Quite a few of the Time Travel Nexus contributors who produce the content you enjoy reading each month also have short stories and novels to their credit. In the coming months, I’d like to shine a spotlight on our contributors and their other projects, particularly when those works involve time travel.
If you have read our Time Travel Nexus Investigates column, you are probably aware that contributor C.R. Berry is fascinated by claims in the popular media that evidence of real time travelers is out there in the public record. Those speculations and conspiracy theories have also inspired his fiction work. If you have enjoyed his articles, or even if you just enjoy pondering “What if that really was a time traveler…?”, then you owe it to yourself to check out his stories.
Over the last several years, Berry has been crafting tales firmly rooted in the time travel genre. Quite a few of them have been shortlisted or won awards in short story competitions, and he’s received several nods from fiction magazines.
So where can you find these gems? Well, you won’t need to track down all the individual stories where they were first made available, because Elsewhen Press, purveyors of fine speculative fiction, have collected them into a single volume, called Million Eyes: Extra Time. What’s more, you can currently download the entire collection free of charge at the Elsewhen Press website.
While each story in the collection stands on its own and centers on different characters, the stories are definitely related. Read in succession, they begin to form an outline of a larger whole. Berry drops a few breadcrumbs in which events of one story are mentioned in another, but readers soon learn with certainty that there is a common group of time travelers connected in some way to them all.
Earlier this month, Berry also released his first novel set in this same universe, called Million Eyes (so now you know where the short story collection got its name). The novel explores the group of time travelers from Extra Time in more depth, and readers who enjoy the short stories will no doubt want to pick it up. You can find information on where to purchase it back on Elsewhen’s website.
Today my focus is on the short stories in Extra Time, but you might be interested in the trailer for Million Eyes, shown below. While the trailer is about the novel, it can also serve to give you a brief glimpse of what the short stories are about too.
So what about the stories themselves? Readers of Berry’s work in his Time Travel Nexus Investigates column may recall a couple of his earliest articles entitled The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller, and The Curious Case of Rudolph Fentz. In the first, Berry examines the facts around raw extra footage from the 1928 Chaplin film The Circus, which appears to show a person in the background talking on a cell phone. The second explores accounts of people in 1950 witnessing a man who suddenly appeared in the path of a moving taxi in Times Square, New York and was instantly killed. From his physical description, the list of items in his pockets, and other details later tracked down, the conclusion was that he had somehow travelled from the past.
Both of these stories seem to have reasonable explanations. The person in the Chaplin footage was holding an early version of a hearing aid to their ear and speaking to themselves while they adjusted the volume. The latter account bears a remarkable resemblance to a well known Jack Finney short story entitled I’m Scared (you can read it yourself at this link). So no time travel was involved, right?
Wrong. Or at least, wrong within Berry’s fictional universe. In two of his stories, we learn the “real” facts about those incidents, and they were definitely the result of time travelers mucking about with the timeline. We even have a brief encounter with Jack Finney, who has had his own run-ins with these travelers.
Extra Time begins with Rachel Can See, which I believe is also one of the earliest in the group that the author penned. This introduces us to several key story elements which will be important to Berry’s larger universe. We meet Rachel Evans, whom we will see again in a later story, and whose influence is felt many times throughout the collection. We learn that there is a group of people who are secretly experimenting with time travel, and that they are not above using brutal methods to achieve their ends. And, we learn that Rachel and a very few other people in the world can sometimes perceive differences in the timeline. Differences from an original timeline that were caused by the interference of these time travelers.
In a later story, The Home Secretary is Safe, we encounter Rachel’s cousin Cody, who also has an unusual relationship with time. Cody witnesses events repeating themselves, a time loop that everyone except him seems to be caught in. Perhaps there is something in the genetics of the Evans family which gives them this sensitivity to time. As with Rachel, Cody soon learns that there are people responsible for these changes in time, or as in Cody’s case a time “glitch”.
Glitches in time travel machinations and blunders on the part of time travelers provide ample raw materials for these stories. Although the time traveling “agents” have strict orders not to make changes to the timeline (at least no changes beyond what their mission requires), inevitably mistakes are made. The fallout and the resulting efforts to correct a timeline gone astray provide intriguing situations for Berry to explore. We find miscalculations that displace people in time, accidents that change characters’ ages, and cover-ups that ensnare innocent bystanders. Words of advice – if you do witness strange circumstances that seem to involve time travel, keep it to yourself. Forever. It might save your life.
There’s a pleasing mix here of stories from the perspective of the time travelers and from the perspective of those innocents who are just trying to make sense of the fantastic. For those who are deeply involved with the organization pulling the strings, we see some characters that are cold and uncaring and others who regret the pain that their interference causes. One agent wants to use this technology to save his dying lover. Another just wants to complete her assignment without getting chewed out by her boss. A third manages to escape the organization – or does she?
If you’re fascinated by stories like the Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Fentz incidents I mentioned before, you’ll be pleased to find plenty of references to other conspiracy theories and urban legends sprinkled throughout this volume. Loch Ness Monster? Yep, time travel. Those rumors among Beatles fans that Paul McCartney was dead? Listen to Paul’s account if you want to know the full details. Speculation that Queen Elizabeth I may have actually been a man? There might be something to that story.
I think my favorite of the lot is The Babushka Lady, which delves into the background of JFK’s assassination, his involvement with Marilyn Monroe, the second shooter, the grassy knoll… There are certainly plenty of time travel stories that have played in this sandbox, no doubt about that. But Berry’s take on the story has a decidedly different resolution. JFK would have never died if not for an event that happened much earlier. Good thing there was a time traveler to ferret out those details.
In some cases, since you know these stories are going to involve time travel, the fun is not so much in being surprised as in seeing how it plays out. But there’s also a fair share of surprises and twist endings to keep you guessing. All in all, I highly recommend Million Eyes: Extra Time for time travel fans and for people who enjoy conspiracy theory stories. Whether you read them one at a time or in one extended sitting, these stories will scratch your time travel itch.
And, as I mentioned earlier, Berry just published Million Eyes, his first novel set in this same universe. I haven’t yet read it, but I enjoyed Extra Time so much that I will undoubtedly be picking it up.
If you would like to learn more about Million Eyes, a bevy of other blogs have reviewed it, and you can find some of those further discussions at the following link: Million Eyes Blog Tour Round-Up.