A variation of the Bad Future
trope in which the present IS
the future for someone. This is distinct from stories set in a Bad Future
because the status quo is Like Reality Unless Noted
. The story does not
take place in an Alternate Timeline
or Alternate Universe
outside of the usual setting; those are separate tropes. Alternate Histories
can be compatible, though.
As an example, let's say that we have a story with a Japanese Samurai
that arrives in the present from 200 years in the past
. He'd probably be shocked to learn that Japanese culture has largely been replaced by Westernization, and that Japan surrendered to the United States after World War 2
. Modern citizens of Japan have largely moved on, but someone from an earlier era might see this as their Bad Future
It is also acceptable if something terrible happened to a long-running character
or someone related to them. A past version of said character learns that a loved one has died, betrayed, or left them, or that they themselves have died or ''worse''
Another acceptable version is if a person from the present goes into the past and lets the truth slip. So long as the spirit of the trope is explored, it works just fine.
Could be the result of Values Dissonance
or when stories turn Darker and Edgier
. For some reason, bad guys never seem bothered by this
Usually, to prevent changes to the status quo
, there'll be a You Can't Fight Fate Aesop
and actions to the contrary will result in Setting Wrong What Once Went Right
, possibly resulting in a Terminator Twosome
Not to be confused with horrible gifts
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- Since comic book characters tend to remain publicized for decades, writers ADORE this trope.
- Captain America is the freaking KING of this trope. Every incarnation of Captain America uses this trope to some degree or another, but Ultimate Cap is probably the most apparent.
- In one arc in the Green Lantern comic, Hal Jordan is brought to the present era and learns that not only has Coast City been destroyed, not only is the Corps dead, but the latter was his own doing as part of a massive Face-Heel Turn.
- In his title series, Nova meets his ex-lover Namorita, who is dead in the present, while the two of them are ripped through time. Namorita is blissfully unaware of anything that happens in the future, including the fact that she and Nova were no long a couple long before her death, and that she is one of the parties blamed for the deaths of hundreds of innocents.
- Magik discovered that she would die from the Legacy Virus when she and her team time-traveled to the present. Sadly, if she hadn't time-traveled in the first place, she wouldn't have died, as it was in the present that she was infected with the Virus by her brother.
- In the Intercontinuity Crossover JLA-Avengers when they discover their Silver Agey joined universe isn't "real" they get a glimpse of the real two universes, and Hal Jordan & Barry Allen are especially disappointed about being dead, and in Jordan's case learning that he destroyed the Corps. Both still want to fix things though, because that's what they think is the right thing to do.
- In The Twelve, a bunch of World War 2 superheroes get put in statis as they're trying to prevent a Nazi operation. When they wake up (in 2009), they're very disoriented to say the least: one guy can't understand the concept of mixed-race marriages, another tries a career as a humorist relying on offensive stereotypes seventy years out of date, one tries to get to his old job as a journalist (and has never heard of the Internet), one who has Super Hearing now has to deal with all the wireless broadcasts (phones, TV, radio...), etc.
- Another example from DC 2000, wherein a villain shows the 1940s era Justice Society members the present day in order to convince them everything's gone horribly wrong.
- Similarly, the 1940s Marvel Comics heroes in Avengers/Invaders arrive in the aftermath of Civil War and briefly think that the Germans won World War II as a result.
- In Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow?, when the Legion of Super-Heroes visits Superman just before what is likely to be his last battle, they bring Supergirl with them. Since the story is set post-Crisis (but before the new continuity kicked in), Supergirl is dead in the "present", and Superman tells this version of Supergirl that his Supergirl "is in the past," without specifying that it's not on a mission as the visitor thinks.
- The central point of Brian Michael Bendis's All-New X-Men: the original X-Men team are taken to a nightmarish future where mutant relations are at an all time low, Jean's dead, Beast's dying and Scott is a villain. It's the present day, post Avengers Vs X Men Marvel Universe.
- Callahan's Crosstime Saloon short story "The Time Traveler" (1973): An American is imprisoned by a South American dictatorship in 1963 and released in 1973. When he gets back to the United States, he finds society radically changed due to events in the 1960s and suffers from "transplant shock" so severe that he tries to commit suicide.
- Soon I Will Be Invincible has a throw-away reference to a group of villains from the 1950s who traveled forward in time to the present to learn from their future selves or successors how they conquered the world. Instead, they found a good present where superheroes still prevailed, and became so demoralized they returned to their own time and gave up trying.
- In Time Scout, The Accident has devastated the present. The past is available for tourism, but the present is eating itself with gun control and political correctness and organized crime all running rampant.
Live Action TV
- The Twilight Zone TOS episode "Once Upon a Time" (1960). A janitor from 1890 is sent to 1960 via a time helmet. He finds it much noisier and hectic (including having to dodge cars in the street), the prices much higher, is almost arrested by a policeman, etc. He eventually escapes back to the past, which he finds much better.
- Primeval: A medieval knight slides into 21st century London while chasing a dragon through a time anomaly (actually a dinosaur brought by yet another time anomaly). The knight's first though is that he has just fallen in Hell.
- A mundane example: In The Sopranos, a large number of Mafiosi are released from long prison sentences throughout the series; Season 4 sees the release of "the class of 2004", a group of New Jersey and New York wiseguys convicted and given 20-year sentences in the big Mob prosecutions of the early 80s. Many of these guys have some issues with the way the Mob works in the 21st century—including its increasing suburbanization (both the Jersey boss and NYC underboss live in North Caldwell), its increasing cooperation with other criminal organizations, and the laxity of certain Mob traditions.
- Given the Time Travel shenanigans that Feng Shui characters get involved in, it's entirely possible to come back to a present that is completely unlike what it was like when you left it, particularly if a Critical Shift went down while you were gone.
- Played with in Nodwick, where a time traveler from the heavily Magitek past arrives in the current feudal world only to find out it was bringing his date-minder through the time portal that hosed his "future".
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Avatar Aang's hibernation delivers him to a global dystopia: his people have been exterminated in a systematic genocide, the few remaining (friendly) governments are either powerless or isolationist, and incalculable death and suffering have been inflicted on the world during a century-long war. Plus, all his friends are dead bar one. Aside from some mild survivor's guilt, Aang takes everything in stride.