Podcast Episode 1: Back to the Yet to Come

In case you missed the release announcement, this is a quick reminder that our gift to you this season is the pilot episode of the Mainlining Christmas Podcast.



In the first episode, secular holiday nerds Erin and Lindsay get a visit from their own Christmas future, along with a lesson on the true reason for the season (spoiler: it's time travel).

Listen above, or on Soundcloud, Stitcher, or iTunes.

Pieces of media discussed or mentioned:

Featured fiction: "A Ring"

Transcript below



Podcast Episode 1 Transcript:

Past Lindsay: Hello and welcome to the first ever episode of the Mainlining Christmas podcast! I’m Lindsay….

Past Erin: And I’m Erin, and together we’re going to take you through some of the odder aspects of the holiday.

Past Lindsay: We’ve got some fun suggestions for making doilies shaped like holiday characters…

Past Erin: And if you’re lucky, we might even have a recipe for fruitcake that--

[Past Erin is interrupted mid-sentence by loud wind and crackling electrical sound effects]

Past Erin: What the hell is that?

Past Lindsay: I can’t see!

Lindsay: Step aside, nerds.

Past Erin: Who… who are you?

Erin: We’re you, from the future. We’ve traveled back ten years to save Christmas. Or this podcast or something. Don’t worry about it - we’re taking over.

Past Lindsay: But we had a fruitcake recipe!

Lindsay: No one cares. We’re here to talk about time travel.

Past Erin: But time travel’s got nothing to do with Christmas.

Lindsay: That's where you’re wrong.

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Erin: Odds are, time travel isn’t the first thing you associate with Christmas, but the holidays have shaped and driven the concept almost since its inception. To understand how, we’ll need to take another trip backwards through time.

Lindsay: Let's start with a brief stopover in 1989. That’s the year Back to the Future, Part II was released. The movie might not have been set during the holidays, but a key sequence had a pretty significant connection.

Past Lindsay: Hey, you’re talking about the tangent universe. The alternate version of 1985 where Tannen had taken over. Wasn’t that based on It’s a Wonderful Life?

Past Erin: Wait, wait. If you two came from the future, aren’t you also creating a tangent--

Erin: Would you shut up?

Lindsay: Yeah, go get us some coffee. With nutmeg. And cinnamon. And whiskey.

[door closes]

Erin: Anyway, our past selves were right about one thing - the tangent universe in Back to the Future was inspired by the 1946 classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. In that movie’s most memorable sequence, Clarence teleports George Bailey to a world where he never existed, essentially erasing his history from the timeline.

Lindsay: It’s not quite time travel by name, but the act has the same result. We’re shown a world with an alternate timeline, where seemingly small actions have had major consequences.

Erin: In other words, a version of the butterfly effect.

Lindsay: You could argue that this was only the most obvious aspect of time travel in It’s a Wonderful Life. Up until that point, the movie is mostly an extended flashback of Bailey’s life. But this wasn’t supposed to take place in real time - Clarence was literally watching the past from the present. These scenes establish the key events in time where Bailey affected the town or affected the people in it. They provide context for the tangent timeline that follows.

Erin: Keep in mind that It’s a Wonderful Life has been hugely influential on Christmas movies and specials since.

Lindsay: There have been countless reimaginings, homages, and parodies, many of which use a similar “alternate timeline” concept.

Erin: So when we say that time travel and alternate timelines have been a part of Christmas for a long time, that’s still not what we’re talking about.

Lindsay: Of course not. It’s a Wonderful Life is less than a hundred years old. That’s insignificant in the scheme of Christmas. We’re going much bigger.

Erin: A few years ago, I noticed something odd about It’s a Wonderful Life. I don’t know if you remember this, but there were rumors of a sequel in production that was going to be set decades later.

Lindsay: No, I don’t think anyone remembers or cares about that.

