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A time loop or temporal loop is a plot device in which periods of time are repeated and re-experienced by the characters, and there is often some hope of breaking out of the cycle of repetition.[1] Time loop is sometimes used to refer to a causal loop;[1][2] although they appear similar, causal loops are unchanging and self-originating, whereas time loops are constantly resetting: when a certain condition is met, such as a death of a character or a clock reaches a certain time, the loop starts again, with one or more characters retaining the memories from the previous loop.[3]:207

An early example of a time loop is used in the short story "Doubled and Redoubled" by Malcolm Jameson that appeared in the February 1941 Unknown. The story tells of a person accidentally cursed to repeat a "perfect" day, including a lucky bet, a promotion, a heroically foiled bank robbery, and a successful wedding proposal. This story was a precedent to the films Groundhog Day (1993) and 12:01 PM (1990).[4]

Time loop as a puzzleEdit

Stories with time loops commonly center on the character learning from each successive loop through time.[1] Jeremy Douglass, Janet Murray, Noah Falstein and others compare time loops with video games and other interactive media, where a character in a loop learns about their environment more and more with each passing loop, and the loop ends with complete mastery of the character's environment.[5] Shaila Garcia-Catalán et al. provide a similar analysis, saying that the usual way for the protagonist out of a time loop is acquiring knowledge, using retained memories to progress and eventually exit the loop. The time loop is then a problem-solving process, and the narrative becomes akin to an interactive puzzle.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Yarbro, Chelsea Quinn (1995). "Themes: Time Loop". In Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (eds.). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York City: St. Martins Press. ISBN 978-0312134860. Retrieved October 18, 2015.
  2. ^ Klosterman, Chuck (2009). Eating the Dinosaur (1st ed.). New York: Scribner. p. 60. ISBN 9781439168486. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  3. ^ Matthew Jones; Joan Ormrod (2015), Time Travel in Popular Media, McFarland & Company, ISBN 9780786478071
  4. ^ Stockwell, Peter (2000). The Poetics of Science Fiction (1st ed.). Harlow: Longman. pp. 131–133. ISBN 9780582369931.
  5. ^ Douglass, Jeremy (2007). Command Lines: Aesthetics and Technique in Interactive Fiction and New Media. Santa Barbara, California: University of California, Santa Barbara. pp. 333–335, 358. ISBN 0549363351. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  6. ^ García-Catalán, Shaila; Navarro-Remesal, Victor (2015), Matthew Jones (ed.), "Try Again: The Time Loop as a Problem-Solving Process in Save the Date and Source Code", Time Travel in Popular Media, McFarland Publication, pp. 206–209, ISBN 9781476620084