Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a property of chaotic systems (such as the atmosphere) by which small changes in initial conditions can lead to large-scale and unpredictable variation in the future state of the system.”

Handling the Butterfly Effect properly is important in stories about Time Travel. Here’s a quote from my recent post to a fiction email loop:

If time travel really works, how do your characters avoid changing the future? Or if they do change the future (see Ray Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder), how do you resolve all the problems this creates for your characters? You can handle this in a humorous way (like in Disney's Meet the Robinsons) where the conceptual issues are ignored, but in a more serious novel you're not going to get away with that. Randy Ingermanson did the best job I've ever seen of handling time travel in a scientifically plausible way in his City of God series if you want to check that out. That is, he wrote a novel with conceptual issues to deal with, but showed that he knew what they were and came up with a way to logically resolve them.

In Fantasy stories, these effects often aren't as important since "reality" isn't the subject matter. You know it's a made-up world anyway, so hair-splitting about the Butterfly Effect is out of place.

My upcoming novel, Saving Doctor Dewey, has aspects of both Science Fiction and Fantasy. The new term is "Speculative Fiction." Saving Doctor Dewey handles time travel in a unique way that at least mitigates the Butterfly Effect (to the extent that the reader is interpreting the novel as Science Fiction as opposed to Fantasy).

Continue checking this blog for details as Saving Doctor Dewey gets closer to completion.

Doing the Impossible

There's a Butterfly Effect in our personal lives as well. Each action we take, whether bad or good, has innumerable effects on our future.

I had an interesting conversation with my son the other night as we were driving to a church event. He's an excellent violinist, but his teacher had given him a song that felt impossible to play. What I said next came to me out of the blue. I believe God gave me the words.

I told my son that it's only when what we're doing feels impossible that we're actually making progress. Otherwise we're just coasting. When we're attempting the impossible, we're growing. We're becoming closer to what God has called us to.

There's a book called Do Hard Things that my son read some time ago. I told him that the growth from doing the impossible is what that book is actually about. It's important to do hard things because that's how you grow. That's how you move into another realm. It's how we make the Butterfly Effect in our personal lives work the way God intended.


B.L. Jenkins


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