We recently published Annika Barranti Klein’s cyclical “Anaphora (Ten Ways to Greet a Time Traveler).”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) So a time traveler goes back to the past to take the great philosopher Plato on an adventure. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but omigosh, it is just a great time travel story! What made you choose Plato as the protagonist for this piece?
This story has a funny origin: I was going through my drafts and found an unnamed file with a single sentence written: “Plato was not terribly surprised when the time traveler arrived.” I knew I had written it, but I had absolutely no clue what I was planning to DO with it. I thought it would make a great writing prompt—you know, “Write a story to go with this opening line.” I don’t teach a creative writing class, so I thought, well, I guess I have to do it myself. So I wrote ten microfictions that start with that line. I knew it was absurd for Plato to be the main character, but I just leaned into the absurdity and made Socrates a character as well (which allowed me to subtly reference both Bill & Ted and Operation Ivy).
2) One of my favorite moments in this piece is where Plato says all the time travelers look the same to him. It’s so funny, but it’s also a little worrisome — up until this point, I had assumed it was the same time traveler visiting from different time planes or even different parts of their own future, but what if Plato is just being visited by multitudes of time travelers? It would be like having guests just show up at your door uninvited all the time! Which do you think it is — the one time traveler from different realities? Or a whole bunch of different folks?
Because of the way I wrote the story, it started out being ten different possible ways it might go, ten versions of one possible story. But in my heart, even though they’re all different, there is a through line. Maybe it’s ten different time travelers from ten realities, but it’s ten different versions of Plato, too. Maybe it’s all the same time traveler and the same Plato, but sometimes they remember and sometimes they don’t. Or maybe it’s all different time travelers and poor Plato is Coleridge, forever being interrupted by persons from Porlock. I think the reader should probably decide what they want it to be, because there isn’t a wrong answer.