Time, according to a perhaps apocryphal physicist, is what keeps everything from happening all at once. It is not like the other dimensions, for reasons that I am not qualified to discuss theoretically, but which are fairly clear to us in everyday terms. I could easily rewrite my recent, laughably bad predictions here, but I cannot go back and rewrite them.
Many genres of Romance play with time, Alternate History most obviously but by no means alone. Fantasy deals with it whenever a tourist in Fantasyland stumbles across Eldritch Runes, which are sometimes a mere warning ("Doors Man was not meant to open"), but more often a Prophesy. This - continuing our extemp stealing from Diana Wynne Jones - will usually prove to be more elliptical than my election forecasts, but no more accurate.
I stumbled into Time from my dislike of magic. I hate spells or amulets that merely imitate the effects of industrial-age technology, and magical swords take the challenge out of swordsmanship. Yeah there are workarounds. I still don't like it. But you gotta have something kinda sorta magical in a fantasy, so for Catherine of Lyonesse I came up with a Renaissance mathematician and astronomer, who among his period widgets has a mirror that - sometimes - shows the future.
Like any spirited princess, the young lady pays the inevitable unauthorized visit to his study, where she sees the inevitably ambiguous foreshadowing of Things To Come. My excuse for pimping a manuscript still sitting on an editor's desk, however, is that I'm really pretty happy with how I - or the Mathematicus Regalis - explained it all:
"The glass shows things that may be. By the nature of the case, it cannot show what will be. Permit me a demonstration, Altesse." He walked towards her, and in spite of herself Catherine backed away. He merely opened the armoire and took out an hourglass. Turning it over he set it down. Fine white sand streamed through to form a little pile at the bottom.
"The river of time resembles the flow through this hourglass," explained d'Epaulier. "In the hourglass, sand begins in the future, as it were, waiting to mark what is yet to be. It falls through to the bottom, and there marks what has already come to pass. Likewise our fate comes from the uncertain future, is determined at the eternal present, and plunges into the immutable past. Here, Altesse. Come closer and look." Catherine nervously approached until she stood beside him.
"As each grain of sand passes through the neck of the glass," he said, "it passes from what might be to what is, and has been. As for fate? Watch the grains. Each, passing the present, falls to the place destined for it. Yet precisely where, the wisest of men could not say."
Catherine watched the hourglass. Grains streamed through the neck onto the growing pile at the bottom. Some lay where they fell atop the pile. Others slid or danced down the side before coming to rest.
"People misunderstand Fortune, Altesse. We who study the heavens have a saying: The stars impel, they do not compel. You, Catherine de Guienne, do not have a single, predestined future. Indeed, you have an infinitude of possible futures. You might become a saint. You might become a shepherdess." D'Epaulier chuckled. "Neither of those outcomes is likely, to be sure. The greater chance is that you will be Queen of Lyonesse."
Taking another look at the passage I see that even with the best of intentions I have misled you, my handful of loyal readers, once again I said I would stay away from politics. I lied.
Girl meets kingdom. Girl loses kingdom. Girl wins kingdom. Sorry - with me, there's just no escaping politics.