes coexist until the time traveler's presence collapses it into a single outcome.

  4. The Ontological Paradox: Also known as a bootstrap paradox involving people rather than objects, this paradox occurs when a character is their own cause. For instance, a character receives an object from their future self and keeps it safe, only to travel back in time later and give it to their past self. The object's origin becomes a paradox without any clear beginning.

  5. The Time-Traveler's Immortality Paradox: This paradox arises when a character travels into the future and encounters a version of themselves who has become immortal or has extended their lifespan. However, the character's journey into the future was initially motivated by a desire to gain immortality. The question then arises: How did they become immortal if their journey was driven by the desire to achieve it?


Sword & Sorcery and Heroic Fantasy: Contrast and Compare

"All Sword and Sorcery is Heroic Fantasy, but not all Heroic Fantasy is Sword and Sorcery."

Sword & Sorcery and Heroic Fantasy are two distinct subgenres within the broader fantasy genre. While they both share common elements and themes, they have notable differences in terms of tone, protagonists, narrative focus, and worldbuilding. Let's compare and contrast the two:

Sword & Sorcery:

  1. Tone: Sword & Sorcery tends to have a darker, grittier, and more morally ambiguous tone. It often explores themes of personal survival, individualism, and the use of power for personal gain.
  2. Protagonists: The protagonists in Sword & Sorcery stories are often antiheroes or morally complex characters. They are typically loners or mercenaries driven by personal motives rather than a grand sense of duty or heroism.
  3. Narrative Focus: Sword & Sorcery stories often focus on episodic adventures and self-contained narratives. They prioritize fast-paced action, thrilling combat, and intense encounters, with a focus on the exploits of the main character.
  4. Magic and Sorcery: Magic in Sword & Sorcery is usually depicted as dangerous, unpredictable, and often linked to dark forces. Sorcery and supernatural elements play a significant role, often presenting a corrupting influence on those who wield it.
  5. Worldbuilding: Sword & Sorcery settings are often portrayed as harsh and unforgiving, with a focus on smaller-scale conflicts and settings. The worldbuilding tends to be less extensive compared to Heroic Fantasy, with more emphasis on immediate surroundings rather than sprawling civilizations or grand quests.

Heroic Fantasy:

  1. Tone: Heroic Fantasy generally has a more optimistic and epic tone, emphasizing heroic deeds, noble virtues, and the triumph of good over evil. It often explores themes of heroism, destiny, and the battle between light and darkness.
  2. Protagonists: Heroic Fantasy typically features noble heroes driven by a sense of duty, honor, and the desire to save the world or protect the innocent. They often embark on grand quests and demonstrate self-sacrifice and unwavering courage.
  3. Narrative Focus: Heroic Fantasy tends to have a more overarching narrative structure, with a focus on the larger conflicts and the fate of entire worlds or civilizations. The stories may involve the gathering of allies, the fulfillment of prophecies, and the ultimate confrontation with a great evil.
  4. Magic and Sorcery: Magic in Heroic Fantasy is often portrayed as a mystical and awe-inspiring force. It can be used for both good and evil purposes, with powerful wizards or sorcerers playing significant roles in the story. Magic systems may be more detailed and intricately defined.
  5. Worldbuilding: Heroic Fantasy often involves extensive worldbuilding, creating vast and immersive settings with detailed histories, diverse cultures, and intricate political landscapes. The focus extends beyond individual characters, encompassing entire civilizations, mythical creatures, and complex social structures.

While Sword & Sorcery and Heroic Fantasy share common elements such as swords, magic, and fantastical creatures, their differing tones, protagonists, narrative focuses, and worldbuilding approaches distinguish them. Both subgenres offer unique experiences and cater to different storytelling preferences within the fantasy genre.

Desirable Book Lengths by Genre

Book lengths can vary widely depending on the genre and subgenre, and there isn't a rigid set of rules dictating specific word counts for each category. However, there are some general guidelines and expectations regarding book lengths based on genre and subgenre. Keep in mind that these are not strict rules, and there can always be exceptions. Here's a rough overview:

  1. Novel: A novel is a work of fiction typically characterized by a substantial length and complex narrative. Novels can span various genres and subgenres, and their lengths can vary significantly. However, a common range for novels is typically between 70,000 to 100,000 words, though it's not uncommon for novels to exceed 100,000 words or even reach 150,000 words for certain genres like epic fantasy.

  2. Young Adult (YA) Novels: Young adult novels are specifically targeted at teenage readers. They tend to have a faster pace, accessible writing style, and relatable protagonists. YA novels often range between 50,000 to 80,000 words, with some leaning towards the shorter end and others reaching the longer end of that range.

  3. Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels: Science fiction and fantasy novels often involve extensive worldbuilding, intricate plots, and richly developed characters. The word counts for these genres can vary greatly, with some books falling within the standard novel range of 70,000 to 100,000 words, while others, particularly epic or high fantasy works, can surpass 100,000 words and even reach several hundred thousand words.

  4. Mystery/Thriller Novels: Mystery and thriller novels tend to be fast-paced and focused on suspense and tension. They often fall within the range of 70,000 to 90,000 words, with some leaning toward the shorter side for tighter pacing and others reaching the higher end for more intricate plotlines.

  5. Historical Fiction Novels: Historical fiction novels combine fictional stories with historical settings and events. Their word counts can vary depending on the level of detail and complexity. Generally, historical fiction novels fall within the range of 80,000 to 100,000 words, but they can exceed these limits based on the scope and depth of the historical context.

  6. Romance Novels: Romance novels typically have a strong focus on character development and relationships. They often fall within the range of 70,000 to 90,000 words, but the length can vary depending on subgenres such as historical romance, contemporary romance, or paranormal romance.

