Idea — blend action/adventure with scifi
Concept — a genetic mutation allows a man to travel through time without the equipment other time-travelers need
Premise — what if a group of researchers discovered that the universal timeline had been corrupted and the only way to restore it was to send a mercenary back to pivotal points of ancient history to fix them — if he wasn’t killed first?
When I was 10 or 11 I discovered the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Best known as the creator of Tarzan, the ultimate action adventure hero (he is, after all, barely more than animal in the beginning) Burroughs was also a creative and prolific science fiction writer. (Before you dismiss Tarzan as trivial pulp, go read the first book, Tarzan of the Apes. There’s a reason it’s still around more than 100 years later: it’s a great book.)
Burroughs wrote about John Carter being transported telepathically to a well-populated warlike Mars (again, if the movie looked hokey, read the first 3 books and change your mind about Burroughs.) He wrote about an adventure to Venus, a marvelous series of 4 books I never tire of.
And Pellucidar: the earth is actually a hollow ball, with another world inside, lit by a tiny sun at the center so it’s always noon, everywhere in their little world.
Making time irrelevant.
In one book, two characters are separated in a crowd. One goes off and has 20 pages of adventures, yet arrives back at their shared apartment at the same time as his friend who’d simply walked across town to get there.
And that’s how Burroughs invented one of the most original takes on time travel I’ve ever seen. Time, determined by how active one is, rather than arbitrarily by celestial events.
Burroughs seemed fascinated by flexing time, a plot device he used multiple times beyond his “earth’s core” series. And besides writing straight westerns, he also blended scifi with the western long before others had combined cowboys and aliens (a theme I’m also outlining for a future book.)
It didn’t fit anywhere else in this extended rave, but if you’d like to see a real story of redemption smothered in action and adventure, get past the title and read The Mucker. When Burroughs was alive, it meant a mook, a thug, a lowlife criminal. It needs a better title, but it was, for me, the epitome of Ray Bradbury’s praise of Burroughs’ books: “By giving romance and adventure to a whole generation of boys, Burroughs caused them to go out and decide to become special.”
That Name Sounds Familiar. Have We Met Before, Jake Calcutta?
But the name didn’t fit. Jake wasn’t that character. Jake Calcutta is a tough guy, physical as much as cerebral. Hard. Loner. Resourceful and, perhaps, dangerous.
I’d wanted to write him into a story like the Tarzan stories, like Indiana Jones. But it wasn’t enough.
It needed a boost of nitroglycerin.
Like, maybe, time travel.
And the fate of the universe as we know it.
How’s that sound?