Last time I did Throwback Thursday, I did a very interesting and convoluted time travel story titled “All You Zombies“. This time, we are going to do a short story that is a little more classic, and there is nothing more classic than Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder.”
I think most people, when they think of time travel stories, the first thing they think about is going back to the age of dinosaurs, stepping on a butterfly, and then somehow changing the entire course of civilization. It was even epitomized in a ‘Simpsons’ episode (‘Tree House of Horror V”).
Where did the idea come from? Well, it may have been other places, but I think most people would agree it would be from “A Sound of Thunder.”
In “A Sound of Thunder”, patrons of a company called Time Safari go back into the past to hunt dinosaurs. To ensure minimal impact on the future, the hunters have to be on a levitating platform that keeps them from disturbing the environment, and the animals they kill would be dead within minutes due to different causes if not hunted just before their deaths.
The main character loses his nerve to do so and runs off into the forest. When he is coaxed back and returns to the future, he notices a lot of small changes in his present. Words are different, and more telling, the fascist presidential candidate won instead of the moderate one. When he looks at his boots, he sees a single crushed butterfly.
Some of you may go, “Oh, this is where the term ‘butterfly effect’ comes from”, and you would be pretty clever to guess that. Except, sadly, it has nothing to do with the short story. The term was actually coined in the 60s by the Chaos Theory pioneer, Edward Norton Lorenz.
When you think of classic time travel short stories, “A Sound of Thunder” is about as classic as HG Wells’ “The Time Machine,” so if you’re a fan of science fiction and haven’t read it yet, make sure you do!