Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Lexicon, a spectacularly thorough tour through the BTTF universe. Now author Rich Handley has created an accompanying timeline book, Back in Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Chronology.
Of course, that hardly means getting trapped in the 80s. This story starts in 252,200,000 B.C.—give or take an epoch. But the authors don’t stop at describing the factual-as-in-canon material regarding a remark from Doc Brown in a BTTF game that he’s concerned about them getting stuck in the Cenozoic era. It goes on to note that this is factual-as-in-fact nonsense, since the Cenozoic era is the current one, despite having been going on since long before any time you’d want your DeLorean to leave you stranded in.
At the other end (and this year should be a trivia question itself), we have Marty and the Brown family zipping three quadrillion years forward to 2,991,299,129,912 A.D. Conveniently, B&Bs are still trendy in the far-far-future. You’ll have to get your own copy to see the page-and-a-half wide illustration of Tannen the Barbarian protecting the Ruby Begonia from a dragon.
Speaking of the art, Pat Carbajal returns with fantastic black-and-white drawings to supplement the book. You can see a sample over at the Hasslein Books blog.
Among the appendices, you’ll find one of my favorite pieces of information organization: a map of Hill Valley’s Courthouse Square and a key describing the occupant businesses of each building over the course of time and BTTF works. Naturally, it gets complicated, but Handley and appendix contributor Paul C. Giachetti explain in detail how to read the map and the apparent inconsistencies between your memory or what you’ve seen and what the map shows.
Handley is the consummate BTTF fan, and it shows yet again. (Perhaps you’ve also seen his other fandoms leaking on sites like StarWars.com or TrekWeb.com.) Greg Mitchell is co-author on the chronology. He’s a screenwriter and novelist—zombie apocalypse romance novella, anyone?
Even if you’re not quite to Handley-level BTTF dedication (and I doubt any of us are), this is hardly like reading a history book. More like reading the whole story, but in the right order! And I’m always a fan of a book that gives me a leg up at the next trivia night at the bar, which these compendiums clearly do. (It’s up to my memory to do the rest!) I’ll give you a head start:
– In Back to the Future: The Animated Series, Marty uses the alias “Michael J. Fox” in 1967.
– In the BTTF universe, Harlan Ellison wrote a novel called On Robots and Isaac Asimov wrote Positronic Brain Surgery Made Easy. You’re not going to find either on Amazon.
– Doc Brown applies for a patent for a rocket-powered drill in 1931. While in a soup kitchen, he’s under threat of losing the patent to another scientist named Dr. McCoy, a reference to Bones from Star Trek who also changes history in the 1930s.
Time travel is complicated. Good thing somebody else straightened it all out and put it in a timeline for us. And that’s just to get you started. If you’ve got a BTTF fan on your gift list (or yourself, the easiest person to buy gifts for), you should snag a copy of each book—you’ll be the hero of the holidays.
By the way, while we’re talking BTTF, I would like to reiterate that regardless of which badly edited image you’ve seen on the Internet, you can now use this chronology to officially tell your Facebook friends who are posting it that it is not “Back to the Future Day” until 2015, and I don’t want to see this picture again until then. Pages 160-165 cover it. But 2013 is the year George McFly dies. Buy the book in his memory.