Time-Travelling Space Aliens

I smile, remembering the perfect quote for my post about listening to our future selves.

“Sometimes our impulses come to us from the future.”

I frown, realizing that I can’t swear to the wording. And although I remember the story clearly, I can’t remember the name of the novel or the author, so I can’t confirm or correct it. And just like that, the hunt is on.

Regrettably, Googling the half-remembered quote brings up interesting but not relevant sites about space aliens and time travel.

Time for a new tack: a site for tracking fiction, which lets me specify search terms related to the main characters, the setting (by country and topography), writing style, and plot. I click on that last pull-down menu, and my eye catches just a few of the 26 options . . .

  • Captor, in love with
  • Difficult/unusual lover
  • Forbidden/mismatched love
  • Hidden identity/secret motive
  • Love triangles/polygons
  • Searching/rekindling love
  • Time travel

Love polygons? My goodness, I do lead a sheltered life. And what the heck is going on with time travel? At least there are no explicit references to space aliens: I guess they’re covered by “difficult/unusual lover.”

Unsure how to proceed with “plot,” I check out “writing style” and almost recoil: Its choices are all about whether there are accounts of torture and death (and, if so, how much), and how explicit the sex scenes are.

No, no, no. This was a gentle romance/mystery that I read as a young teen in the mid-1960s. Did they even have sex back then? In any event, I don’t think this site’s database is targeted to the genre of my lost novel.

Time for a new, new tack: a message board where people post descriptions of novels and others try to identify them, just to help out. As Blanche Dubois said, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”  But a few minutes here make it clear that “stranger” about sums it up.

 A bunch of workers in the Soviet Union are digging a giant pit… Maybe a foundation for a big house? I’m not too sure. . . but I know at one part they find a ton of coffins buried in the pit (like 100 coffins or more) and at the end they bury someone . . . the boss’s daughter or something of the sort. – Post #1


. . . the sequel is about a wealthy man’s daughter who was kidnapped and a widower whose wife was also kidnapped and murdered.  The father forces him to marry her . . . I remember a robotic dog in the story, too. – Post #2

I thought I knew this book, but the one I remember had no robotic dog.

The heroine lived with several older nuns. They were all kind. She was raised there. The heroine had trouble telling right from left, and the nuns tied ribbons on her hands so she could tell. They may have banged on walls as well. She has an awful sense of direction and got lost. – Post #3

Did they bang their heads on the walls? If so, I know just how they felt.

Not having time to pursue this approach for the post in question, I let it go. But over the next few weeks, I can’t help wondering how I might summarize the plot of my unknown novel so that others could identify it. I succumb to the impulse to give it a go.

 A woman alone in the English countryside is accosted by a scary, intense guy who mistakes her for his long-lost cousin. Once he’s convinced he’s made a mistake, he persuades the woman to impersonate said cousin to alleviate his inheritance problems: His crotchety grandfather, not wanting to believe the long-absent cousin/granddaughter is gone for good, won’t write her out of the will.  But in a double-agent kind of twist, the woman really is the person she’s impersonating! She had decamped 10 years earlier because she was afraid of Scary Guy and because she had a Secret Sweetheart: the unhappily-married-and-justly-so neighbour on the next farm. As the story plays out to its climax, Scary Guy becomes Definitely Dangerous Guy. Then he is killed in an accident (maybe a horse kicks him in the head, I’m not too sure). The formerly thwarted Secret Sweethearts are thwarted no more, since Unsatisfactory Wife has helpfully died in the intervening years. And, oh yeah, back in the day they left love notes for each other in a hole in an oak tree that was covered in ivy.

The penny drops. I Google “oak and ivy tree novel” and, just like that, I have my answer: The Ivy Tree, by Mary Stewart, published in 1961. It’s been 50 years but I’d recognize the paperback cover design anywhere.

Maybe our impulses do come to us from the future, at least sometimes. Maybe they’re brought by time-travelling space aliens. I mean, why not? That’s how Google gets its answers. Any other explanation for how it works is, frankly, just too hard to believe.


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4 Responses to Time-Travelling Space Aliens

  1. Laurna Tallman says:

    I haven’t thought of Mary Stewart for years, and in the same week I run across Nine Coaches Waiting and the trilogy about Merlin that I found amazing The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment. And here’s another. The answer about the future is that humans have the capacity for seeing “forward.” The Bible is chock full of such stories. Literature more generally dares to go there sometimes. And humans do it often without knowing how or why and only a few cultivate the ability. If humanity has a future, it may rest on those few.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Ah, serendipity – or selective perception: that odd business of noticing streaks of things. That raises another blog post, I’m sure. As for seeing into the future – or reaching/working for the one we want – I hope so.

  2. Tom Watson says:

    You mean I’m going to have to watch “Back to the Future” all over again?

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