Blog,  Love Letters,  Reflections

Jeanette Bennett (and Wendell Howe)

Jeanette BennettJeanette Bennett received a new lease on life when she took a pause from a “real” job and began pursuing her passion as a writer. She’s been gaining notoriety on the web for less than a year now, which is a testament to her popular writing experiment! She’s been seeing how well she can write a story on twitter though the eyes of one of her characters, and it’s safe to say that she’s been wildly successful!

A bit befuddled? Well, if you’ve never heard of Dr. Wendell Howe, the time traveler from the 27th century, then I pity your loss. But weep no more! It just so happens that I had the privilege of sitting down with Dr. Wendell Howe himself to ask a few questions!

Christina Nelson: I’m so glad we could sit down and have this little chat!
Wendell Howe: Thank you, Ms. Nelson. I’m always glad to see people interested in Temporal Anthropology.

C.N.: First off, what is your full name?
W.H.: Dr. Wendell Abercrombie Howe.

C.N.: Now, I know you’re from England, but what part are you from?
W.H.: Cambridge, England, UK. My family has been there forever, I think. I come from a long line of Cambridge University history professors dating back to Abercrombie Howe in the 19th century. I have a picture here on my pocket computer of him, his five children and his lovely wife. Our family always wondered how an old homely professor like Abercrombie managed to snag such a young, beautiful lady. I’m descended from their youngest son, also named Wendell. Oh dear, I’m prattling on now aren’t I?

C.N.: Well, I am interviewing you, so prattle on! For those not familiar with your story, what is your profession?
W.H.: I’m a Temporal Anthropologist. As you know an anthropologist is someone who studies other cultures. Earth has pretty much been one culture for centuries now. We either have to go off planet or go back in time, which is what I do. I’m not surprised most of your readers have never heard of me. I mean, Temporal Anthropologists do have a small following, but it’s nothing like entertainers or athletes.

C.N.: I bet you get a lot of steam punk kids following you around, though.
W.H.: Yes I’ve heard that term on Twitter a lot. I had to look it up. It was a genre of fantasy and science fiction, Victorians in a futuristic setting, wasn’t it? I suppose I’m the opposite, a person from the 27th century pretending to be Victorian. So I guess I’m not steam punk, but steam bunk.

C.N.: Heehee! When did you know you wanted to be a temporal anthropologist?
W.H.: My grandmother Julia was a Victorian literature professor at Cambridge, who married my Grandfather Edward Howe, a Victorian historian. Most of the family were history teachers, so I was steeped in history growing up. But my Grams reading me all those Victorian novels, that really made the Victorian age come alive for me. I wanted to go back and meet Sherlock Holmes or Phileas Fogg. Of course that was impossible. Then when I was fourteen, I met Sir Albert Leach, one of the founders of the Association of Temporal Anthropologist. He gave this presentation taking us through 1880 London. I was mesmerized. I knew then what I wanted to do. By the way, I did recently meet Dr. Joseph Bell, who was the inspiration for Sherlock, so in a way I did meet Holmes, eh?

C.N.: Definitely! I’d say so! So, how does one become a temporal anthropologist?
W.H.: First you need a Doctoral Degree in both history and anthropology. That’s the easy part! Then you have to get a License from the Institute of Time Travel. They teach you to fade into the crowd, to not stand out, to mesh so well with the time period you pick out that no one will believe you are not a native. Then they teach you how to have no impact on other people’s lives so we don’t accidentally change history by influencing someone. It takes a lot of work. I don’t know of any temporal anthropologist under the age of thirty-five.

C.N.: Oh, wow! So, do you own your own time machine?
W.H.: Heavens no! That is illegal. The Institute of Time Travel owns, maintains and operate all time machines. Even if it wasn’t illegal I wouldn’t have the money to buy one or the expertise to operate one. The Institute presets the machines to go to whenever and to return to the present. All we do is sit down and press the button.

C.N.: Are there temporal anthropologists stationed in every era of the past?
W.H.: We wish there were, but no. Becoming a temporal anthropologist is so hard there aren’t many of us. And the burnout rate is high. I’m quite proud of carrying on for forty-six years. Twenty years is the normal “lifespan” of a T.A. career.

C.N.: That’s a long time! Congrats!
W.H.: Thank you. I hope to be a Temporal Anthropologist for another hundred years.

C.N.: So, no anthropologists going into the Middle Ages or the Renaissance? How far back in time have colleagues gone?
W.H.: Oh heavens, I didn’t mean to imply there weren’t other eras Temporal Anthropologists were in. It’s just there are thousands of cultures and little over a hundred Temporal Anthropologists at the best of times. Off hand I know of one lady, Dr. Matilda Warwick from the University of Melbourne, who is in a 12th century convent even as we speak. As for how far back…hmm, I know Dr. Jean Chevalier, Universite de Savoie has been studying Neolithic cultures of Europe. Very tricky since we don’t know the languages. He’s been augmented with embedded computers to help learn them quickly. Wouldn’t want one of those in my head. I don’t know how he stands it. Dr. Chevalier is easy to spot at functions–beard, long hair, wears animal skins. I picked a rather cushy period compared to most Temporal Anthropologists.

C.N.: Haha! You lucked out, then! How did you end up covering the Victorian era?
W.H.: You make it sound like it was foisted on me. We choose the era we want to study. Really, what Englishman wouldn’t want to cover the Victorian Age when Britain was at its zenith? The British Empire…biggest city in the world…leaders in science and industry…largest world power. Besides that the Victorian Age was the beginning of trains and steamships. Being a world traveler no longer took daring, it just took money. It was the beginning of the modern world, with flush toilets, lighting and hot water heaters that more or less worked…usually…sort of. And yet the world was still full of wild animals and exotic cultures and wide open spaces. That would start changing in the 20th century.