Erin: The twist, supposedly, was that the new Bailey was going to be a jerk. So presumably instead of being shown how much the world benefited from his life, it would show him how he had caused suffering and then it would redeem him somehow. I realized at the time that this had already been done. If you start with a jackass instead of a good man and send a supernatural guide to teach them the error of their ways at the holidays…

Lindsay: You’re left with A Christmas Carol.

Erin: Or more accurately, if you start with A Christmas Carol, then rewrite the lead from a bad man to a good man…

Lindsay: You get It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a re-imagining of A Christmas Carol, right down to the structure. We go through the lead’s life and how they touch others, starting with their past, then on to their present. It’s still set at Christmas, and we’re still trying to transform their outlook. Which implies that Pottersville is just another take on Christmas Yet to Come.

Erin: It’s no longer set in the future, and the focus has shifted from personal salvation through social consciousness to social salvation… but the seed is the same. The tangent universe in It’s a Wonderful Life really just boils down to the fourth Stave.

Lindsay: You can take this further if you want. The resolution in Wonderful Life plays off the end of Christmas Carol, only instead of Scrooge being changed and giving his money to the poor, the people of Bedford Falls (who have been changed for the better by George Bailey) give Bailey the cash he needs. Meanwhile, the traditional “Scrooge role” goes to Mr. Potter.

Erin: You could argue It’s a Wonderful Life was saying that the well-meaning, socially conscious individuals worn down by uncaring materialists are far more worthy of salvation than the materialists themselves, that it’s incredibly significant that supernatural aid was sent to Bailey, and not to the more precise Scrooge character, who’s presumably left to die alone and unloved.

Lindsay: You could argue all that, but it’s off topic.

Erin: Yeah. Another episode, maybe.

Lindsay: For now, let’s stick with the fourth stave, “The Last of the Spirits,” in which Scrooge is shown the future. Or, more accurately, shown a possible future.

Erin: He’s shown a tangent universe, a timeline that never comes to pass because the vision he sees transforms him in the present.

Lindsay: In other words, the same idea that would be used a century later in It’s a Wonderful Life. The point of divergence is different - in A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s present is where the change occurs, while in It's a Wonderful Life, the timeline splits with George Bailey’s birth. But the idea is the same: we’re seeing an entire world - a timeline of events in which people have lived and died - re-written due to a change in history.

Erin: In science fiction, this is called an alternate timeline. It’s been done hundreds of times. But I’m not aware of any use of the trope prior to A Christmas Carol. As far as I can tell, Dickens was the first.

Lindsay: And he doesn’t get much credit for it. A Christmas Carol is commonly remembered as a ghost story and for its political and cultural impact, but it’s rare to see its speculative-fiction elements discussed.

Erin: And we’ve only been focusing on one aspect of the story’s use of time-travel. There’s a second tangent timeline in the Third Stave.

Lindsay: Yup, the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge an alternate version of the same Christmas day he experiences later at the end. And, unlike the future, we actually see both versions of this day. It’s an even clearer example of the trope.

Erin: Plus there’s some serious temporal distortion behind the whole “the spirits did it all in one night" thing.

Lindsay: He goes to bed at two AM, wakes up at midnight, falls asleep some unknown time after one AM, wakes up at what seems to be one AM the next night, stays up for twenty-three hours, sees the future, then wakes up the morning after he originally fell asleep.

Erin: I think it’s supposed to be a time loop. Or it’s just weird.

Lindsay: And, obviously, there’s the relatively straightforward trip to the past he takes with the first spirit...

Erin: Yeah, but that one’s pretty self-explanatory.

Lindsay: The point is, the story is a Plenty’s Horn of time-travel.

Erin: And the origin of Christmas’s relationship with the subgenre.

Lindsay: Origin, sure. But there’s a lot more.

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Erin: The next stop on our journey takes us to an era that’s a treasure-trove of festive temporal interference. Perhaps it was the confluence of the release of the movie Scrooged with the popularity of the aforementioned Back to the Future franchise; for whatever reason, television in the late 80’s/early 90’s was teeming with re-imaginings of A Christmas Carol where time-travel was an explicit element.

