I have encountered "Infinite Time Loop" countless times. Some examples:

  • In Doctor Strange (2016) movie, Doctor Strange took the time dimension into the dark dimension to trap Dormammu into an infinite time loop.

  • In the last episode of season 5 of Doctor Who (2005) TV series, TARDIS saved River Song by trapping her inside an infinite time loop.

  • I remember Captain Archer trapped in an infinite time loop in the Star Trek: Enterprise TV series. They had found a capsule floating in space which was bigger inside and there was a fight over the capsule between advanced alien races.

  • I remember Silver Surfer encountering Adam Warlock trapped in infinite time loop in a 90s cartoon (possibly Silver Surfer Animated Series).

  • I remember Batman was having a deja vu experience while fighting with a villain in a 90s or 00s cartoon (possibly Justice League or Batman Animated Series or some other TV series). But, it was possibly not an infinite time loop. It might be that the villain was just turning back time.

Which Sci-Fi or Fantasy work introduced the idea of "Infinite Time Loop"?

  • 6
    I'm inclined to believe it is based on some mythos. Would you consider myths as a valid answer? For instance, the TVTropes page for "Groundhog Day loop" lists a Japanese version of hell where one relives all the sins they committed. Mar 3 '17 at 20:06
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    Yeah, I think you'd be hard-pressed to show that stories such as the Greek tale of Prometheus, who every day was forced to have an eagle eat his liver (which is then regenerated) or Sisyphus, who was forced to push the same rock up a hill over and over again, didn't in some way inspire the idea of looping time. In the Greek tales, they were immortals that were immune to time. Food for thought, anyway.
    – user31178
    Mar 3 '17 at 21:18
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    What is an "infinite time loop"?
    – user14111
    Mar 4 '17 at 0:31
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    Until they escape? So an infinite time loop doesn't have to be infinite? (No danger of forgetting the Endless Eight, seeing as I never heard of them.)
    – user14111
    Mar 4 '17 at 0:49
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    So, "not-infinite-but-could-have-been-infinite-if-it-were-infinite" time loop Mar 4 '17 at 15:16

Being stuck in an infinite time loop is the original normal. Indigenous cosmologies tend to have time itself as a regenerating cycle, and indigenous people often relate to their current existence as just part of a cycle. Most non-Judeo-Christian-Islamic world religions similarly involve a cycle of life, death and rebirth. So the concept of people being "stuck" in a time cycle is at least partly pre-historic.

Another very old origin is Irish Mythology, where not only is time often considered cyclical, but sometimes humans enter Faerieland, where time flows differently, and the humans either never return, or if they do, the amount of time spent there is very different from the time elapsed between when they entered Faerieland and when they returned. While some Faeries have nearly unlimited powers over time, I'm not aware of an infinite time loop trap per se.

There are also ancient mythic Indian (q.v. Mahabharat ~700BC), Buddhist, and Japanese examples of ways to exist at a very different rate of time passage and/or aging relative to our world, though again I'm not aware of infinite time loop traps per se.

According to this article on the history of fictional time paradoxes, however,

the first example of a "Groundhog Day" story: "Doubled and Redoubled", a short story by Malcolm Jameson that appeared in the February, 1941 issue of Unknown. Accidentally cursed by a witch, the protagonist endlessly repeats a "perfect" day, including a lucky bet, a promotion, a heroically foiled bank robbery, and a successful wedding proposal.

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    Don't forget the Lotus Eaters from Greek Mythos, which are frequently cited as an inspiration for this Trope, even if it is technically not an example. Mar 4 '17 at 0:44
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    Sounds like a pretty damn good day to me. If there's a tractor involved, and I don't have a cold, count me in! :-) Mar 4 '17 at 11:40
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    As to the first example, this may be true of the actual universe, in a way. I forget the actual name, but the idea is that there is a time period after which the topology & content of that section of the multiverse is exactly the same as beforehand. Therefore, this concept is pre-universal.
    – trysis
    Mar 5 '17 at 15:47

The SF encyclopedia lists a 1932 fantasy-comic "The Prince's Birthday Present" as one of the earliest examples. [1]

Note that the canonical physics-version of this, the "closed time-like curve" was first coined in 1937. Meanwhile, wikipedia claims that its opposite, the grandfather paradox, first appear in fiction in 1933.

[1] http://sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/time_loop


I've found a short story titled "Doubled and Redoubled" by Malcom Jameson published on 1 February 1941. PDF here if you're interested


The earliest stories I've ever encountered are both by Robert A. Heinlein, All You Zombies and By His Bootstraps. BHB (October 1941) predates AYZ (March 1959).

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    Aren't those stories about stable time loops? That is, the person in those stories travels back in time and acts in such a way that their actions create the future. I think the question refers to a timeframe that, for someone inside the loop, repeats infinitely (think Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day). In a stable time loop, for each entity, the loop happens once, and it's only experienced afterwards by a past version of said entity. Mar 3 '17 at 21:21
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    Regardless of other answers, anything by RAH is canonical and thus is beyond disputation. Unless there's something better by Asimov... :-) Mar 4 '17 at 11:40
  • Speaking of fellow big-three'r Asimov, you should read The End of Eternity, published in 1955 but stemming from work in 1953-54.
    – hardmath
    Mar 4 '17 at 19:39

Not the very earliest example, but earlier than some other answers here: Theodore Sturgeon’s story “He Shuttles” (1940) ends with a thoroughly evil protagonist becoming trapped in an infinite time loop with no hope of escape.

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