Study Guide

Timescape Change

By Gregory Benford


Simply put, Timescape has one underlining question to ask in regards to this theme: Is change possible? Like so many other themes in the novel, the initial answer seems to be duh, but then things start to get sticky. On the grand scheme of things, the novel asks a classic time traveling question: Can you change the past to better the future? And the novel answers that question… kind of.

And then the novel goes a step further, also asking this same question on a much smaller scale. Can a person change himself or herself from the person they used to be? And if that change is possible, what does that mean for them as a person? Are they still the same person they were? It's deep stuff, whether you're sending messages to the 1960s or trying to make sense of the person you share a bed with each night.

Questions About Change

  1. Would you say that Renfrew's experiment leaves the world of 1998 unchanged? If yes, why? If not, what changes occur and are these changes important? Remember to think small scale as well as big for this one.
  2. What character would you say brings about the biggest change for the world? Gordon? Renfrew? Peterson? Support your answer with evidence from the text. Now, what does this tell you about the nature of change in the novel?
  3. Gordon believes that the 1998 timeline split from the 1960s timeline to prevent a paradox. Do you think this means that the 1998 timeline was fated to always suffer the consequences of its ecology? Why or why not?

Chew on This

The novel goes back and forth on the idea of whether change is truly possible. Ultimately, it lands on the side of change, though with the warning that just because change is possible doesn't necessarily mean it is the change you'd expect.

Politics are often viewed as the antithesis of science, so it is a bit ironic that the change brought about by Renfrew's experiment revises the assassination of political figure John F. Kennedy.