C.N.: *wistful sigh* I love the Victorian era too! It must be so exciting! What do you always make sure you have on your time travel journeys?
W.H.: I never go anywhere without my teapot. I put together a very clever tea service, using all period items. I have a small wooden chest with a handle on top that is just big enough to hold a spirit lamp and stand, a small tea kettle, a four cup teapot, two teacups and saucers, and canisters with sugar and various teas. I know it’s frivolous, but I feel it always makes me feel at home no matter where I go. And of course there’s my pocket computer. I have it disguised as a pocket New Testament Bible. It’s something I can pull out at odd times in the Victorian Age, and no one thinks anything of it.

C.N.: Ooh, that’s really clever! And I know you love your tea! Now, most of the time, is it tea for one, or do you travel with any other temporal anthropologists?
W.H.: I normally travel alone, but I have teamed up with other Temporal Anthropologists researching the 19th century from time to time. There’s Dr. Kaul Sharma, Dr. John Bluejacket, Dr. Chester Black Buffalo, Dr. Sing Lu, Dr. Hans Schroeder and of course Dr. Henry Darrel. Henry is researching 19th century America, focusing on the working man of the era. Pity no women are covering the 19th century. Must be the corset and bustle.

C.N.: Now, call me weird, but if I had the means, I would be on that in a heartbeat!
W.H.: Well, I’m sure all of us would love to have a female companion even occasionally. I say, we would stay up late dreaming up projects where we had to have a woman along. Just nice to have a woman around even in a platonic sense. Of course you would be treated with the utmost respect as the scholar that you are. Male Temporal Anthropologists know how hard the job can be, so how can we not respect any woman who can do it. Unfortunately we might have to treat you with less respect in public to be convincing. Not an easy time for woman, I’m afraid. But then the middle ages wasn’t female-friendly either, and there is brave little Matilda taking it on. Quite the woman. But I’m getting off track. If you can get a couple of PhDs and a time travel license you would be welcomed with open arms. Not that I’m implying any of us would grab you, or anything. We might lean over and smell your hair when you weren’t looking and sigh longingly once in awhile…erm, maybe you should edit that last part.

C.N.: *chuckles* Oh dear. Well, what is the scariest thing that has ever happened on a trip?
W.H.: Running out of tea? No, once nearly got run over by a Hansom cab. Cab driver says he didn’t see me. I get that a lot. People are always running into me and saying they didn’t see me. Nearly got stepped on by an elephant who acted like he didn’t see me, either. I think I blend in too well with my surroundings.

C.N.: Oh no! Isn’t it dangerous time-traveling? Couldn’t you inadvertently change the future by affecting the past?
W.H.: That’s why only licensed time travelers are allowed to travel in the past. Of course if the Time Purists had their way, all time travel would be abolished. The Institute of Time Travel was established to try to appease them, you know. Historical research is just one application. What about terraforming planets? Sounded like a good idea, but it takes millennia, even millions of years to terraform a planet. You can hardly ask a bunch of colonists to wait that long. We just have to go into the past and seed the necessary bacteria or whatever. What about all those extinct animals and plants we were able to bring back? And the applications to genetics and medicine. Time Travel is far too valuable to give up.

C.N.: That is genius! Good work! Though, I assume, since it’s still dangerous, measures are taken to protect the past?
W.H.: As I said, only trained time travelers are allowed. And to make sure we don’t do anything wrong we are always debriefed when we get back–by trained Enforcers–while we wear a Compliance Disk. Thank heavens they only use those nasty things on dangerous criminals and time travelers–just to make sure we aren’t lying to them–a necessary safety precaution–perfectly harmless. Sorry, do excuse the tick.

C.N.: Huh. That’s…wow. *clears throat* Well, moving on! What is your very favorite thing that’s ever happened on a trip?
W.H.: Hmm, let’s see. I got Jules Verne to autograph my copy of Around the World in Eighty Days. It was the one Grams gave me as a child, my favorite book. Thankfully Mr. Verne didn’t notice the printing date.

C.N.: HA! Awesome! Say, if I gave you a copy of one of my Lord of the Rings books, could you get Dr. Tolkien to sign it for me?
W.H.: I’m so sorry, but I’m not allowed out of the Victorian era. Oh, once or twice into the early Edwardian era. Tolkien would be a small child then I’m afraid…unless you want him to scrawl his name in crayon.

C.N.: Ah, good point. Thanks anyway! But back to the list. You certainly twitter a lot. How do you send them from back in time before Twitter existed?
W.H.: I’ve been communicating from the Field in the 19th century to the people back home in 2656 by using a new Twitter Tool called TimeTweets. I wrote an essay about it on my blogsite.

C.N.: So cool! You’re a fascinating man, Wendell. Thank you for this glimpse into your world!
W.H.: Thank you! Few people call me fascinating–boring maybe. Matilda, bless her heart, says I’m relaxing to be around.

C.N.: Aww, how sweet! And speaking of blogsite, how can people read about your adventures?
W.H.: You can follow me on Twitter under @Wendell_Howe. I’ve been tweeting my day to day activities there. I’m been archiving the tweets at I also have a blogsite at

C.N.: Great! Well, I know you’re a busy man, so thanks so much for your time!
W.H.: You are most welcome. Anything to promote the discipline of Temporal Anthropology.

Jeanette Bennett’s blog!
Some Wendellicious links: @Wendell_HoweTimeTweets ArchiveWendell Howe Blogsite


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