Time travel is a science fiction trope that is overused to the point of cliche and almost impossible to do well, and yet it still remains one of my favorite tropes. When it works, it really works. Some of the greatest science fiction stories ever told are time travel stories. Heck, Doctor Who, the seminal science fiction show of my teenage years, has time travel woven into the main premise. And yet I’ve never written a time travel story. Until now, that is.
Camp NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and intead of finishing an existing project, I’ve come up with a new one. The basic premise is that a transgender anthropomorphic dinosaur (I’m calling them “Anthrosaurs” in universe) travels back in time and tells their younger self that they don’t need to be beholden to their society’s gender roles. The story follows the main character’s personal chronology, from them as a child meeting their future self, to growing into their gender-nonconfirming identity, to becoming an adult time traveler and eventually back where the story started, but from the other direction. Its basically a mobius strip in terms of plot structure and its not a very action-heavy science fiction piece. The idea is to create science fiction with a deeply personal story that mirrors my own discovery of my gender identity.
The setting itself is a bit of wish fulfilment mixed with a slight distaste for the direction of modern science fiction. A lot of modern science fiction is dystopian to the point of nihilism. It depicts a world that is tainted by its over-reliance on technology, but doesn’t really propose any workable alternative. The message seems to be “wow, everything sucks, too bad that a better world is impossible.” And yeah, in real life, especially with the pandemic and the looming threat of Global Warming, things look pretty damn bleak. But that’s exactly why we need fiction and art that counteracts that tendency, that gives us a better future to work towards, or some kind of example of how we could potentially avert disaster. And that’s kind of what I intend to make this setting into, in a roundabout way.
The Anthrosaurs are a species of theropod with a number of human charecteristics, placing this setting firmly into the “furry” subgenre. Their civilization survived the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs by time traveling to the far future, far after humans have abandoned the earth, leaving it ready to be re-terraformed to support paleozoic life. As such, time travel is normal in the society, primarily as a way to bring specimens from the paleozoic era to the future in order to assist with the reclamation effort. Thus the kind of encounter the protagonist has is not out of the ordinary for the society she lives in, though it may be slightly uncommon. The society is something of a semi-utopia, with the threat of extinction having pushed the Anthrosaurs to put aside differences for a time in order to avert disaster.
Using a species other than humans also gives me an excuse to play around with gender roles and ideas in ways that are unique to the species but can be related to by human protogonists. Anthrosaurs have some degree of binary gender roles that are inspired by the mating behavior and sexual dimorphism of modern birds. For example, the protagonist is picked on early in the story for wanting to play the female role in a game of “nesting” and stay with the stuffed toy eggs as their friend goes out to get snacks. As a response to being picked on, they end up tearing out some of their bright and colorful “male” feathers. What the protagonist will eventually find, though, is that they are far from the only person with this experience, and they will eventually find a community of transgender and gender-nonconformin anthrosaurs.
The story is not all sunshine and dew-drops, of course. If there were no real conflict in the society I’m depicting, it wouldn’t feel real. Beyond that, it wouldn’t be honest or speak to my own experiences as a transgender person, which haven’t all been uplifting. But I do want to make the kind of science fiction story that gives people hope, whether that be for society in the future or for their own personal life. I want people to feel like they aren’t alone, to escape into the pages of a book where they can relate to a character’s struggles and rejoice when they come out on top. Too often transgender people don’t get that in fiction, even science fiction. I want to change that.