Alfred Jarry’s Time Machine & Michael Moorcock’s The Traps of Time

The Traps of Time (2868) edited by Michael Moorcock

Nine stories and an essay, first published as an anthology in 1968.

Published by Penguin Books October 1970 with cover art by Franco Grignani.

  • Brian Aldiss : Man in His Time
  • Charles L Harness : Time Trap
  • Langdon Jones : The Great Clock
  • J G Ballard : Mr F is Mr F
  • David I Masson : Traveller's Rest
  • Jorge Luís Borges : The Garden of Forking Paths
  • George Collyn : Unification Day
  • Thomas M Disch : Now is Forever
  • Roger Zelazny : Divine Madness
  • Alfred Jarry : How to Construct a Time Machine

1979 reprint with a cover illustration by Adrian Chesterman.

Not long after Penguin published The Traps of Time, the editor of the anthology, Michael Moorcock, began collaborating and sometimes performing with the English space-rock band Hawkwind. Moorcock may have lent the anthology to band member Robert Calvert, for it was around this time that Calvert read Alfred Jarry's pataphysical essay How to Construct a Time Machine and claimed to have noticed what others had missed, namely that Jarry was describing his bicycle.

According to Calvert, Jarry was 'the kind of bloke who'd think it was a good joke to write this very informed-sounding piece.....describing how to build a time machine, which is actually about how to build a bicycle, buried under this smoke-screen of physics that sounds authentic'. It is an intriguing idea since Jarry was very fond of his bicycle, and cycling features prominently elsewhere in his fiction, notably The Passion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race and a chapter in The Supermale describing a 10,000-mile race between an express train and the crew of a five-man bicycle at speeds of over 300 kilometres per hour. So had Calvert cracked the secret of temporal displacement, or had he just cracked?

Either way, it was Jarry's essay that inspired Calvert to write the lyrics for Hawkwind's 1972 hit single Silver Machine, as Calvert himself explained: 'At that time there were a lot of songs about space travel' and 'NASA was actually, really doing it. They'd put a man on the moon and were planning to put parking lots and hamburger stalls and everything up there' so naturally everyone assumed the song was about 'some sort of cosmic space travel machine' whereas all it was really saying was 'I've got a silver bicycle'.

pataphysics n 1 a 'science of imaginary solutions' conceived by the French writer Alfred Jarry (1873-1907) whose faux-scientific articles and essays mixed real and imaginary science in such a way as to obscure their underlying absurdity and thus appear plausible 2 science fiction disguised as science fact.

All content on this page is taken from The Art of Penguin Science Fiction, Chapter 13: The third Italian renaissance.

Alfred Jarry’s “How to Construct a Time Machine”: A Web Guide

Definition of ’Pataphysics by Alfred Jarry

Magritte, la Pataphysique et son Collège

Laughter by Marcel Schwob

Formal Logic of Pataphysics by René Daumal

Patalogic in the Garden of Sidamo by R. Dumain

The Definitive Time Machine: A Critical Edition of H.G. Wells’s Scientific Romance
(Contents + notes on Jarry)

H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine: Selected Bibliography

Edward Page Mitchell (1852-1927), Science Fiction Pioneer: Time Travel, Hegel, and More

Eugène Mouton: 19th Century Science Fiction Pioneer

Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau: El anacronópete — The First Time Machine

«Le maître du temps» par Giuseppe Lipparini

The Man Who Was Solved by Dick Allen

Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources: A Selective Work in Progress

Humor & Philosophy: Selected Bibliography

Irony, Humor, & Cynicism Study Guide

Jorge Luis Borges: Selected Study Materials on the Web

Surrealism: Selected Links

Exotica, Curiosa, Crankery, Hoaxes, Cultural & Intellectual Arcana: Selected Web Guide & Bibliography


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Uploaded 21 December 2013

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