SciFi Q of the Day: Stranded in the Past

This is a Two Parter. Same question, two very different time periods.

SciFi Question of the Day: If you found yourself hopelessly stranded back in the glory days of the Roman Empire, how much of your knowledge of future events would you share, and with whom? (I’m purposely being somewhat vague on the exact time here.)

Facebook Answers:

  Dave Mac As little as possible.

  Pony Horton I’d start building gliders and aqueducts, and making amazing photorealistic paintings long before anyone had figured it out.

  Katherine Fixer Noel ‎… there is a port city I would avoid, though I would love to follow the golden footprints.

  Gwendolyn Wilkins Well, since my grasp on Latin is shakey at best, I likely wouldn’t be sharing much of anything ;P

  William Lutz I would freaking rule the empire like it was from Romulus done with true honor

Google Plus Answers:

Mari Miniatt's profile photo Mari Miniatt  –  I would say, sarcastically, “Yeah, those barbarians are no threat.”

R. K. MacPherson's profile photo  R. K. MacPherson  –  Well, I’d certainly try to profit by securing myself a nice little chunk of power. Legate has a nice ring to it.

I’d probably try to advance metallurgy, chemistry, and biology as well through texts. I might disrupt the Council of Nicea (depending on the time-frame). I’d leave texts and tests regarding astronomy and I’d totally lay the groundwork for political thought of the 18th and 19th centuries to come about…only much sooner.

Basically, I’d ensure that the world we know would be vastly different…and I’d be very curious to see how things unfolded.

Eugene Geist's profile photo  Eugene Geist  –  I would use my knowledge of fermentation and distillation to build a liquor industry. I would then begin making gunpowder to sell to the highest bidder. Then buy a fleet of ships, sail to the new world and cultivate tobacco, bring it back and get everyone addicted with me the only supply. Who needs the ATF! (oh and I would also invent the printing press in there somewhere)

AmyBeth Inverness's profile photo  AmyBeth Inverness  –  My problem would be the huge gaps in my knowledge. I know about gunpowder, but I don’t know how to make it.

R. K. MacPherson's profile photo  R. K. MacPherson  –  That’s where I cheat. As an archaeologist, I studied ancient technologies and adaptations. I’ve got a slight advantage. Of course, if we go back to the Pleistocene, I’m screwed. I can’t make stone tools to save my life.

Diego Lizarazo's profile photo  Diego Lizarazo  –  First I would try to find a way to survive day by day. I may have, in some areas, more knowledge and experience than the normal Roman citizen, but I don’t have something quite important: the language.

When that problem is solved, I would try to find an influential person in the region where I am located, and depending on his interests I would try to come up with some technology/knowledge that he may find useful. That way I would create reputation and hopefully gain enough money to start bigger projects that would include:

1. Improve the army of the empire with air units. Hot air balloons at first.
2. Use the improved Legions, and the fear and military advantage that air units may confer, to expand the Empire and impose the Pax Romana everywhere. Hopefully with this unnecessary wars will be avoided between the nations that would join the empire.
3. Create a semi monastic institution that would keep secret all the knowledge that I can provide and keep scientific research at the core of a healthy empire. The printing press, change in numeric system, compass and basic medical improvements would help to make the efforts of this institution known by everyone and affect the daily lives of all Romans.

Wow, there are more things that come to my mind like starting an industrial revolution, “discovering” the Americas, creating the first assembly lines with a new standard of measurement, and push for the adoption of a universal language.

But if nothing works, I will just turn into a SciFi writer and tell the Romans stories about a future where men can fly, communicate across oceans and sit in front of a weird thing called computer during 8 hours a day.

Eugene Geist's profile photo  Eugene Geist  –  Charcoal, sulphur and saltpeter (potassium nitrate). Historically, saltpeter can be made by collecting manure and feces mixed with straw and wood ash in a covered space to keep it dry. Frequently douse with urine and let sit for a year. Then leach saltpeter out by washing the pile with water, filtering it through potash (wood ash) and then evaporate off the liquid.

100 parts saltpeter
18 parts charcoal
16 parts sulfur

There! Now you are prepared.

AmyBeth Inverness's profile photo  AmyBeth Inverness  –  +Eugene Geist I need to have that tattooed somewhere unobtrusive so I’ll always have it handy, just in case…

Eugene Geist's profile photo  Eugene Geist  –  Hmmm. Not a bad idea.