First, let's hop over to 1986, and an episode of The Real Ghostbusters, which, for those of you younger than I am, was an animated spin-off of the movies. I'm not even going to get into why it was called "real" that's--

Lindsay: --a whole other kettle of ghosts ---

Erin: --That's someone else's podcast. It was a good show. The story editor of the series was J Michael Straczynski, who you might know from Babylon 5, Sense8, his comics work---

Lindsay: --He's got geek cred--

Erin: Like most animation of that era, the jokes leave a bit to be desired, and the tone is never as dark as it should be. But this show had some complexity, and it occasionally pushed the envelope. It’s no Batman: The Animated Series, but it’s kind of a precursor - an attempt to take a Saturday morning cartoon and use the format to tell some interesting stories.

Lindsay: This particular episode, "X-mas Marks the Spot," finds the Ghostbusters falling backward through time and landing in Victorian England. Before they realize where they are, they rescue Scrooge from the three Christmas spirits and stick them in the containment grid. By the time they figure out what’s going on, they’ve created a dystopian timeline where an unrepentant Scrooge is the hero of his story, and by extension, Christmas is a time of greed instead of charity.

Erin: Basically it’s a version of the Fourth Stave scaled up to the entire world. Christmas in the present day is, well, Pottersville. I'd say it was actually a pretty decent episode.

Lindsay: It was. I especially like that the spirits aren’t immune to the Ghostbusters’ technology. That at the end of the day--

Erin: --they’re just ghosts.

Lindsay: Bustable ghosts.

Lindsay: Let’s jump ahead to 1988, where we find another inversion of A Christmas Carol, in this case taking a good character and convincing them of the virtue of doing bad. This is Blackadder's Christmas Carol.

Erin: This really - if anyone out there hasn’t seen this yet, you need to track it down. I would say this is good for an annual viewing, wouldn't you?

Lindsay: It's very British humor, so if you don't like British comedy the jokes might not all land, and I think it's better if you've seen at least some Blackadder for some context.

Erin: I think, I want to say this might have been the first Blackadder I ever saw--

Lindsay: (Really?)

Erin: --or one of the first, and it worked for me. It's so wonderful. It's one of the darkest retellings we've seen. I would say anytime you make it to December twenty-second or twenty-third with any shred of your sanity intact, you have earned the right to sit down and watch this special.

Lindsay: Well, this one is also notable for the scope. Ebenezer Blackadder is the kindest, gentlest man in London, or something like that, and a Christmas Spirit grants him visions of the distant past and the distant, distant future and his relatives there. Some of these are characters from previous seasons of Blackadder. It also features two alternate futures, where the fate of Blackadder’s descendant hinges on his actions in the present.

Erin: These are millions of years in the future.

Lindsay: Millions and millions of years, and it's clearly a spoof of cheezy 80s sci-fi, which is delightful in and of itself.

Erin: And you still get that fourth stave concept in there, where you see a version of the future, how if he is a bad man, how much worse it will be... for everyone except him.

Lindsay: And this time we’re encouraged to cheer for that timeline. It’s the preferable one.

Erin: That would be why everyone needs to see this immediately.

Lindsay: Just a few years forward, in 1990 we find a Quantum Leap episode called "A Little Miracle"

Erin: This one's great, we highly recommend--

Lindsay: we don't recommend this--

Erin: We recommend this to our enemies--

Lindsay: Quantum Leap is terrible--

Erin: If you remember it being good, that is your past lying to you. That is the Ghost of Christmas Past lying to you. This show does not hold up, and this particular episode REALLY does not hold up.

Lindsay: It's another Christmas Carol spin, where there's a greedy rich developer who wants to shut down a charity, and the characters decide to "play" Christmas Carol. What really bothered me was that, even though I know they never actually time travel within each actual episode, it's Christmas Carol. If you're ever going to use time travel in the episode's plot, this would be the time to do it. Instead, they just use their knowledge to bring the developer places he was as a kid and try and convince him to be a good person, and after all their plans fail, they use the hologram technology to fake a ghost to scare him.

