Monday, May 10, 2010

Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus

Pastwatch is a science fiction vehicle for exploring counter-factual and speculative history. Card speculates that Noah's flood was caused by the bursting of a Red Sea "dam" and that had Columbus not sailed when he did, the Mezo-Americans would have conquered Europe and instituted human sacrifice.

Pastwatch is set in a future time where people have the ability to "look" back in the past. People can analyze historical weather patterns, key events and people. (No mention is made of "short term spying", which would seem to be most useful to society. If somebody commits a crime, simply look back and see who did it, and where they went. This would also open up a huge can of worms in the privacy realm.)

Eventually, they discover a way to actually send people and things back to the past. The problem is that once something is sent back to the past, it changes the future, thus making the "future" no longer possible. Thus a time period could make only one intervention in the past. Once that is made, it would be impossible to do anymore.

In this story, one "future" had made an intervention that caused Columbus to abandon a crusade to Constantinople, and instead devote himself to his voyages. (This was done to prevent the mezzo-Americans from conquering Europe.) The "future" of the novel, however, makes another intervention to attempt to create a peaceful coexistence between the new and old worlds. The "future" of the novel is at first reluctant to intervene. However, after the earth approaches ecological collapse they feel that is the best chance for humanity.

The "time travel" theory is quite plausible. However, the actual results are a tad too Utopian.

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