Like her historical novels, Johnston's first venture into a contemporary setting deals in earnest, extended definitions of relationships. The Timewarp in the title refers to both the sci-fi film 16-year-old Scott spends his summer on and his relationship with beautiful 27-year-old Dr. Laura Weller, a newly divorced Ph.D. and former disco dancer come to work at Kinefilm where sci-fi enthusiast Scott has a summer job. We first meet Scott as a sort of caretaker-in-thrall to his self-destructive girlfriend Julie; but when Julie goes off to Europe with her father, Scott is free to plunge into the making of Timewarp--and to accept the near full-time help of devoted girl-next-door Bettina, summer assistant to Laura at Kinefilm and daughter of a Kinefilm scientist. Bettina works tirelessly on script, costumes, acting, and cast morale while Scott becomes a difficult, slave-driving director. But when Scott hits a blank in visualizing the evil Mindmaster, it is Laura who zaps his awareness--""You've felt the Mindmaster's power, but you refuse to look upon it and know its name. Bettina said Julie was your princess [another Timewarp character], and she's right. Don't you realize that Julie is the Mindmaster too?"" And it is Laura, with her stronger vibrations, who plays the role, working with Scott secretly to complete the film and relaxing with him after hours in her red kimono. The Timewarp summer ends when Bettina learns of their affair, blurts it to her parents and Scott's, and Laura ends it by leaving town. ""What will be in the future will be""; meanwhile Scott and Bettina will be together--""belong together""--as friends or whatever develops. All of this, though chopped into scenes with filmscript-like directions, is talked out at banal length in Johnston's searching soap-opera-like conversations. It may have some of the soaps' allure but it's never penetrating.