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Sometime in the late 80's/early 90's I read a short story about a group of people (I think they were researchers at a university) who go back in time to change something, and then keep going back again and again to try and undo their changes.

I don't remember why they went back in time in the first place; most (all?) of the action of the story is just the characters discussing what went wrong with their last trip, after they return to the present which gets weirder and weirder each time.

The only details I can positively remember are:

  • One of the time-travelers gets erased from history on one of the trips.
  • At one point, the "present" the travelers return to is almost exactly like the Nunyuninni scene from American Gods--the characters are in a smoky tent and they take turns putting their heads in a mammoth skull to speak.

I hope someone else has read and remembered this.

EDIT: The scene in "my" story may not be as close as I thought to the Nunyuninni bit in American Gods; the more I think about it, the more sure I am that the characters were using a mask (and not a skull) to speak through.

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There was a Simpsons episodes just like this where homer turned the toaster into a time machine!! –  AidanO Nov 15 '12 at 12:56
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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I managed to find this one myself; "Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne" by R.A. Lafferty.

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You can mark your answer as the answer if it's the correct one. –  Kalamane Sep 17 '11 at 5:22
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I think of "The End of Eternity" by Isaac Asimov. It had an organization of time travelers, who travel through time and make fine calculated adjustments.

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Not the right one, but sounds like a book I'd like to read--thanks! –  Ash Logan Sep 18 '11 at 13:30
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The closest I can think to that is Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, but only if you are crossing it with something else in your memory (something I do all the time.)

It involves the invention of a past viewing device that eventually leads to a time travel device. It doesn't have them go back and forth, because after changing history they future will not exist (only those who traveled still exist from that alternate future), but one of the things that decided them on traveling was discovering that a PREVIOUS future had already done this once before, but screwed it up, to some degree. So there is a bit of 'Ok.. lets try this again, since our alternates in some other future failed...'

Also, when they travel back, and deal with Central Americans (Incas or Mayas, I think, but it's been a while) at least one of them engages in a somewhat horric act of religious self mutilation..

Don't THINK it's your story.. but it has elements...

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That's a great book, but it's not the one I was looking for. –  Ash Logan Sep 14 '11 at 22:10
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