Tuesday, 21 June 2011

So... About That Time Machine

A while ago I flashed-back to one of my many journeys from my Kings Road dorms to South Kensington tube station, where I found on an empty platform and a time machine disguised as a Cadbury's chocolates dispenser.

And that got me thinking... thinking about something we all know is immensely true, but probably don't think about enough: time has a lot to do with setting and has a great influence on a story.

Where to set a story within the space of TIME?

There's so much choice! I could go from 'Ancient History' (let's say, 3000BC) to anywhere in the future (how about 3000AD, just to put a limit on it).

So, I did this:

A random number generator between -3000 and 3000. I ended up with the year 1796.

Curious, I think ventured over to Wikipedia to see what happened that year. Here are just a few...

April 12 – War of the First CoalitionBattle of Montenotte: Napoleon Bonaparte gains his first victory as an army commander.
May 14Edward Jenner administers the first smallpox vaccination.
July 11 – The United States takes possession of Detroit from Great Britain under the terms of the Jay Treaty.

Obviously, being a Michigander, the Detroit thing stopped me in my tracks. I'm even more interested because it has a great underlying 'down with the monarchy' tone to it. Anyway, I then go to and learn about Detroit in the 1700s:
1768: King George grants McDougall ownership of Hog Island; cost: 194 pounds sterling
1771: Geographic survey establishes the island's size to be 704 acres
1773: Census: 200 farm animals; 5 people
1783: Treaty of Paris ends the Revolutionary War; Hog Island becomes American territory
1794: William Macomb purchase Hog Island from McDougall's heirs for 813 pounds sterling
All interesting things, but I'm still interested about the de-Anglicisation of Detroit. So I venture over to and stumble across this: a proposed plan for Detroit after the fire of 1805. Now, start a story in Detroit on June 11, 1805, and I think you're definitely headed somewhere.

Just a little picking around and you find something interesting; something that has a story to it.

Try it yourself!

At the very least, click the randomiser and find a year and see if you can find anything interesting, or if the date is in the future, what do you think will have changed from the world we know today?

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