Erin: The hologram ghost thing was almost fun, but they didn't really do much with it. Like you said, they’re using knowledge of the future obtained through time travel to manipulate their Scrooge stand-in--

Lindsay: That’s us justifying its inclusion.

Erin: --But there’s not a lot of content. For a science-fiction show, it wasn’t all that interested in science-fiction elements - or science fiction at all. Also - this is off-topic, but… do you remember the street urchins?

Lindsay: Oh yeah, they were only there for color and to make it clear that this was Dickens!

Erin: Yeah, it's the 1980s and there are--

Lindsay: --They're straight out of Oliver Twist

Erin: These little street urchins wandering around.

Lindsay: There are also Oliver-Twist-style street urchins at our next stop in 1991, Back to the Future: Dickens of a Christmas. Did you know, before we started researching this, that Back to the Future even had an animated series?

Erin: I feel like I knew it and forgot it multiple times.

Lindsay: It's a good thing to forget. I'm hoping to forget it again soon.

Erin: It fades from the mind like a vanishing photograph.

Lindsay: In this episode, the characters travel to a Victorian London full of Dickensian tropes and run into a character, I believe called EBIFFnezer Tannen. Ughhhhh

Erin: That's actually one of the best things about the episode, which is sort of a good indication of how low the bar needs to be set.

Lindsay: So he's our Scrooge stand-in, and he's evil and he throws people into debtor's prison. The characters decide to do Christmas Carol to teach him to be a better man, but, again, they don't...use...time travel.

Erin: They have a Delorean! They have Time Travel! They actually don't have the keys--

Lindsay: Because it's complicated and stupid, but they should have used time travel.

Erin: Yes.

Lindsay: And they don't. The characters know the Christmas Carol story, they are intentionally recreating it, but they don't use time travel. They just use a hoverboard and a cloak and a projector. It's bad.

Erin: Really we're talking about something that should be the epitome of the topic we're discussing, but instead it's one of four different subplots crammed into a half-hour show where the writers don't seem capable of handling even one.

Erin: Before we set Dickens aside for a while, we need to make one more stop, over in 2010 for a Doctor Who special, conveniently also called A Christmas Carol.

Lindsay: It's probably the most inventive reimagining that we know of. All of the adaptations we've mentioned so far use time travel in some way, but this embraces it to a much greater extent. You've said it's one of your favorite episodes of Doctor Who, right?

Erin: Yes, it's easily within my top five or ten from the series, and it's absolutely my favorite Christmas episode. Also flying sharks.

Lindsay: There are also flying sharks. Very few adaptations of A Christmas Carol can boast that.

Erin: I don't know what that has to do with anything, but--

Lindsay: It's probably from the original draft.

Erin: Yeah, but Dickens' editor probably cut them out.

Lindsay: A Christmas Carol was self-published.

Erin: Maybe the Doctor went back in time and cut those scenes.

Lindsay: Anyway, in the episode, the Scrooge analogue is a misanthropic miser who controls the weather on an alien planet and the Doctor decides to "Carol" him to convince him to let a ship land safely.

Erin: Similar to some of the other episodes we mentioned, The Doctor openly acknowledges that he's modeling his actions after A Christmas Carol, but it's a bit more playful here and a lot more interesting.

Lindsay: They do some really intriguing and unique things while still keeping enough of the core concepts that it's recognizable.

Erin: The Christmas Future section involves a particularly ingenious twist on Dickens' concept of seeing your future and changing your ways.

Lindsay: One of the other things that's interesting about this special is something it has in common with the original Back to the Future. As the Scrooge character is affected by the Doctor, we see his physical surroundings change as his past changes.

Erin: Right down to photographs and pictures. I have no idea whether it's an intentional parallel, though it's a nice touch either way. The episode is definitely a bit melodramatic, but it weaves that together with a fairy tale tone and--

Lindsay: It's very charming.

