I pointed out a few times in the commentary posts that Quantum Leap was a big influence of mine. It’s even specifically referred to in the book more than once. What I haven’t talked about in depth is how Quantum Leap (and more specifically, Al the holographic observer) served as the genesis for the time travel mechanics I utilized in Timely Persuasion.
I’ve always felt that Al Calavicci had the sweetest time travel deal of any character. He had all of the excitement and wonder, but as a hologram he didn’t have any of the danger. No risk of injury, no risk of paradox, no risk of being stranded (though that did happen once…). Virtually everything that could go wrong was accounted for.
Since I had given this a lot of thought over the years, and since it was never fully explored on the show, I decided this would be a good starting point for how my hero’s time travel “science” would work. The problem lied in the fact that only allowing someone to observe but not interact made for a fairly boring story as a whole. You could learn some valuable things just by watching, but there wouldn’t really be any way to “act” on what you learned in the past. (Conversely, if you were able to “observe” the future you could act on what you learned upon returning to the present. But I’ve never been a big fan of future travel in time travel tales.) So I had a basis, but some modification was necessary.
Al’s rules did have a couple of notable exceptions. Animals and young children could see and hear him. I didn’t want to outright copy this, though giving the narrator some sort of interaction was necessary to move the story forward. Then I remembered one of the most common “rules” of time travel fiction: Avoid contact with your past self at all costs. Sometimes this rule is implied but never explored, sometimes it results in an end of the world paradox, and sometimes it serves as a red herring to deliver a twist ending. But generally speaking, every author (and scientist) tends to call it out as something you shouldn’t do. And that’s when it hit me.
What if the only person you could interact with while time traveling was yourself?
It was a unique premise I hadn’t seen explored before. It would nicely set up some tribute scenes in a Sam & Al interactive style. It allowed the ability to change a timeline, but generally provided protection from paradox so long as you didn’t manage to get your other self killed. Plus it fit logically with the “subconscious message from your future self” concept I had been kicking around and wasn’t quite ready to abandon.
It was perfect.