How To Build Your Own Time Machine, Chapter One: The School Trip

This is all first-draft stuff. I’m getting the story out in these blog posts. Prose style can come later.

“Don’t be daft. The Nastons could easily beat the Vejorans! The Vejorans don’t even have arms, just those tentacle things!”

“Yeah, well, the Vejorans have their anti-networking shields, which would stop the Nastons connecting to their hive-mind, and they’d all just turn into lumps of jelly!”

“No, but…”

Holly, sat at the back of the coach, on her own as usual, sighed. She knew that actually the Nastons could never fight the Vejorans, because both species were from opposite ends of the timestream, and neither had time-travel capability, but if she tried to tell any of the boys that, they’d just say that The Temponauts was for boys, and that girls didn’t know anything about it.

She’d tried telling them that the first episode of The Temponauts, in 1968, had been directed by a woman, Trudy Dean, and that lots of women wrote for Trans-Temporal Times, the magazine for Temponauts fans, but they’d just told her to shut up, and that she was strange.

Holly had asked her mum if boys stopped being so obnoxious once you got into big school, and her mum had thought for quite a while before saying “No…no, I’m afraid they don’t.”

Holly had resolved then and there that she was going to have as little to do with boys as possible in the future. Unfortunately, the girls were just as bad.

Luckily, she had her books, and TV, and especially The Temponauts. And today was going to be a good day. The class were going on a school trip to the Media Museum in Bradford.

Holly had been there before, with her mum, and it had been one of the best days of her life. They had the real Wallace and Gromit there, and a Dalek, and the skellingtons from the great film she’d seen on TV one bank holiday, but best of all they had an original Naston shell!

Yes, today was going to be a good day, and Holly wasn’t going to let any stupid boys who didn’t know anything about time travel spoil it.

The coach pulled up, and everyone went through the sliding doors, and most of the kids ran straight to the gift shop, but eventually Miss Brown managed to get them all together, and up the stairs, where a staff member was waiting for them.

The lady, whose name was Sarah, showed them round all the things Holly had seen when she’d been there before, but she was just as excited. There was a puppet that had been on the first ever TV show, and a TV that looked just like a space helmet, and so many interesting things she could easily spend a week there.

But then Sarah asked a strange question.

“Who knows what film is?”

Phil Jobling, the stupid kid who liked to beat up anyone cleverer and slower than him, said “Everyone knows that! A film’s like a TV show, but longer, and sometimes they show them in a cinema!”

“Well, yes…but I didn’t ask what a film is. Does anyone here know what film is?”

The kids all shook their heads, except for Phil Jobling, who just scowled.

Sarah pulled a thin piece of plastic out of her pocket.

“Take a look at this,” she said, and passed it to Holly — who was always at the front when there was something interesting happening, just like she was always at the back when there wasn’t. Holly looked at it. It was a long strip of transparent plastic, but there were a lot of very, very small photos printed on it. At first she thought they were all the same, but as she looked closer she could tell they were very slightly different.

“Pass it round,” Sarah said, and Holly obediently passed it on, wondering what it was.

“Film,” said Sarah, “is what we had before DVDs — even before video tapes, if any of you have ever seen those. What happens is a camera takes a lot of pictures, very fast — twenty-four of them a second — and then they’re printed onto a see-through strip. When you shine a light through the strip, and you project the pictures on to a screen, then if you move the pictures past the light twenty-four times a second, it looks like the picture is moving.”

Sarah then brought the children through and showed them a toy that you could spin, called a zoetrope, that did the same thing as a film, so you could see the drawings in it move.

Holly had never been so excited. So this was what film was! She’d read in some issues of Trans-Temporal Times about old episodes of The Temponauts being “shot on film”, but she’d always thought that was another way of saying they were as long as films. But this was great! Film was so much cooler than boring old DVDs and streaming videos — you could see all the separate pictures that made it up!

Holly wondered if you could make new films by cutting old ones up and sticking bits of them together, or what happened if you put the pictures in backwards — would the story go backwards too? Could you draw your own extra pictures on the film?

Clearly, this would require some investigation.

When Holly got home that evening, she rushed to the computer, and looked up “film” on Wikipedia. She called her mum over.

“Look at this!” she said, “there’s this thing called film, which is like DVDs, but you can actually look at the pictures on it! Not with a DVD player, but just by looking at it. It’s amazing!

“I do know what film is, young lady,” her mum laughed. “Your granddad used to have a load of old films, and an expensive projector.”

“What happened to it?”

“Oh, he’s probably still got it, but you know your granddad, he gets obsessed by stuff for a few months, then he sticks it up in the attic. It’s like when he got that hovercraft.”

“What’s a hovercraft?”

“…Never mind.”

And the conversation moved on, as conversations often do, to other subjects. But all that night Holly could think about very little except going to see her grandfather, and seeing if he still had that projector. And her dreams that night were of a series of tiny transparent pictures, and all the secrets they might hold.

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5 Responses to How To Build Your Own Time Machine, Chapter One: The School Trip

  1. Holly says:

    I love

    Holly — who was always at the front when there was something interesting happening, just like she was always at the back when there wasn’t.

    Looking forward to more. :)

  2. Pingback: How To Build Your Own Time Machine: Chapter Two — Granddad | Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

  3. Pingback: How To Build Your Own Time Machine: Chapter 3 | Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

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  5. Pingback: How To Build Your Own Time Machine: Chapter 4 | Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

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