Diego Lizarazo's profile photo  Diego Lizarazo  –  Like the tattoos in Memento , but mixed with time travel.

SciFi Question of the Day: If you found yourself hopelessly stranded in the past, on the day of and in the city where you were born, would you share your knowledge of future events and technology with anyone?

Facebook Answers:

  Geri Bressler And be burned/squashed/drowned as a witch? I think not. Ignorance is bliss…especially when the alternative is a slow and painful death!

  AmyBeth Fredricksen I had no idea witch-burning was so prevalent in the 1970’s…

  Geri Bressler Well they burned bras, didn’t they? Wait, no that was the 60’s.

  Geri Bressler Hang on, I’ll get it in a minute! LOL

  Geri Bressler I know! They make you into a…a…REPUBLICAN! *gasp*

just kidding!

  AmyBeth Fredricksen Are you saying that if you found yourself stranded back in time, you would become a Republican? Or you would somehow make sure the newborn “you” became a Republican?

  Geri Bressler Hmmm…Wyoming in the early 70’s. I can’t figure out what I’d tell myself that anyone would care about. Don’t date that jerk in 8th grade?

  Henry Anona Look the jerk up and give him some pointers 🙂

  Geri Bressler How about…disco doesn’t die fast enough…and lay off the hairspray for crying out loud!

  AmyBeth Fredricksen Or would you walk away from the “other” you and go somewhere else to make a new life for yourself? What if hubby was also stranded on the day and city of his birth?

  Geri Bressler I think I’d walk away…but try to find hubby if I knew. I’m not a big believer in the “disrupting the timeline thing” but I think it would be surreal and very emotionally disturbing to see the younger me.

  Branli Caidryn I think I would let it all go and start over. Change my name too >.>

  Dan Bressler I’d definitely be buying stock in Microsoft.

  James Lucius Consider the culture shock you’d be going through. None of the money in your possession is any good. Your driver’s license? Same. You have no identity. You may not have marketable skills, in the context of the time. Assume you’re currently an engineer. Do you remember — did you even ever know — how to use a slide rule, a compass and a protractor? So far as “knowledge of future events” is concerned, do you know, for instance, exactly when Microsoft’s IPO was? Do you remember the exact date of the stock market crash of 1986? (Or was it ’85?) My guess, for what it’s worth, is that an involuntary refugee from the future would be more likely to end up like the protagonist of H. Beam Piper’s “he walked around the horses” than the proverbial Connecticut Yankee.

  Kirstie Hall id be buying up loads of mega flares and paltform shoes some to take with me and some to be held and sent to me at a certain age coz they a nightmare to get hold of now and vintage would b amazing lols

  Daniel Beard only with my bookie and my stock broker

Google Plus Answers:

Michelle Marie's profile photo  Michelle Marie  –  Hmm… Probably not, people already think I’m weird.

Christoph Daemondred's profile photo  Christoph Daemondred  –  I think I would use my knowledge of events to live an easy and happily prosperous life, only taking the most minor advantage of the situation to do so (buying stock in tech to fund myself) and perhaps do what I could to help move society quietly in a better direction. Hopefully without causing any horrible paradoxical collapse of the time stream.

Oh, and of course taking advantage of all those chances I missed out on when given a second change.

Roger Brasslett's profile photo  Roger Brasslett  –  I would use my knowledge to silently make sure I’m financed for life.

M. David Blake's profile photo  M. David Blake  –  No, I didn’t.

David Grigg's profile photo  David Grigg  –  Absolutely. What’s wrong with changing the past? It was pretty badly messed up at the time. Whether I would be believed is another matter (see 12 Monkeys).

I would love to hear what you think! Even if you are reading this post a year or more after publishing, I hope you will leave a comment with your own ideas on this topic.

The previous SciFi Q of the Day is Why Go to the Moon?

The shortlink for this post is

The next SciFi Q of the Day will be up next Tuesday.

About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
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2 Responses to SciFi Q of the Day: Stranded in the Past

  1. Pingback: SciFi Q of the Day: Why Go to the Moon? | AmyBeth Inverness

  2. Pingback: SciFi Q of the Day: Can Good SciFi Lack Plausibility? | AmyBeth Inverness

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