This article originally appeared in the second edition of The Space Quest Companion by Peter and Jeremy Spear (Silicon Valley/Osborne McGraw-Hill, 1993) and is now reprinted at the Virtual Broomcloset. Although The Space Quest Companion is presently out of print, used copies are still available through various online book dealers. I highly recommend checking it out if you can track it down. "A Message from Beyond Space and Time" is excerpted from pages xix through xxiii of the Spears' book.
Here's a big, big hello from the future. Your future. And while a lot of the future is already my past, a lot of my past is still my future. And I'd like to keep it that way.
Oh, time travel can sometimes be so confusing, especially when you really don't know what you're doing.
There is an old saying, ancient beyond galactic reckoning, which asserts that some beings strive to attain greatness, while others have greatness thrust upon them. I'm Roger Wilco, Space Ranger, StarCon captain, hero of Xenon, recuer of the galaxy, savior of the universe--and probably all of Time and Space as we know it. I've learned that greatness can also dump itself on the unwary like a commode that's had too much to eat and drink. I should know, because when Fortune went searching for a hero one fateful night, it flushed me out.
Although just a janitor on the research starship Arcada at the time, I was the head janitor and sanitation engineer second class. Despite my entry-level station, I was on the ConFederation Service fast track to the top. By the time I retired, I would, with luck, be a master maintenance engineer, perhaps even decorated with the fabled Reversed Half-Moon Crescent, and my name inscribed on the solid brick outhouse walls of the Sanitation Engineering Hall of Fame. Little did I know what lay ahead, and how my once ordinary human ambitions would be washed away by a flood of interstellar events, like dirty socks in a high-detergent bath.
It is because of those events that I'm contacting you. Those events, and my gradual understanding over the years of the seemingly random and impersonal chaos that has swirled me about was not only predicted ages ago, but will not exist at all unless I send you the enclosed memoirs. Nor will I. Reality itself as I know it will disappear.
To reveal the future to you--to reveal it to anyone--is undeniably dangerous. Any action performed in the past, no matter how trivial, can cause profound changes to the future--especially actions performed when one is certain of their outcome.
Yet, I must send you these imperfectly composed recollections. Let me explain why.
There is a story in the Wilco family that has been passed down through more centuries than it is safe to admit. My family originated in a small yellow star system, a hidden wart on an obscure galactic arm. Its name is Terra III. You might recognize the location. There, Grandma and Grandpa Wilco (x-number of times removed) were both management peons at some great corporation. They each relieved the stresses of their workplace by indulging in nonproductive behavior on their corporate workstations. Playing computer games during their breaks and meal periods, however, was not considered proper behavior by their superiors and betters. As was the custom of the time, they were both stripped of their jobs, income, medical care, and prospects for long-term survival as punishment for their antisocial behavior.
It must have been social enough for them, however, as they fell deeply in love, a love bonded firm by their mutal fondness for a particular computer entertainment. That came was called Space Quest, and and Grandpop was initially drawn to it because the main character had the same name as he--Roger Wilco. When their first child was born, they named her Roger Wilco in honor of their love and in defiance of the corporate scum who had driven them into the streets. And as a result, it is tradition in the Wilco family to name a child in each generation, Roger. I'm the latest. (Actually, my son Roger is the latest, but has hasn't been born yet.)
Time travel implies paradoxes. It is conceivable (so to speak) to travel backward in time to become one's own ancestor. Or to travel ahead and meet one's own descendant--I should know; I have, and it is an experience most eerie. Likewise, someone could go back and kill their own grandfather or grandmother, or even prevent the inventor of time travel from discovering how to do so. Playing stock markets, betting on sporting events, or predicting next week's stars or hits or TalkVid topics becomes a breeze. After all, hindsight is always perfect, especially when you've had the foresight to turn your hindsight into foresight through time travel.
The paradoxes, of course, exist because these events and actions must have previously existed in the time traveler's past, yet cannot happen until the time traveler performs them in the future. If your grandmother didn't exist already, how can you exist to kill her? If you never adopted that stray mutt, who's that making a mess on your leg?
Once, on the moon of Pestulon, I was able to rescue from enslavement a pair of swineoids from the Andromeda galaxy. They called themselves the Two Guys from Andromeda, and were computer programmers--computer game programmers. I was able to deliver them safely--by means of a defect hyperspace jump--to a planet which I'm sure was Terra III. They, in return and in gratitude, swore to immortalize me by making me the star of my own electronic game. Flabbergasted, I thanked them and departed. In the years since, I have not seen or heard from the Two Guys again.
