A time loop or temporal loop is a plot device in which periods of time are repeated and re-experienced by the characters, and there is often some hope of breaking out of the cycle of repetition. Time loop is sometimes used to refer to a causal loop; although they appear similar, causal loops are unchanging and self-originating, whereas time loops are constantly resetting: when a certain condition is met, such as a death of a character or a clock reaches a certain time, the loop starts again, with one or more characters retaining the memories from the previous loop.:207
Time loop as a puzzle
Stories with time loops commonly center on the character learning from each successive loop through time. Jeremy Douglass, Janet Murray, Noah Falstein and others compare time loops with video games and other interactive media, where a character in a loop learns about their environment more and more with each passing loop, and the loop ends with complete mastery of the character's environment. Shaila Garcia-Catalán et al. provide a similar analysis, saying that the usual way for the protagonist out of a time loop is acquiring knowledge, using retained memories to progress and eventually exit the loop. The time loop is then a problem-solving process, and the narrative becomes akin to an interactive puzzle.
The short story "Doubled and Redoubled" by Malcolm Jameson that appeared in the February 1941 Unknown tells of a person accidentally cursed to repeat a "perfect" day, including a lucky bet, a promotion, a heroically foiled bank robbery, and a successful wedding proposal. This story was a precedent to the films Groundhog Day and 12:01 PM.
- Yarbro, Chelsea Quinn (1995). "Themes: Time Loop". In Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York City: St. Martins Press. ISBN 978-0312134860. Retrieved October 18, 2015.
- Klosterman, Chuck (2009). Eating the Dinosaur (1st ed.). New York: Scribner. p. 60. ISBN 9781439168486. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
- Matthew Jones; Joan Ormrod (2015), Time Travel in Popular Media, McFarland & Company, ISBN 9780786478071
- Douglass, Jeremy (2007). Command Lines: Aesthetics and Technique in Interactive Fiction and New Media. Santa Barbara, California: University of California, Santa Barbara. pp. 333–335, 358. ISBN 0549363351. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
- García-Catalán, Shaila; Navarro-Remesal, Victor (2015), Matthew Jones, ed., "Try Again: The Time Loop as a Problem-Solving Process in Save the Date and Source Code", Time Travel in Popular Media, McFarland Publication, pp. 206–209, ISBN 9781476620084
- Stockwell, Peter (2000). The Poetics of Science Fiction (1st ed.). Harlow: Longman. pp. 131–133. ISBN 9780582369931.
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