alternate world n.

one of many possible universes, which may have different physical laws or a different history than our own

Cf. slightly earlier alternative world n.; cf. parallel world n.

SF Encyclopedia

SF Criticism


  • 1944 F. Leiber Business of Killing in Astounding Science Fiction Sept. 61/1 page image Fritz Leiber bibliography

    I am visiting the alternate worlds in search of one that has learned how to do away with the horrid scourge of war, in order to bring back the precious knowledge to my erring co-timers.

  • 1954 ‘A. Boucher’ in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Nov. 99 page image Anthony Boucher

    Beyond Earth’s Gates, by Lewis Padgett and C.L. Moore (Ace, 35¢) is a highly agreeable bit of alternate-world foolishness, in which a sympathetically unheroic hero finds himself drowning in the clichés (from the sinister highpriest [sic] to the fair princess) of the world of Malesco.

  • 1968 K. Laumer Assignment in Nowhere 51 Keith Laumer

    From that beginning grew the Imperium—the government claiming sovereignty over the entire Net of alternate worlds. Your world—which is known to us as Blight Insular Three—is but one of the uncountable parallel universes, each differing only infinitesimally from its neighbor.

  • 1975 J. Gunn Alternate Worlds 213 James E. Gunn

    Science fiction writers, from H. G. Wells through Murray Leinster and Clifford Simak to Ward Moore and Philip K. Dick, have considered the possibility that there may exist, side by side with our Earth, separated from it by time or dimension, alternate worlds split off by moments of great (or small) historic actions or decisions, and that upon occasion, by traveling in time or chancing upon some gateway or crossroads, we can pass from one world to another.

  • 1979 B. Stableford Alternate World in P. Nicholls Encyclopedia of Science Fiction 26/1 Brian Stableford

    An alternate world is an image of Earth as it might be, consequent upon some hypothetical alteration of history. Many sf stories use the notion of parallel worlds as a frame in which alternate worlds can be held simultaneously and may even interact with one another.

  • 1983 D. Duane So you want to be Wizard? 112 Diane Duane

    Is this an alternate world, maybe? The next universe over?

  • 1987 H. Turtledove Agent of Byzantium (1988) 7 Harry Turtledove

    This book, then, draws on heavily on my academic background. It’s set in the early fourteenth century of an alternate world where Muhammad, instead of founding Islam, converted to Christianity on a trading mission up into Syria.

  • 1994 Interzone Mar. 60/1

    The title story is an alternate-world fantasy too broken up by the verisimilitude of its savage premise—the nightmare world into which the protagonist falls is ours—to provide much in the way of theodicy balm, and so fails to soothe in the way we've come to expect our alternate-world tales to.

  • 2001 Locus June 69/2

    Each intro chronicles another stage in his…life (while providing glimpses of ‘alternate worlds’ where things might have gone otherwise).

  • 2002 K. S. Robinson in Locus Jan. 7/1 Kim Stanley Robinson

    I thought it would be naive and something like racism in reverse to suggest that if we got rid of Europe the world would have happily put itself together. There are all kinds of double binds in writing an alternative history. Do you make the alternate world better or worse?

Research requirements

antedating 1944

Earliest cite

Fritz Leiber, 'Business of Killing'

Research History
Jeff Wolfe submitted a cite from a 1988 reprint of Harry Turtledove's 1988 "Agent of Byzantium".
Matthew Hoyt submitted a 1984 cite from Brian Stableford, in David Wingrove's "Science Fiction Source Book".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1977 cite from an article by Brian Aldiss in "The Visual Encyclopedia of SF".
Keith Stokes submitted a 1979 cite from the Nicholls' "Encyclopedia of SF".
Enoch Forrester submitted a 1975 cite from James Gunn's "Alternate Worlds".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 2002 cite from a Kim Stanley Robinson interview in Locus. Katrina Campbell submitted a cite from a reprint of Brian Ash's "Who's Who in Science Fiction"; Mike Christie verified the cite in the 1976 first edition.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1986 cite from Gary Wolfe's "Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1977 cite from an article by Brian Aldiss in "The Visual Encyclopedia of SF".
Cory Panshin submitted a 1954 cite from Anthony Boucher's book reviews in F&SF.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1990 cite from Gardner Dozois' "Slow Dancing Through Time".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1986 cite from Joan Gordon's "Gene Wolfe" reader's guide.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1989 cite from Norman Spinrad's book review column in Asimov's.
Jeff Prucher submitted a cite from the entry on Howard Waldrop, by Peter Nicholls, in the 1995 edition of the Nicholls/Clute "Encyclopedia of SF"; Mike Christie verified the cite in the 1993 edition.
Mike Christie submitted a 1944 cite from Fritz Leiber's "Business of Killing".

Last modified 2020-12-16 04:08:47
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.