Erin: It's a fantastic use of time travel, playing off of the time travel that was already in A Christmas Carol, while modernizing it in new and interesting ways. It's probably my favorite adaptation of A Christmas Carol.

Lindsay: Yeah, part of me wants to go into the last section, but I don’t want to give too much away. If you haven’t seen this, even if you’re not really a fan of Doctor Who--

Erin: --Even if you’ve never seen an episode before. As long as you know he travels through space and time in a phone booth, you don’t really need to know anything else to appreciate the episode.

Lindsay: Given the premise of the show, of course there are other Doctor Who episodes that deal with the intersection of time travel and Christmas. The 2005 episode The Unquiet Dead even features Charles Dickens as a main character. But, although they traveled back in time to meet him, that’s about the extent of the time travel in that episode.

Erin: Yeah, it’s superficially related to the topic, but it’s really more a ghost story. I like the episode, though.

Lindsay: The 2011 special, The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe, uses a little more time travel, at least at the end. It wasn’t the central element, but it was important.

Erin: Another good one. We should probably also at least mention Time of the Doctor, which concluded Matt Smith’s run as The Doctor. It’s… a mixed episode.

Lindsay: Mixed is a good term.

Erin: There was a lot of time travel, albeit in a different context. This was a skipping ahead episode - every time Clara, who is his companion, returns, centuries have passed for the Doctor. It oscillates between being cool and pretentious. But it’s all set at Christmas.

Lindsay: At the town of Christmas.

Erin: Did I mention it was weird?

Lindsay: A lot of these were. At least as a technicality, all of the Doctor Who Christmas Specials are examples of Christmas time travel. But "A Christmas Carol," "The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe," and "Time of the Doctor" use time travel as more than just an excuse to be there. I don’t believe any of the others do.

Erin: Nah, not that I remember.

--------------

Erin: Let us jump ahead to the more recent past, 2013, which saw the release of a direct-to-DVD movie called Saving Santa. You haven't seen it. Nobody has seen it.

Lindsay: It even lingered on Netflix for a while and we hadn't even seen it, until we realized the subtitle was something about a time-traveling elf, and we said, oh, well that might not be terrible.

Erin: It was terrible.

Lindsay: (Whispered) It was terrible.

Erin: The movie was advertised as being from the makers of The Little Mermaid. I can't remember how they put it, but they made it sound like it was made by the same creative team or something. Look closer, and you realize one of the two directors had worked in Disney's animation department.

Lindsay: Yeah. If you are expecting Alan Menken, you will be very sorely disappointed.

Erin: This is not Disney quality.

Lindsay: It's not even Dreamworks quality.

Erin: It's not even Dreamworks Netflix television show quality. It's pretty bad. The characters are awful, the comedy is awful.

Lindsay: The music, as you may have guessed, is really, really painful. The designs were bland and boring.

Erin: Everything about this is awful and borderline unwatchable... except for what we're talking about today. Because despite everything we just said, it’s a solid time travel story. It's good science fiction, it was thought out. It set up its rules, and it followed them. Anyone familiar with time travel knows that’s pretty rare in movies.

Lindsay: This was sort of mind-blowing, because everything else was so bad. The characters were caricatures if they were anything, I mean, they were barely even that. They seemed almost aware of this, though: the main character, voiced by Martin Freeman, who must have needed an extra paycheck that year, is named Bernard D. Elf.

Erin: Bernard D. Elf. Do you get it?

Lindsay: And the villain, voiced by Tim Curry, was Neville Baddington. BAD--

Erin: N-Evil Bad-ington

Lindsay: I didn't even think of that.

Erin: The premise of the movie is that Santa's able to deliver all of his presents in one night through the use of time travel. This time travel device falls into the hands of the movie's protagonist--

Lindsay: Notably, we have seen other Santa stories with time magic or time travel, but this is the only case that we know of where the entire plot hinges on it.

Erin: Bernard ends up going back in time trying to save Santa from an invasion by agents of an evil package delivery company. This eventually transitions to iterative time travel: the main character reliving the same day multiple times.

