Time travel is a common theme in fiction and has been depicted in a variety of media such as literature, television and advertisements.
H. G. Wells' 1895 story ''The Time Machine'' popularized the concept of time travel and introduced the concept of travelling through time by mechanical means.
Prototypes of time travel stories include:
* the ancient Hindu folk tale of the King Revaita, who travels to a different world to meet the creator Brahma and is shocked to learn that many ages have passed when he returns to Earth;
* the 8th century Japanese folk tale ''Urashima Tarō'', which features a fisherman who visits a world under the sea and stays there for three days, only to find after returning to his village that three hundred years have passed and his family is long dead;
* Washington Irving's 1819 story ''Rip Van Winkle'', which tells of a man who goes to sleep on a mountain for a night and wakes up 20 years in the future: he has been completely forgotten, his wife is dead and his daughter is grown up;〔
* Charles Dickens' 1843 story ''A Christmas Carol'', which shows Ebenezer Scrooge dreaming of events from his past and possible future.〔
Time travel stories in general focus on the consequences of travelling into the past or the future.〔 The central premise for time travel stories is changing history, either intentionally or by accident, and how altering the past changes the future and creates an altered present or future for the time traveler when they return home.〔〔 As an extension of this, some time travel stories focus only on the paradoxes and alternate timelines that come with time travel, rather than time travelling itself.〔
Sean Redmond regards time travel as providing a "necessary distancing effect" that allows science fiction to address contemporary issues in metaphorical ways.
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