Timeloop Stories 387 members · 67 stories

A pony wakes up, expecting a new day... but it's not. It's the previous day, all over again. The same set of events that the pony experienced yesterday, play out exactly the same way again. And this happens again the next day. And the next. And the next. They're living the same day, every day, and nopony ever notices but them.

Timeloop stories are awesome. They show us something that few other stories can: a world without consequence. Everything you do in a timeloop will be undone and forgotten about the next day. You can insult your boss. Rob a bank. Burn down the library. Kiss your best friend. Throw yourself off a building. None of it will matter.

Of course, that blessing is also the curse of the timeloop. None of it will matter. You can never do anything of consequence ever again. And because the timeloop repeats, you will never escape.

Or will you?

What is a timeloop?

A timeloop (or time loop, either is acceptable) is a situation in which a character experiences the same period of time repeatedly. They keep seeing the same events occurring in exactly the same way, again and again, as if the entire universe keeps resetting to an earlier point in time and playing itself again.

Crucially, they are aware that this is happening. Nobody else will be aware that the same period of time is repeating over and over, because they're part of the loop - they reset along with everything else.

This is sometimes classed as 'mental time travel' - it's like jumping back in time, except that the only thing that travels is your memory or consciousness. You arrive back in the past, physically the same as before, but mentally, you now have knowledge of several things that haven't happened yet.

An analogy can be made to playing a game on a console emulator. Emulators usually allow you to save the entire state of the virtual machine at any time, and reload to that state at will. You're not just saving the game - you're recording the exact state of the simulated hardware that the game is running on - effectively, a snapshot of the 'universe'. When you reload to that state, the virtual machine will behave in exactly the same manner as it did before - but you, as the player outside the game, still retain your own memories of how that future played out. This, to all intents and purposes, is mental time travel.

It's also the principle behind Tool-Assisted Speedruns - using the ability to repeat events over and over again until you get the outcome you desire. This allows you to perform seemingly impossible feats in games, such as dodging a barrage of bullets perfectly, or making an improbably accurate shot. Similar feats of event manipulation, and the notion of the 'perfect run', are recurring themes in timeloop stories.

What isn't a timeloop?

Predestination paradoxes

This phenomenon is often called a 'time loop', but the meaning is somewhat different to the one we use in this group. A predestination paradox is a time travel phenomenon in which a time traveller ends up causing the very sequence of events that made them travel back in time in the first place. The chain of causality is circular (an event in the past causes a time travel in the future, which causes the event in the past... and so on) and so it is referred to as a time loop (often clarified as a 'stable time loop').

Time travel stories in which a character physically travels back in time

It is possible for a time traveller to experience the same time period multiple times by repeatedly sending themself to the past, using a time machine or some other device. Nonetheless, this is not a timeloop, because their arrival in the past constitutes a physical and lasting change to the timeline - ie. their future incarnations will always end up meeting their past incarnations, which means that each successive time travel is changing the timeline. Timelooping is a mental phenomenon, and changes made by a timelooper do not persist from one loop to the next.

Déjà vu

Déjà vu is the strong and unsettling feeling that you've experienced something before, but cannot recall when or why. This is not a timeloop either, although characters in timeloops often believe themselves to be experiencing déjà vu before they've figured out what's going on. A person in a timeloop actually is experiencing something they've experienced before.

Dreams, hallucinations, madness, spiritual experiences

Repetition tends to feature heavily in mental experiences. A person wracked with guilt, or traumatised in some way, might find themselves revisiting the same thoughts over and over again, and if they are in an abnormal state of consciousness, their mind might present them with the same experience repeatedly.

These are not strictly timeloops, as the events experienced by the person are a fabrication of the mind - they do not involve time travel of any form and do not have to obey any kind of logic. They can, however, often give a similar effect to a timeloop. We'll accept stories featuring these if the timeloop appears to obey consistent laws.

How do you create a timeloop?

Magic! There's no shortage of magic in the MLP universe that can do this - time travel spells canonically exist as seen in "It's About Time", so it's not unreasonable to suppose that a timeloop spell could exist, or could be created. Many timeloop stories have Twilight Sparkle as the protagonist, as Twilight is known for creating and experimenting with spells, and has even used time travel magic.