Lindsay: Unlike something like Groundhog Day, his prior self is still present. By the end, you have several versions of the main character trying not to interact with each other.

Erin: Because that would change the past, which is set. He can’t talk to himself or physically stop the invasion. We know he can't because he already didn't. When he tries, reality intervenes. As a result of this, it actually does something interesting. It doesn't cheat. In the movie's opening sequence, if you know what to look for, you can see the alternate versions of Bernard. You'll probably miss them the first time, but he's there, doing things that he'll do later in the movie. I'd actually say there are some decent jokes around that --

Lindsay:--around the looping, you mean.

Erin: Yes, the time loops. It does that better than, I'd say, ninety percent of the time travel movies and television shows I've seen.

Lindsay: Yeah, hardly anything will attempt the "you can't change anything" version of time travel -- it makes storytelling difficult and the plot complicated, but this movie handles that really well.

Erin: It finds, I thought, a good way of handling the fundamental problem, which is in the resolution. If you can't change the ending, how do you have an ending that's satisfying? It does that by having the character learn information during each cycle that he'll need for what's essentially the extended ending. You can’t change the past, but you can gain insight from it to reshape the future.

Lindsay: Most things just can't manage the choreography of multiple versions of the same character occupying the same space and time. I want to repeat, though, that is the ONLY thing this movie did well.

Erin: Oh yeah, everything else is an abject failure. It's not funny, the music is not endearing. The character designs are simplistic at best. The love interest--

Lindsay: --Because there's a visibly female elf, so of course there's a love interest

Erin: --Let’s call her ‘uncanny valley Strawberry Shortcake.’ It's really hard to say whether or not you should even consider seeing this. If you don't have a significant interest in time travel, it's easy: that's a flat no. I don't care how young your kids are--

Lindsay: --or how much you love Martin Freeman.

Erin: --It's not his fault that he can't add anything to this. Nobody could. But, if you love time travel, and you have a high tolerance for crummy computer animation, you actually might consider it. All of the science fiction elements are done right. It even does the North Pole at Christmas right, which much better movies have gotten wrong.

Lindsay: It’s clever about it, too. At first, it looks like a sunny day in the elf village, but they later reveal the area is all hidden by a hologram. Whenever the hologram drops, it’s night.

Erin: They never address it. If you don’t know night lasts six months at the North Pole and it’s always dark there in winter, you won’t get the significance. It’s a subtle detail for those of us nerdy enough to care. I love that.

Lindsay: Someone in the process of making this had some good ideas. The contrast between the intelligent story and science fiction with the terrible writing, cheesy characters, and ugly animation kinda make it a fascinatingly weird experience.

Erin: In the end, I did like it as a science fiction story. I just had to block out literally everything I'm seeing and hearing on the screen in order to do it.

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Erin: Before we go on, I think we should address what’s under the tree.

Lindsay: Yeah, I think the listeners are getting restless, wondering what’s in the box.

Erin: We’ve made them wait long enough. Let’s unwrap it and show them what we got them.

[unwrapping sounds]

Lindsay: Is that what I think it is?

Erin: Sure is. It’s a story I wrote a few years back called, “The Ring.” Hope they like it….

A Ring

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Erin: Welcome back. There's at least one other holiday time travel trope we haven't discussed. In 1892, William Dean Howells wrote a short story called "Christmas Every Day"

Lindsay: This is not actually a time travel story, although there are similar elements. Christmas is sort of rebooting every day, but everyone remembers each time it happens and it doesn’t alter the changing seasons. So it's not really a time loop, at least not by most definitions of the term.

Erin: No, not really, but post-Groundhog Day, a number of adaptations of Christmas Every Day blend the two ideas to create a time loop. You can see this in the 2006 movie Christmas Do-Over.

Lindsay: There's also a Sesame Street adaptation called Elmo Saves Christmas. It's a bit closer to the original, in that it isn't a time loop, although there is time travel.

