Time Travel: Science Fiction vs. Fantasy

The system most commonly used to categorize books is BISAC subject headings. In it, time-travel novels are subcategorized twice: under romance and science fiction. The Rip Through Time novels may have a romantic undercurrent, but they aren’t romances. So are they science fiction? In my opinion, no. They’re mysteries, though I understand why “time-travel mystery” isn’t a subcategory—it’s too niche. I’d say the main category for the Rip series is historical mystery, and the subcategory is… Well, it also doesn’t exist, but I believe it should. Time-travel fantasy.

I understand why time-travel falls into science fiction. The concept of traveling through time has always interested scientists. Is it possible? How would it work? What would be the repercussions? Some of the earliest time-travel stories involved time-travel machines and secret experiments, and those stories are firmly rooted in science. And yet there is an equally strong tradition of time-travel fantasy, where something inexplicable happens and the main character ends up in the past—the character is hit in the head, touches a mystical stone, dons a magic necklace.

A Rip Through Time falls firmly into the category of time-travel fantasy. Mallory is a detective, not a scientist. Her focus is on figuring out how it works, and she’s never going to have firm answers for that because there’s no time-travel manual. She’s figuring it out as she goes.

Do I envision science behind it? Honestly, no. I love science, which is why it’s front-and-center in this series, with Duncan’s forensics and Isla’s chemistry. But when it comes to time travel, I prefer the fantasy version, where there are world-building rules, but ultimately, the answer is “magic.” That’s why none of the scientists in this book are physicists 🙂 I do not intend for Mallory to ever discover a scientific answer for what’s happened to her. Instead, she will slowly figure out the nebulous principles governing her version of time travel, though the focus of the novels will always be on the crimes—they’re mysteries first, fantasies second.

I know some readers will be frustrated by the lack of science. Frustrated by the lack of hard-and-fast rules. But I believe even more will accept this fantasy version of time-travel, molded by imagination rather than science. Disturbing the Dead sets the tone for that, where Mallory gets answers that are (I hope) satisfying ones rather than strictly scientific ones. After this, the time-travel aspects will ease into the background for a while, the focus firmly on the mysteries, but I’ve cracked open the door to do more with time travel in future books, and I will.

3 thoughts on “Time Travel: Science Fiction vs. Fantasy”

  1. Lucy Sanvitale says:

    How many more books have Mallory & Dr. Gray

  2. Lucy Sanvitale says:

    How many more books with Mallory & Gr. Gray

  3. Kelley Armstrong says:

    I know it’ll be at least 6 books–I’m contracted that far–but I hope it’ll be more.

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