Nor in this universe, where absolutely everyone who has ever had a creative thought has been either serialized on Patrician Broadcasting or had their sounds bitten on the Cosmic News Network, have I ever seen mention of them. Since they were also the creators of the phenomenally popular Astro Chicken--The Mindless Video Game--the odds of this happening (not happening?) are beyond my modest skills to compute. They are most likely even greater than that.
When you think about all this, you begin to understand how strange these facts are: our universe here in the future may be vast and huge, but it's not that big. Somewhere in the intergalactic shopping malls and galleria of the Void, I should have run across the Guys or the game. And I have been looking. Often. On the other hand, I do possess a book providing clues for what is purported to be a game about me, a game created by Two Guys from Andromeda. That book details specifics of events that happened to this Roger Wilco after he had parted company from the swineoids, but had not yet happened to me. The book is so old that it is actually a paper book. A tight plastoid covering had apparently preserved it perfected as it languished over the centuries in CLOSEOUT bins in everty obscure mall in the galaxy.
That was until last year, when excavations on Terra III revealed a hoard of ancient software, much of it still in its original plastoid. Among that priceless trove was a box titled Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter. It is possibly the very game my grandfolks fell in love over. Pictured on that box were the game's purported authors--two swineoids who called themselves Two Guys from Andromeda. Although odor has not been preserved over the centuries, they resemble in every physical detail the beings I rescued, and who promised to write a computer game about me. However, the disks detail events that happened to me before I met the Two Guys, events of which they should have no knowledge, events that we had never discussed.
So how could the swineoids write factually about a Roger Wilco they knew nothing about in that adventure? And while the actual physical evidence as not yet been found (just the clue books), how could they tell about what would happen to me not just in their future, but in my future, in Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers and in The Last Mutation, and Space Quest XII, and all the other games that must have once existed to fill that numbered series? How?
In every case, their details are uncannily accurate. This is especially so in the final Space Quest title found in the archaeological dig--Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon. It's the very game (with the same inaccurate title!) that the Two Guys promised to create about me.
I have a theory, one that I have trouble believing, but cannot at the risk of my very existence not believe. It goes like this: We all know that travel through time is possible. I've done it, and often. In fact, it is only through time travel that I am able to deliver this information (and the recollections that follow) to you at all. What I think happened when the Two Guys and I warped randomly through hyperspace, short-circuiting all the way to Terra III, is that we generated our own time rip and ended up returning to reality sometime late in the twentieth century, which is where I left them. This would explain why--although I was certain that I had landed on Terra III--the place seemed backward and different from all of the PBS docuvids I had seen of it. The malfunctioning warp motivator would also account for my ripping back to my own era when I warped away from there.
That's obvious. So what?
The so what is that there is no way for the Two Guys that I left on Terra III to write anything but the Pirates of Pestulon. No way at all. And if Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter is never written, my grandparents will never meet and fall in love. And have children. Which means no me. And if this situation becomes real, I cease existing so quickly, it will be as if I never did. Which I wouldn't have done. (This also means you're not reading this, because I will have never composed it. But since I am composing it, I still exist for the moment--another one of time travel's little paradoxes.)
All of this confusing logic becomes not just trye, but reality itself, unless the Two Guys get to know my stories. They know me, and they'll also know a source of easy buckazoids when they see it. And they'll write that original Space Questy game. Sierra On-Line--you folks, if my calculations are correct--will publish it.
Some day, Two Guys from Andromeda will come to your door. If you've never met a swineoid before, don't be too alarmed; they are placid and harmless creatures with long flat, slitted snouts, pointy ears, and bristly hair. Their choice of bath condiments leaves much to be desired, however. They will tell you of how Roger Wilco rescued them from eternal slavery at the saliva slick hands of ScumSoftSoftware, and how they have either written, or want to write, a game about their adventure. Welcome them with a hug from me, and give them whatever they want--fame, fortune, or even a permanent billing at your local poetry reciting coliseum. If you do, you will all earn untold wealth, and history as we know it here in the future will be preserved.
That's not really asking a lot, is it?
This article is reprinted from Peter and Jeremy Spear's The Space Quest Companion, second edition (Silicon Valley/Osborne McGraw-Hill, 1993; ISBN: 0-07-881959-8).
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