This day, October 21st 2015, think on the most delicious notion…
What if Back to the Future, whose fans are now celebrating the fact we’ve reached the actual date in 2015 to which Marty McFly time-travelled in the 1989 sequel, had actually happened?
Think I’m crazy?
Well, I don’t have a DeLorean in the driveway but, philosophically speaking, Back to the Future is about pivotal moments in history and the way in which altering the outcome of one of those instances can change a person’s entire future. At the Entertainment Under the Sea dance in 1955, Marty McFly helps his own father, George, stand up to Biff, the local brute. As a result, Marty (who has travelled from a future 1985 where Biff has continued forever to browbeat his father, where his mother is obese, his brother’s in jail and that Toyota pickup truck he so much wanted is an unreachable dream) returns to an altered 1985 where his Dad’s now a successful author, his Mom is svelte, his brother has an office job and Marty’s got his truck.
So what if, in real life, someone had actually changed their whole future at one pivotal moment when two alternate timelines hung in the balance?
Dear Miss Landau has a fair few themes, but I’m glad Back to the Future was one of them:
After losing my order three times, billing me wrongly and leaving me hanging on the telephone longer than Blondie, BT finally delivered broadband unto me. … I was hooked up to the wired world, and as the BT engineer was leaving, he mentioned he’d been able to give me access to my old dial-up email account.
I am glad he did. Events might have turned out a little differently otherwise.
Late on a stygian Friday evening early in October, I took a look at my obsolete account.
I scrolled down through the 75 or so emails stagnating in the inbox, deleting some, not really concentrating on the job but still doing it with autistic precision.
Then I saw something.
An email from Juliet Landau, dated August 15 2009.
Two weeks before I’d emailed her!
With the care of a librarian handling the Book of Kells, I opened the email:
From: Juliet Landau
Sent: 15 August 2009 03:57
To: James Christie
Subject: Your Story
I just finished your story. I thought it was great. I really enjoyed it. You managed to catch Drusilla’s voice and behavior so beautifully. The sad, lost, haunted feeling of Dru was there. I myself have just written a comic about Dru as part of season 6 of “Angel.”
Please check it out if you’d like.
I sat there for a full five minutes, deciding what to do.
Take the advice and hold back, or take a shot in the dark and reply?
Sometimes there are signs.
I felt a quite a lot like Marty McFly at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance in Back to the Future Part II. He and I, both at a turning point between two alternate futures and not sure which road to take.
Reply. Something might happen.
Hold back. Nothing will happen.
In the end, I came to a simple decision.
Juliet Landau had been kind enough to email me. It would be impolite not to at least reply.
So, with the click of a mouse, I summoned the future.
(Dear Miss Landau, p 93-94)
At the time, she and I had just got in touch, I’d stupidly fallen out of touch and it all came down to this lone email: one last, pivotal chance to straighten out the timeline.
And I think I knew it. That if I did not reply, the timeline which now exists – where I crossed America and met the beautiful and talented Juliet Landau on Sunset Boulevard, where Dear Miss Landau was published, Drusilla’s story was completed and the stage musical version is currently in development – would never have happened.
Of course, it’s important to note that I myself did not travel in time – I ‘merely’ changed my own future and as a result was able to fulfil my lifelong ambition to be published, realize my potential and become the person I’d always wanted to be.
You might say I got my pickup truck.
The alternative does not bear thinking about: my personal and creative potential would never have been developed and I would very likely have become a bitter, twisted and isolated old man. That is neither joke nor exaggeration: Autists are particularly prone to social isolation, it happens to us a lot and causes serious mental health issues. Artists, if unable to express that creative urge which cannot be denied, can go mad with frustration.
I’m glad I made the right decision.
I’ve watched others get it wrong.