Robert Bagnall is the focus of our eleventh Q&A feature, an English author behind 2048 - The Meschera Complex, the short fiction anthology 24 0s & a 2 and Roadkill - which debuts in The Needle Drops... Volume One later this year. We discuss Robert's work, as well as genre writing, cream tea, science-fiction films and treacle.
Robert Bagnall was born in Bedford, England, when the Royal Navy still issued a rum ration, and now lives and writes on the English Riviera within sight of Dartmoor.
He is the author of the science fiction novel 2084 - The Meschera Bandwidth, and the anthology 24 0s & a 2, which collects two dozen of his thirty-plus speculative stories published in Daily Science Fiction, Terraform, Flash Fiction Online and elsewhere during the 2010s. He has also appeared in ‘Best of British Science Fiction’ three times since 2016 and been a finalist in the L Ron Hubbard Writer of the Future competition.
Away from the keyboard, he has run four and walked one marathon, used to hold a world record for eating cream teas, and has read Proust’s ‘A La Recherche du Temps Perdu’ in its entirety—but took longer doing so than Proust took to write it.
So, Robert - Roadkill’s primary antagonist (without giving much away) is time. For you, what is an example of both a time-loop story told particularly well, and one told poorly? What should be avoided at all costs?
Sticking to movies, which is more of a common currency than prose fiction, I’m struggling to think of a bad example, possibly because I try to remember only the good, perhaps because when I Googled ‘worst time loop movies’ I hadn’t seen anything cited, but most probably because I’m a sucker for the things with an incredibly low quality threshold. I’ll even defend Bill & Ted, Hot Tub Time Machine, and Looper, although if I was Joseph Gordon-Levitt I’d be disappointed to end up looking like Bruce Willis too. That said, I’m only halfway through watching Dark on Netflix, and am fascinated to find out whether it’ll end up making sense or disappearing up its own fundament.
In terms of the best, I’ll never grow tired of Twelve Monkeys, but would urge anybody who has never seen Shane Carruth’s Primer to stop reading this and go watch it now.
As for what to avoid, as a writer, simple: internal inconsistency. I don’t particularly care for all the arguments that people have against time loop stories on principle, such as multiple timelines aren’t possible or you can’t kill your own parents and still be in the story--that’s what suspension of disbelief is there for--but it is incumbent on the author to make sure the same rulebook applies across the entirety of the story. Don’t have one character set for life from an accumulator placed on the strength of tomorrow’s newspaper but another find facts from the future don’t hold for them--unl