Mens Temporum . UK

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Programme of Interest

I have already mentioned how I first envisaged the novel as a television series but didn’t think myself capable of writing a script for such a thing so wrote a novel instead. On reflection I can now see why I felt that. There is a fundamental difference between a script and a novel and it is that a script documents events that will happen in the future when the story is acted out whereas a novel documents a story that was ostensibly acted out in the past. If the phenomenon that I perceive actually exists then the rapidly growing collection of souvenirs from the future in my mind were insufficient for me to document what would happen in that future but could serve as the basis for a fictional story about something that had already happened. In contrast elsewhere Jonathan Nolan was no doubt then writing his scripts for the forthcoming TV series Person of Interest which in several ways paralleled my own novel and would be watched by myself and my wife years into the future. It comes as little surprise to me that I could have amalgamated ideas from watching his series with my other souvenirs from my own future as the inspiration for my novel.

My wife and I didn’t watch that television series when it was first on one of our mainstream channels in Britain and once it had been on for a while we doubted that it would make any sense to us partway through, so chose not to watch it at all. However, in 2016 I bought a set of DVDs for the first three seasons and we started watching them. Finding them interesting I realised that we had a problem. Repeat channels were showing the series by then but I couldn’t determine when season four would start on any of them so I felt resigned to buying more DVDs for the remaining seasons but was annoyed by the prospect.

We were halfway through watching season two when one morning I put my back out working in the garden so after lunch I looked through the TV listings magazine for some daytime TV to watch although I seldom normally watched TV in the early afternoon then. I noticed that Person of Interest was about to start on one channel and idly wondered which episode it was although I had no intention of watching it. The magazine didn’t state this, so I checked the broadcast guide on the TV and discovered that the first episode of series four was starting in less than ten minutes, so I immediately programmed our recorder to record the entire series from then on and we never had to buy any more DVDs. Of course I still didn’t have anything to watch that afternoon as we were only watching season two, so instead to pass the time I posted an account of the incident in the online Cambridge Coincidences Collection, which collection has now been archived.

There was no way that I could previously have found out without realising it about season four starting as the magazine didn’t mention the episode numbers or seasons and the TV guide only did so if one displayed the optional details screen for a particular programme. Also by checking the programme details more carefully later I found out that the channel was showing two different seasons at the same time with no apparent pattern to the way that it changed from one to the other. Consequently I found the right episode just in time quite by chance. However, apparent back pains and injuries are notorious for being a classic way that people consciously or unconsciously get out of doing things, so this could have been a case of PMIR taking a hand to influence something that I wanted done to happen.

I also found out that other coincidences relating to my novel occurred with films produced by Jonathan Nolan’s brother Christopher that I also watched on DVDs years after they were released. One was Inception where a group of people descend through three layers of dreams. In my novel Graham and Lucine also descend through three dream-like layers of virtual reality, one in the Pumpkin, one in the future HMS Frismersk and one created by their own minds. The other film was Interstellar, in which Jonathan was also involved, but I read somewhere that he distanced himself from the ending because he had studied relativity for the work and was unconvinced that the past could have been influenced by the future in the way suggested in that ending. This was the most significant difference between Person of Interest and my novel, that in the former the machine predicted events by observing those leading up to them while my machine actually moved in time to do something similar. It seems odd that Jonathan would have rejected the idea of the future influencing the present considering that he and Person of Interest gained a reputation for having foreseen the US government’s PRISM information gathering system.

The general similarities between the television series and my novel were that both had a machine that provided the government with information about future events and it appeared to be in the control of the government although it also seemed to have a mind of its own. Also it had been developed by private individuals and the government only acquired it later and who really guided it was always in doubt with the private individuals being the more likely ones. In both stories the people directly involved with the machine were more concerned about the problems the individual people that it targetted had than the national issues revealed and to help these people they used resources including agents who diverted events to stop the expected future from happening. In the television series the machine vanished from its original location and was eventually found later by those closest to it. In draft chapters that I wrote for a possible later novel set in a parallel reality Graham looked for the Pumpkin building where he recalled it being in the original reality but it wasn’t there. Only later did he discover that it had been constructed elsewhere in that reality. In both cases the machines had been concealed within the environment, in the television series by distributing itself over a wide area and in my writing by literally going completely underground in open farmland.

While I was writing my novel I felt that writing such a story was quite easy and maybe many of us can think up such a story but far fewer can make a successful career out of doing it.

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