Time and Prophet

Independent artist and writer Brandon Graham is currently working on Prophet , turning it into one of the most talked about and lauded sci-fi books on the shelf. Graham’s exotic and detailed work (with art help from Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple and Giannis Milonogiannis) fits the fantastical needed to convey sci-fi/fantasy in a compelling manner, and in his creating of both issue one and issue  five of this series, he tackles two different ideas about the possibilities of time travel that interest me: Stasis fields and wormholes.

Issue One and the Sleep of Ages

A giant drill rumbles to the surface of a desert landscape. Emerging from the sudden “fssh” of the pressurized center emerges a humanoid form, connected by a complex series of tubes and wires to the dormant leviathan that birthed it. This is how we are introduced to the character of John Prophet, and Graham’s ideas about sleep as time travel.

Graham narrates the previous scene as : “A man emerges, finally awake from the long sleep of hyber pod”. This hyber pod is the vessel of time travel for John Prophet. Graham leaves the reader a lot of room to root around in concerning the how and why of the pod, as he offers no explanation other than it kept its passenger secure perhaps for more than five generations. The idea of deep sleep as time travel is classic sci-fi, stretching all the way back to the idea of Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle in a drug induced supernatural sleep deep in the forest and having an era pass him by.

The concept of the hyber sleep that Graham presents is one of stasis. The pod itself is just the vessel or container. What the reader can hypothesize is that there exists a stasis field of some type around the vessel, more than likely facilitated by the complex wires and tubes in which John Prophet is attached. The whole idea here is that the field suspends all within it from the effects of time dilation, or time passing, therefore no aging, no corrosion, etc. Such stasis fields would require massive amounts of energy in order to effectively slow metabolism and body functions to near standstills for indefinite periods of time.

There is also the idea presented that a stasis field is penetrable, but only though something Graham describes as the “dream mind”. This telepathy does not necessarily travel at any light speeds, but rather travels at normal speeds of sound or light waves, never diminishing but rather continuing to gain momentum throughout the bleakness of space and time until it reaches its destination. Prophet is contacted through the “dream mind” upon waking, but what is of interest is that it may indeed be a message form the past in another part of a galaxy. And the sender of that message may very well be the protagonist illuminating the reader about another form of possible time travel in this fictional universe: The wormhole.

Issue Five and the Problem of the Straight Line

Wormholes are the theoretical part of physics that excites us most, and this is due to the plausibility of what they may be. A wormhole functions basically, in theory, as a tunnel from one end of a universe to another point, and that could be in the same universe, or another, or even in another time. Is it possible through a black hole? Possibly, as that is just one theory. In sci-fi, it has been popular to characterize the wormhole as closer to something that is attainable and sustainable as a form of travel.

Graham’s traveler in issue five is a robotic type named jaxson, which is described simply as one of “old man Prophet’s unhatched eggs”. The jaxson is awoken much like the Prophet of issue one and determined to accomplish a mission. To do so, it must liberate first another jaxson (named xefferson), and then both make the trip to the outer space of the planet to attempt travel, to contact “old man Prophet” .

Graham describes the wormhole technology as existing in space working off a “Armscye ring” hugging a planet, which works in tandem with the “Cyclops rail” a:

“system of man built wormholes made In the age of solstice […] The rail threads through space to send signals and objects across billions of light years, sometimes before they were ever sent, sometimes years before”. So how does this rail system work then, theoretically?  It could be as simple as a straight line.

If the wormhole is working in allowing travel in time to occur to a fixed point where the rail system ends, then one doesn’t necessarily break the cardinal rule of travel in the universe, namely that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Light traveling through the wormhole would go through a change, namely it would slow down. But as it is slowed a bit, it is still traveling in a straight line, while light outside the wormhole is traveling around the wormhole at a faster speed. Think about the oldest geometrical rule: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. In this case, it is because light would beat whatever outside traveler would take to get to the same point, even if the outside traveler was traveling at greater or optimal speeds.

Prophet is some serious sci-fi goodness, and the series shows no signs of its own of slowing down anytime soon. I hope that Graham and company continues to explore the possibilities, and if his body of work is any indication, he will have no problems in further investigating/inventing the fantastic dreams of achieving time travel from many different methods.