From: "Timothy Fox" (Email address withheld out of courtesy)
...I can tell I'll spend a lot of time at your site...but I just couldn't wait and do a thorough read of your material before e-mailing you; I just have to jump in and write to you. I spend a lot of time theorizing about the multiverse...and time travel. I too have thought about the situation presented in your pages 'Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies", but I barely got into your Terminator page before I had to write.
I can see that you're trying to keep a difficult concept simple, and you do a good job of it, but I have to ask: In the following paragraphs I copied, did you really mean 'certain'? I really don't see this as certain, as a matter of fact, I consider it unlikely considering all of the other possibilities. I agree totally with your concept of a causality loop that can eventually stabilize, or continue to alter indefinitely, or go into what I call a 'cycling causality' where the loop moves in a cycle of 2 to n results, each cycle setting up the elements to produce the next result, etc., but eventually returning to the original scenario which starts the entire cycle progressing again. Where I disagree is that what you state here has to be 'certain' , so my underlying question is do you really feel it is certain, or were you trying to keep it simple for most of your readers?
"The N-Jump provides the solution to the absurdity of the first Terminator movie. It suggests that this is not the original timeline, but the altered timeline. Although the story of the original timeline has not been told, a substantial amount of it can be reconstructed.
"In the original timeline, Sarah Conner's life was fairly ordinary. Very near point A, she met a guy unknown to the altered timeline; he is the necessary original father of John Conner. So little remains of this timeline that almost anything is possible. John Conner might have had a different name, if his mother married. He might in this original timeline have been a girl. One thing is certain: when the war came, Sarah Conner's child was a thorn in the flesh of Skynet."
I'll present my case here, and would love to hear your thoughts. I suspect that you have already thought of all this, but it is so rare that I find someone that I can share this with and who cares to discuss it.
I don't believe that we can deduce that Sarah Conner's child was a thorn in the flesh of Skynet....I'll try an extreme example....
Suppose that the future was neither horrible, nor great, on the whole, but that as it is today, it is great for some and horrible for others. Suppose some person or group has decided that for whatever reason, their lot is unbearable and that the assassination of Ronald Reagan before his re-election in 1984 would change their lot for the better, or for that matter the assassination of Woody Allen before he made 'Scenes from a Mall'. They send back a man armed with future weapons (I know the machinery limitation, but it's easy to get around that, as the Terminator itself proved), or a killer robot. Another group doesn't want this to succeed, so they send back their champion. Along the way, after much excitement, or maybe little, the assassination succeeds, or fails, the robot/assassin is beaten by or destroys the champion, the weapon/robot is destroyed, or seen by a resourceful inventor, etc. All that is important is that somehow the technology gets back, or at least the inspiration for the technology is given to someone. This someone could then go on and make changes to the timeline's technological course, eventually resulting in a temporal chain that leads to the creation of Skynet. And possibly the champion (or maybe more interesting, the assassin), meets and sleeps with Sarah Conner, resulting in the birth of John Conner. It's not even necessary in this first alteration of the time line for the father of John Conner to die.
So if I've made myself clear, you will see why I don't feel that what you said was 'certain', though I do find your entire temporal causality chain possible, and more important, interesting. I just don't believe the original jump had to have anything to do with Sarah Conner or her child, the motivation for making the original temporal journey didn't have to have anything to do with Sarah Conner, or her child. They are just a by-product produced by that initial journey, and in the end, the entire loop could pass her by and move to an entirely different direction. Perhaps becoming a never-ending chain that never stabilizes. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.
Let me address this as directly as I can--first by thanking Mr. Fox for his thoughtful consideration of the material, and commending him for his insight.
What Mr. Fox has suggested is that there are alterations to the timeline which precede those recorded in the movie, and that therefore the "original timeline" may have been entirely different from anything we might surmise. This is entirely plausible. However, the distinction that I would make is in my use of the word "original", as compared to his. What I suggest is that in any event in which a character travels backward in time, an "altered" time line is created which is distinct from the "original" time line which existed "before" that travel event. It is certainly possible that there were other time travel events which altered the time line from that which was original. Someone ten million years in the future could travel back to the Neolithic age to study the origins of man, and return to the future, so altering history by his presence in the past, creating a new time line from the Neolithic age to the distant future. But that does not alter the fact that a Terminator was sent back to kill Sarah Conner before her child was born. That means that there is an "immediate original" time line, distinct from the "original original" time line. It is possible, as Mr. Fox suggests, that the father of Sarah Conner's child was from the future. However, this does little to alter the events as described in the original page. And it is still indeed "certain" that in this "immediate original" time line the child of Sarah Conner was a problem for Skynet. There is still a "necessary original father" of that child, and even if he were to have come from the future, the odds are infinitely against him being Reese, a man born after the war began and the human race faced severe displacement and upheaval. Without the war, I doubt whether Reese himself would have been born.
It is suggested, however, that the technology which creates Skynet and the Terminator was brought back in time on this prior time travel event. Again, that makes little difference. It only means that the "original original" timeline did not have Skynet, but the "altered original" timeline does have Skynet, and this becomes the "original" time line from which the story springs. The research from which Skynet was developed may come from an earlier timeline, but it comes to the unknown company, and then to the known company through the Terminator.
Mr. Fox uses the term "cycling causality" for what I have termed a "sawtooth snap". I like that term, and might use it in the future, to distinguish the sawtooth snap which results in an N-jump termination--continuing into the future--from one on the order of a cycling causality which results in an infinity loop termination--repeating the original timeline. The use of this as a distinct term would help clarify which was occurring.
However, I would point out that Mr. Fox has made the same error that Skynet made. Mr. Fox has suggested that some faction sent someone back to change history. Did that person succeed, or did he fail? If he succeeded, then all that he wished to undo will have been undone, and he will not have any reason to go back in time to make the change--thus it will all recur, and he will go back to prevent it. We have the infinity loop, two alternating time lines each of which prevents itself and causes the other. Time will never advance beyond the moment of that time travel event, and so the opponents will never know that time was altered or have the opportunity to change it. On the other hand, if the plan failed--if history was not altered in the desired way--then time may continue (barring any other change which creates an infinity loop, such as the destruction of the time travel technology), and the opposing group will have no reason to go back to "correct" it. Furthermore, if someone were to attempt to "correct" a change made in the past, he faces the same possibilities as the other traveler: either he succeeds, and so destroys the future in an infinity loop, or he preserves time by failing in his objective. Going back to change history is a lose-lose proposition.
I hope this clarifies the situation.