BEAT TO A PULP: A Rip Through Time, edited by David Cranmer (2012, Kindle Books)
Time travel stories can be a lot of fun. H. G. Wells changed history forever with his story of a man who goes into the far future to see what’s happened to humanity. It made for at least one good movie. Of course, the problem with any type of time travel story is “casualty” (i.,e., what happens if you go back in time and kill your own grandfather). Physicists get around it all by speculating on an infinite number of pasts, presents, and futures. Which puts most time travel stories into the realm of science fantasy.
The latest offering from the Beat To A Pulp series, A Rip Through Time, allows four authors to speculate on what might happen if a pulp hero had the ability to travel through time. Editor David Cranmer gave Chris Holm, Charles Gramlich, Garnett Elliot and Chad Eagleton the chance to each write separate chapters for a story arch. What they turned out was a tight round robin story not seen since the 1930’s when Fantasy magazine published “The Challenge from Beyond”.
The first chapter, “The Dame, The Doctor, and the Device” introduces us to the hero, Simon Rip, who’s minutes behind the fiendish Dr. Robert Berlin’s jump from the 24th century into the past. Rip, head of Temporal Infractions for The Company, where Berlin has been constructing his time travel device, follows Berlin back to New York in the 1920’s to stop the scientist from controlling all aspects of past, present and future. Chris Holm gets the collection of to a good start by introducing prohibition gangsters and the beautiful Dr. Serena Ludwig. The episode concludes with Berlin escaping again.
Charles Gramlich writes the second episode, “Battles, Broadswords, and Bad Girls”, into the late 1940’s. Rip teams up with Earnest Hemingway in Cuba and Merlin in ancient Britain. The story zips back and forth. We learn Dr. Ludwig may not be such a nice lady after all.
Garnet Elliot’s contribution, “Chaos in the Stream” takes Rip into Pre-Columbian central America. There’s even a chilling seen involving a scorpion pit. Rip manages to evade the villains once again, this time he learns his employer, The Company, may be deeper into time stream manipulation than anyone could imagine.
Chad Eagleton wraps it up with “Darkling in the Eternal Space” which tosses in Nicolai Tesla, the 1908 Tunguska disaster in Siberia and the moons of Jupiter. The story remains unresolved, but all the major characters seem to be fighting on the same side. There’s hints of an alien invasion from another dimension, but that is yet to be resolved. More to come in this epic!
“The Final Painting of Hawley Exton” by Chad Eagleton seems to be tangential to the story arc. It involves Lord Byron, a painting which attracts sinister aliens and speculations on the nature of reality. It could easily stand by itself in another collection.
Ron Scheer’s concluding essay “Are We Then Yet? H. G. Wells and the Mechanics of Time Travel” is one of the best I’ve ever encountered on the subject. He notes that Wells skipped over a lot physical issues involved with time travel. He also notes the recent adaptations of Wells’ The Time Traveler ignore the social implications of the book. I’ll be on the lookout for some of the recent time travel novels he mentions.
A Rip Through Time could be the start of something good. Beat to a Pulp has given us a new hero. The separate authors each contributed an original take on the character. There were some sharp turns as one of the secondary heroes in one story would turn into a villain in the next. I’m holding out for a series of novels written about Simon Rip, with a different writer contributing his or her version of the character.