About the Time Machine

What it Is

At its most basic, the Time Machine is a links page that grew out of control. It's a source for sources – a way to find the things you need to take a mental trip back in time and immerse yourself in the world of the characters we write about.

Beyond that, there are a few, and will eventually be more, pages explaining the content and helping put the material in context, mostly in the Tour Guide section. In the end, it's all about people, and about the people who read these books, watched these movies, and all the rest. What else I may do with it ... well, who knows?

How it Came to Be

The Time Machine came about because I realized that many people writing fan fiction today have no true internalized feel for a world without computers, mobile phones, and satellites. True, few people actually put anachronistic technology into their stories, but the mental bias is still there, in things as basic as unconscious estimates of how long it would take to get from here to there, or how easy it is to keep in contact with someone. When you have always lived in a world of reliable cars and public superhighways, it never enters your mind that people travelled by train. When your friends and relatives are as close as the cell phone in your pocket, you can't see things from the viewpoint of someone waiting for an answer to a letter he sent weeks ago. Reading statistics on passenger-miles or mail volume doesn't take you back in time. Only by letting go of our modern world and mentally stepping into theirs can we really understand our characters' mindset, and without doing that, we can't write authenticaly about them or their world.

Some parts of the Time Machine reflect my own interests, such as vintage postcards, old time radio, and juvenile series books such as Tom Swift and other Stratemeyer Syndicate products. Those interests have fed back into my writing, and it occurred to me that they might be useful to other writers seeking to develop an authentic voice for their characters and a feeling for their times.

So, the idea of the Time Machine was born: a collection of material that would help people immerse themselves in their characters' world. I can't promise it will improve your writing, but if you spend an afternoon reading Tom Swift books and listening to The Shadow, I think I can guarantee you'll have a good time.

About the Design

Hero Files itself reflects my personal taste in website design: plain to the point of starkness. The Time Machine, however, is meant to engage the visitor's senses. The Spartan design of the main Hero Files site just wouldn't do. I started out playing with science-fictional designs, in support of the time travel theme, but they had the effect of distancing the reader from the content. I needed something more homey. It is about travel, however virtual, and what says "travel" more than a postcard?

The choice of fonts is a deliberate violation of the common typographic rule that you should never use more than two fonts on a page, one serif and one sans-serif, and sometimes maybe a special headline font. Doing otherwise often leads to what is called the "ransom note look", exemplified by yard-sale flyers and club meeting notices whose authors seem to think that they need to use every font they own. Sometimes in the same sentence. However, that's a modern convention. Like most design rules, there are times and places when you can get away with breaking it, and evoking a period feel is one of them. So the page text – meant to look like typewritten documents on aged paper – is courier. The navigation is Georgia, a wide, open serif font, in small caps, and section titles are the same in mixed case. The page headings are made of not one but two Art Deco-style fonts. The quote that opens the first page of the Tour Guide is Times New Roman, because it looked lousy in Georgia italics (too heavy, for one thing). Of course, your fontage may vary, depending on what you have installed, except for the graphic page headers. And none of this may be the same tomorrow.

You can find information about the graphics on the credits page.