Erin: And there are other adaptations as well. It’s sort of an emerging trope with a century-old connection to Christmas, albeit a tenuous one.

Lindsay: We've also seen more examples of Christmas time travel than we've mentioned so far.

Erin: Quite a few more. We saw a Christmas episode of a bizarre Disney channel series called Phil of the Future featuring a time loop with a character trying to prevent one small mistake. It was a bit like Saving Santa, in those multiple versions of the characters ended up present at the same time, but its use of time travel and its continuity were really sloppy.

Lindsay: One of the first things we watched back in the early days of this site was a Lifetime movie called Comfort and Joy, about a woman who experiences an alternate future, and it makes her life all stereotypically womanly. It's terrible, but it is Christmas time travel.

Erin: Lastly, I can’t stomach the idea of wrapping up this conversation without mentioning my all-time favorite time travel movie. I actually don't think I would currently be working on a series of time travel novels if I hadn't seen this back in high school. The movie is Twelve Monkeys. It does time travel amazingly well.

Lindsay: Unfortunately, it's not a Christmas movie.

Erin: No, not really, although I have spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to convince myself otherwise, because I would love an excuse to talk about it more. And Christmas does make a cameo in the movie; it's an aspect of a key plot point. But not quite enough of the movie focuses on or takes place during Christmas for us to really count it as a "Christmas movie," at least not by any definition I'm comfortable with. However, it is a fantastic time travel movie dealing a bit with Christmas, so I wanted to mention it here.

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Erin: All right, let's sum up. Even though time travel isn't widely considered part of Christmas, there's a relationship between these concepts that goes back more than a hundred and fifty years. This covers both the timeframe that our modern concept of Christmas has developed, as well as the time that the modern genre of time travel has formed. This absolutely springs from A Christmas Carol, at the crux of both.

The question that I wanted to broach here is whether there's more to it than that. Is there something intrinsic to Christmas that makes it a logical starting point for time travel? Is there a reason for this intersection? I think the answer to these questions is... maybe?

I don't really have a solid explanation or answer, but I have a few ideas. Anytime you start peeling layers off of Christmas, you get down to the solstice.

Lindsay: The winter solstice, of course, is the point where the days stop getting shorter and start getting longer. The word comes from the words for sun and stillness, because to astronomers plotting the sun's position day after day, the sun seems to stop before reversing direction.

Erin: So if you were looking for a time of the year or a moment in which there might be some sort of connection between past and future, where time stands still, you couldn't do much better than to choose the winter solstice. So that's maybe one hypothesis for why we're seeing this connection. That said, I'm not entirely certain that I buy it. I think it boils down to a question that we can’t answer here - whether Dickens was thinking about the proximity of the solstice to Christmas when he wrote A Christmas Carol.

Lindsay: We know Dickens thought of Christmas as a magical time of the year, but we don't know whether or not the solstice was a direct inspiration for any part of A Christmas Carol. And we don't think this has anything to do with why A Christmas Carol struck the chord it did, why it so strongly resonated with the zeitgeist of the time.

Erin: Yeah, I don't think the time travel elements were necessarily required for A Christmas Carol to have the impact it did, although we can never know for sure. The open question about the root of time travel's relationship with Christmas is whether or not there was something about the solstice in that initial conception of a Christmas Carol.

Lindsay: But either way, Christmas and time-travel have developed together. At this point, temporal displacement is a part of the holiday.

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Lindsay: And that's all for now. Thanks for listening. We'll be back soon with more theories and commentary about the most horrible, wonderful time of the year.

Erin: Mainlining Christmas is us, Erin Snyder

Lindsay: and Lindsay Stares.

Erin: We wrote, produced, recorded...

Lindsay: Scored, edited… you get the idea.

Erin: Our interns are the past versions of ourselves.

Lindsay: For more about Erin's time travel novels, visit erinlsnyder.com. For more Christmas reviews and discussion, you can always find Mainlining Christmas on Facebook, you can follow us on Twitter at MainliningXMas, or you can check out our website: mainliningchristmas.com.

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