Mental experiences, although not strictly timeloops, are also a way to achieve the effect of a timeloop. Princess Luna has the ability to control dreams and could do this; another candidate is Sombra, who created illusions to trap Twilight and Spike in "The Crystal Empire".

Curses are also sometimes a source of timeloops. Although Twilight Sparkle has shown skepticism toward the idea of curses, we're going to go ahead and say that this is possible.

Enchanted items are yet another possibility - the enchanted comic book in "Power Ponies" was able to contain the Mane Six in an entire alternate reality, so a timeloop wouldn't be farfetched at all. We'll also note the flashback potion from "Princess Twilight Sparkle" as a means of mental time travel.

Finally, there's good old fashioned science. Although Equestria isn't known for being scientifically advanced, who knows what their laboratories can come up with - and what accidents might occur?

How do you escape a timeloop?

The trick to escaping a timeloop is to figure out what's sustaining it, and neutralise it. Time doesn't loop without a reason - there's always something that caused it or is causing it. Often, the cause of a timeloop is a single event - a spell gone wrong, for example - which causes time to reset. If that's the case, the way out of the timeloop is to prevent the event.

At other times, the cause of a timeloop is something more abstract. For example, the timelooper may be required to learn a moral lesson, or put something right that went wrong, to satisfy the end condition of the loop.

Escaping the timeloop is pretty much always the motivation for the protagonist of a timeloop story. Grimly, it is always possible that there may be no escape, and some stories explore this dark possibility.

What happens if you die in a timeloop?

The timeloop starts again from the beginning, just as if you'd reached the end of the loop in the normal way. The reason for this is that your experience ends at death - so even if time does continue on after you're dead, as soon as the timeloop resets, you'll be alive again, and the last thing you'll remember will be dying.

Basically, you can't really die, which is one of the reasons timeloops are so hard to escape - even killing yourself isn't a way out.

Some timeloops use death as the condition for restarting the loop - that is, dying is the only way to reset the loop.

Wouldn't you just go mad eventually, if you were stuck in the same repeating period of time forever and ever?

Almost certainly. This is the number one driving force for any character to escape a timeloop - although it might be fun at first, being stuck in the same situation forever would eventually drive someone insane.

Can more than one person be in the same timeloop?

Yes. If the timeloop has a regular period (for example, if it repeats every 24 hours), then it's perfectly possible to have multiple characters experiencing the timeloop together. They'll all reset at the end of the loop, and will all retain their memories from the previous loop. In that case, it's no different from a timeloop containing a single person. The Sweetie Chronicles: Fragments features a two-person, one-day timeloop scenario.

What about if you have one character in a timeloop, and then there's another character inside their timeloop who is also in a timeloop? Is that even possible?

Yes. We consider this to be an instance of 'multiple intersecting timeloops'. The story Hard Reset 2: Reset Harder is all about these.

Comments ( 11 )
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I joined this group just to tell you that this meme is pure gold.
It's perfect in every way.

Ah, yes, timeloop stories! I remember reading a timeloop-style story when I was a young kid. It might not have been a strict timeloop story, as at some point things start changing a little bit, but for the most part it fits. It was written by R.L. Stine. I believe I had the book autographed by Mr. Stine. Anyways, I'd suggest it to pretty much anyone in this group. Looking forward to seeing the stories here!

So basically Groundhog Day (more or less).

397645

a short amount of time, such as... until the subject dies

This sure says something about the stories here.

397645 - Periodic timeloops of any length are acceptable here, even if it's months or years. We have a category for those: Long-period timeloops. Thanks for joining!

I have a question! For the most part, time loops deal with a short amount of time, such as a ten-second countdown, a day, until the subject dies, etc. Would a long-term loop, ie three weeks to a year, be in the same boat? Or would that be an entirely different subject?

348724
Nice.
Incidentally, that's the next story on my list, now that I got through all Eakin's Hard Reset stuff. I hear yours is good too. :twilightsmile:

I do have to say I'm amused that you had to create a new story folder just for me. :twilightsmile:

312290

I think there's something wrong with those comments, but you should be able to add fics in the normal manner. Thank you and welcome to the group!

thats all i found. I dont know if i can add so i just posted in comments :pinkiehappy:

edit: added manualy.

  • Viewing 1 - 11 of 11
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