Like a stable time loop, but when each version of the time traveller goes back in time, they create a history that differs from the previous alternate history? Is there a general term for such an occurrence in science fiction?

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    Relating to a specific work or in general? If in general I believe this is off topic/too broad for the site.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jul 25, 2018 at 11:39
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    @TheLethalCarrot I think questions about genre tropes are on-topic, and this seems sufficiently scoped (it's asking about one particular theory of time travel) that it shouldn't be too broad. Jul 25, 2018 at 11:40
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    @AnthonyGrist Too Broad as in individual works might have different names for it
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jul 25, 2018 at 11:43
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    Do individual works tend to name their time travel "types"? It's quite rare for a single work to contain multiple instances of different types of time travel, and within the story you would generally just have the effects described rather than named. Meta naming is usually external to a story. Which is why TVTropes is such a useful resource/time sink.
    – Jontia
    Jul 25, 2018 at 13:10
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    @Jontia It's possible some do, but I've not come across any (not that that means much, I haven't consumed many works that deal with time travel). I don't think the fact that some might is relevant, though; there are pretty commonly agreed upon terms for the various time travel theories, paradoxes, and solutions. The question seems to (obviously) be asking what that common term is, not for the name in all works that use it. Jul 25, 2018 at 13:15

3 Answers 3


This is using the Many-worlds interpretation as a solution to temporal paradoxes. From the wiki:

The many-worlds interpretation could be one possible way to resolve the paradoxes that one would expect to arise if time travel turns out to be permitted by physics (permitting closed timelike curves and thus violating causality). Entering the past would itself be a quantum event causing branching, and therefore the timeline accessed by the time traveller simply would be another timeline of many. In that sense, it would make the Novikov self-consistency principle unnecessary.

Also mentioned more in depth in the main article about Time Travel:

A variation of Everett's many-worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics provides a resolution to the grandfather paradox that involves the time traveler arriving in a different universe than the one they came from; it's been argued that since the traveler arrives in a different universe's history and not their own history, this is not "genuine" time travel.


The situation described in the question is most closely approximated by the Star Trek Voyager episode The Year of Hell S04E08.

Obsessed with restoring his species to greatness no matter the cost, a military temporal scientist creates changes in history that all but destroy Voyager.

The situation requires both the ability to time travel and for the traveler to be obsessive enough to continue to change history over and over.

TVTropes Time travel page gives a good categorisation list for various types of time travel. Given each time travel event leads to a new history and these histories are each unique and non-repeating, then as Don has already said you're looking at Alternative Timelines as a high level description. But you then need character tropes, rather than time travel ones, to explain why the timeline is continually changed.

Why does the traveller need to keep going back in time? Are they trying to arrange for perfection? To get back to their starting point? Make one important change that is so far elusive? Is there any potential for breaking the cycle? None of these things change what the "time loop" is called. But they significantly change the story.


It combines two concepts: time loop and plastic time. Plastic Time with high resistance avoids creating Alternative Timelines all over the place. The basic concept is history is alterable...up to a point. Past that point an alternate timeline is created "breaking" the time loop.


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