Ever wish you could rewind the clock and not send that regrettable late-night text? Want to go forward in time and know exactly what response is going to pop up before you take the plunge and press send? Maybe you have bang regret (the haircut variety or the bedroom type)? Would you like to travel forward in time to know this week’s lottery numbers, or who you’re going to end up with?
At times, I think we’ve all wished for a time machine to propel us back to a time when life was simpler and we hadn’t made some colossal romantic error. For me, the opportunity to take back any fiery words that I’ve lashed out in anger to loved ones is a verrry attractive option. Blame my Aries moon.
But perhaps at other times, it’s a deeper regret we’re seeking to avoid. Consider traveling back to a time where we could change the political fabric of society for the better. If offered the chance to do either of these things, would we?
It seems in the lesbian lit scene, authors think so. Queer women time-traveling stories are cropping up in all kinds of genres, including mysteries, romance, science fiction, and fantasy.
Time travel is a complex idea, even when it’s fictionalized in great books such as Octavia Butler’s “Kindred,” or on screens such as the time- (and mind-) bending Netflix show “Russian Doll” featuring Natasha Lyonne. Remember when Marty McFly almost erased his own birth by meeting his mother back in time? Time-traveling cult classics like “Back to the Future” have kept generations entertained with the endless possibilities of the significance that small actions have on the future world. These stories highlight the consequences of traveling into the past or the future, such as Annalee Newitz’s “The Future of Another Timeline,” where a character embarks on a quest to use time travel to create a safer future.
The allure of blending fact and fiction is hard to ignore for the queer community. In The Guardian, Amal El-Mothar writes of historical amnesia and time-traveling lesbian literature, saying: “To be a queer woman of color is to be acutely aware that your existence is political — and that you don’t need a time machine to rewrite history. Women are written out of history with infuriating consistency, and written back in only intermittently.”
By posing the question “Why are there so many new books about time-traveling lesbians?,” El-Mothar encourages you to consider whether fictionalized time travel could be the antidote for past oppression in the queer community. Time travel that rewrites women into history? Yes, please!
With an influx of time travel books popping up, readers think so too.
Books such as Brenda Adcock’s time-travel pirate romp “The Sea Hawkall” feature a protagonist in search of lesbian histories inaccessible to academic researchers, according to Associate Professor Linda Garber from Santa Clara University in her scholar commons.
Amid so much political and social upheaval, who hasn’t wished for a time machine lately?
“A lot more people are reading escapist, and travel based books, that take you out of the world we’re stuck in,” says bibliotherapist and author Ella Berthoud.
If the political chaos around you is yelling too hot and too loud for you to read, Berthoud has some great additional tips on how to integrate more reading into your life.
“A place in your house that is your own special place to read: your own reading nook,” she says.
Ideally, each member of your household has their own reading nook that signifies to yourself and others that you are not to be disturbed, like “a hanging chair, one end of the sofa, a treehouse, a platform, halfway up the stairs, [or] a good space for a cuppa tea or coffee,” recommends Berthoud.
Phone timers and routine can help quiet the mind also. Berthoud advises that you “turn off your wifi at that time, [and] plug off your router,” removing any temptation to recheck Instagram, phone a friend, or order some takeout from your fave local spot.
And if you’re still struggling to read? Try reading out loud to start.
There’s also Amal El-Mothar’s co-authored book “This Is How You Lose the Time War,” Jaz Joyner’s magical young adult novel “Juniper Leaves,” or even Jurassic-based novels such as Kelli Jae Baeli’s “Pitfalls.” Kate Heartfield’s novella “Alice Payne Arrives“ spans from 1788 to 2020 and was nominated for the Nebula Awards in science fiction.
The trend even extends to graphic comics. Alison Wilgus’s time travel comic “Chronin“ is a “huge gay time-travel comic, full of swords and intrigue.” If comics are more your thing. Wilgus understands the importance of fantasy and cathartic experiences in particular for the queer community. “Many many time travel stories are about second chances — the ability to go back and make better choices with the benefit of hindsight,” she says.
Speaking more on her own journey, Wilgus wishes she could tell her younger cis-identifying self, “YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY GAY! AND THAT CUTE GIRL OBVIOUSLY WANTS TO KISS YOU!”
None of us can rewrite our own history, but it can be a tempting fantasy.
Each book reveals a strange universe where time is able to be bent at will, with central lesbian characters leading the way. Sound awesome? Well, that’s because they are.