Remember, these guidelines are not fixed rules, and there are always exceptions. Word count can be influenced by factors such as author style, story complexity, intended audience, and publishing norms. It's important for authors to focus on telling their story effectively rather than strictly adhering to specific word counts.

Grimdark, Noblebright, Grimlight & Nobledark Fantasy

Okay, let's get these definitions straight...

Grimdark Fantasy - A fantasy story in which the protagonist is an anti-hero and the story is dark/negative (and possibly depressing). [Not to be confused with Dark Fantasy / Horror Fantasy!!!]

Noblebright Fantasy - A fantasy story in which the protagonist is heroic and the story is uplifting/positive.

Grimlight Fantasy - A fantasy story in which the protagonist is an anti-hero, but the story ends up being positive. Sometimes called "Grimbright", but Grimlight seems to be the more popular name.

Nobledark Fantasy - A fantasy story in which the protagonist is a hero, but the story ends up being dark/negative/depressing.

So for example let's say you are writing a Grimlight Fantasy story... What could that story be about?

  • A greedy cowardly murderer/thief becomes a hero by accidentally beating up the local villain, but then gets tricked into leading a group of woodland thieves into fighting against an upstart prince who dabbles in dark magic, represses the poor, makes taxes too high, and the cowardly thief sees this as an opportunity for himself to make some money. Possible title: "Robin Hoodwinked". So very similar to the classic Robin Hood story, but Robin himself is an anti-hero because he is cowardly/greedy and he isn't above murdering people with his arrows.

Or let's say the story is a Nobledark Fantasy...

  • During the a horrible plague a noble knight embarks on a quest to find a cure to the disease, but on the way he encounters bandits, corrupt nobility, difficult choices, desperate starving villagers, cannibals, plague zombies, militaries using the zombies as weapons of war... The knight himself manages to complete his quest to cure the disease, but then the people just go right back to warring against each other so the ending is still depressing.

So which of these do I prefer to write?

Honestly, I kind of like all of them. Generally speaking my protagonists tend to be heroic (but not all of them fall into that category). Here's a few examples from the Adventures of Wrathgar series:

  • Wrathgar - Hero
  • Soljargon - Hero
  • Bizbald - Anti-Hero

The series in question I would say is overall positive stories, but does contain some dark elements so they aren't completely "Noblebright". I would argue that there is realm of stories between positive/negative that are either neutral or contain both.

I also believe that a writer could theoretically tell all 4 of those options above by writing a story in which there are 4 different characters (2 heroes and 2 anti-heroes) and their stories are intertwined but plot wise end up being a mix of positive and negative experiences / endings.

I also believe that characters can sometimes be nuanced. Eg. In one story I once had a group of heroes (and one anti-hero) find themselves in a situation where they end up torturing a minor villain for information. Some of the characters were against torturing the villain, while others aren't opposed to it. Thus within a group of heroes there were nevertheless nuances when it came to the ethics of torture.

Thus some people like the concept of there being Neutral or Mixed categories in between the polar opposites.

How to Make Fantasy Maps for your Books

Creating maps for your fantasy books is a creative and engaging process that helps readers visualize the imaginary worlds depicted in fantasy stories. Here are several techniques you can use to create compelling fantasy maps:

  1. Inspiration and Research: Start by gathering inspiration from various sources like real-world maps, historical maps, fantasy artwork, and existing fantasy literature. Research different types of landscapes, terrain features, and geographical elements that align with the world you're creating.

  2. Worldbuilding: Develop the foundation of your fantasy world by establishing its history, culture, climate, and any unique characteristics. Consider the political boundaries, civilizations, and key locations that will shape your map.

  3. Sketching and Outlining: Begin by sketching rough outlines of continents, islands, or landmasses on paper or using digital drawing software. Experiment with different shapes, sizes, and configurations until you find a design that suits your vision. Consider the overall geography and how it relates to your story's narrative.

  4. Landforms and Terrain: Add different landforms to your map, such as mountains, hills, forests, rivers, lakes, deserts, and swamps. These features not only enhance the visual appeal but also play a role in your story's setting and plot. Ensure they are logically placed and take into account the natural flow of water and the influence of geography on climate.

  5. Cartography and Scale: Decide on the scale of your map, whether it's a world map or a regional map. Determine the size of continents, distances between locations, and the level of detail you want to include. Consider using a grid or scale bar to help readers understand the proportions.

  6. Naming and Labeling: Assign names to important locations such as cities, towns, landmarks, and regions. Create a consistent naming convention that fits the theme and culture of your world. Label these places on your map using clear and readable typography.

  7. Symbols and Icons: Use symbols and icons to represent key elements on your map, such as castles, ruins, mountains, or forests. These visual cues add depth and character to your map, making it easier for readers to navigate and comprehend.

  8. Coloring and Texturing: Apply colors and textures to your map to differentiate land from water and to depict various types of terrain. Consider using a color palette that reflects the mood and atmosphere of your world. Experiment with different shading techniques to add depth and realism.

  9. Borders and Political Divisions: Define political boundaries between different kingdoms, empires, or factions. Use distinct borderlines, patterns, or colors to distinguish them. Consider historical or cultural factors that influence these divisions.

  10. Finalizing and Refining: Once you have the main elements in place, review and refine your map. Ensure the overall composition is balanced and that the map is aesthetically pleasing. Seek feedback from beta readers or fellow authors to help identify any inconsistencies or areas that require improvement.

Remember, creating a fantasy map is an artistic process that allows you to bring your world to life visually. Tailor your approach to fit your specific story and immerse your readers in the magical realms you've imagined.

Publishing a fantasy book? Make sure you get a professional fantasy book editor.

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