This week’s Friday Five question is courtesy of the ethereal Fionna:
I’ve just finished reading a book about Arctic Exploration from the 1860s to 1926, and have started another one about the truth behind the myths about pirates. What both these books have in common is that I get to relive some of the adventure stories I used to love as a child, whilst still pretending I’m being all scholarly and grown up. So my Friday 5 question is:
Given an unlimited budget, the ability to travel through space and time, and a guarantee that you would return in the full of your health, which 5 adventures would you like to join in? They can be real adventures, from fiction, on other worlds, or a time and place you would really like to witness first hand.
This is going to be a tough list for me to enumerate. I’m going to make the following provisions for my answer: I am assuming I cannot use the power of time travel to evade or undo any major mistakes in my own past, though to be honest I might well have done so. I am also assuming I cannot set up things in a way to make things unfold differently. I am strictly addressing the question of adventures I would wish to have given the above conditions.
- I’d love to be a part of the first successful, continuing settlement on another planet (exclusing the moon, it has to be another planet altogether). I would, of course, be working as one of the techies, and there’d be little in the way of glory for me, but it’s be a wonderful learning experience, for a few years anyway. But note that I said the first successful, continuing settlement. Not the first settlement offworld… that’s bound to fail when too many systems break down, and I don’t wanna be anywhere near that.
- I wouldn’t mind going back to the time when Ezra Pound was a young man and scooping up all his women (such as the stern Hilda Doolittle, an interesting poet in her own right) one by one, seducing them, and writing the first “imagiste” poetry. Just to see what he would do. Move to London, and Paris, and all that, just a year ahead of him; forge friendships with all the people he was supposed to meet. The killer: publish his book of poems The Cantos piecemeal before he even got a chance to write them. And go by the name Robert Service while doing so. It’s kind of be a time-traveling version of that movie Single White Female, really. Except we’d be single white males.
- I’d like to brush up on my Renaissance English, dress up in disguise, and scope out the turn of the 17th century in England, the way Connie Willis’s historians do. I could meet the real Shakespeare (and prove he was a real person), figure out who killed Marlowe, and maybe even seduce some Renaissance English lass(es?). I’m thinking of it as a kind of literary James Bond thing here…
- I would love sneak in among some of the foreigners who witnessed the Taiping Palace in its sick and feverish glory during the 1860s in Nanjing. I mean, a native Chinese pseudo-Christian cult led by a man claiming to be the junior brother of Jesus, sent by God to cast out the Qing Dynasty and set up a Christian China? That’s just weird… (more here) and it’s the subject of a lot of research I’ve done, so I’d love to see it firsthand, even though I dislike intensely the leader of that rebellion, a madman by the name of Hong Xiuqian. He had a few foreigners among his soldiers, and I am sure I could pass myself off as one… though I’d get the hell out before the tides turned against the Taiping Army. Maybe I’d zoom through Korea while I was in that time period: I heard the public bathrooms were co-ed during those days, and that sounds like an adventure of its own… Then again, considering the first foreigners in Korea were immediately enslaved, maybe that’s not such a good idea.
- I’d like to be hanging out with Alan Turing during World War II… I want to see what it was like to be one of the nerds around whom the fate of the world (in many ways) turned for perhaps the first (but certainly not the last) time. Sure, inventors were curicial, but geeks? Nerds? That was a first, I think…
Might answer it differently on a different day. But for now that’s my thoughts. Runners-up include slumming with Jules Verne in bohemian Paris, or bumbling through the world of the dandies in hopes of meeting the first computer programmer (and the neice of Lord Byron) Ada Agusta Lovelace, preferably once she hooked up with Babbage (as, having read some of his writings (this is the least amusing part of an otherwise uproarious book), that would be funny as anything because Babbage was MAD); and of course I left off battling across centuries against a group of mysterious historical alterationalists who are mysteriously trying to alter the course of history in age after age to suit their own strange, mysterious ends. That adventure I left out for reasons of, well, length. Maybe that idea’s for some novel someday, but I doubt it.
You can see some more Friday Fivers under the sidebar dropdown link… as usual.