At last the superlative magazine series by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, recounting Harold Shea’s experiences with the mathematics of magic in alternate universes, is all in print in a completely revised and expanded form.
Have you ever had the sneaking suspicion that, after all, there really is an alternate universe to the one we know?
Dual time-tracks, alternate universes.
So with science fiction novels. They may locate themselves in distant futures on Earth, or on one of the planets of the solar system, or anywhere in our galaxy, or even in a distant galaxy; or they may occupy a different probability sphere or another time-track entirely (there are at least three brilliant alternate universe novels, Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee, in which the South won the American Civil War; Harry Harrison’s A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! in which George Washington was shot and the American Revolution never happened; and Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, in which the Axis powers won World War II).
I am not trying to attack a Kirk/Spock sexual relationship in general. It is just that when an author uses terms from a particular ‘alternate universe’, that author ought, in my opinion, be limited by the boundaries of the universe that the terms imply. I don’t believe that a homosexual relationship for Spock and Kirk is legitimate in the KRAITH universe, and I therefore object to certain aspects of ‘Aftermath’.
Science fiction has provided us not only with visions of time travel and hence of alternate time streams, but of whole alternate universes. The term ‘alternate universe’ may refer simply to the universe in which history follows an alternate time stream, but more strictly speaking, it refers to a universe somehow complete and yet coexistent with ours.
In Kraith Collected we met an alternate universe Spock where Kirk had died.
In pity and outrage the Commodore crossed into the alternate universe to help Kirk escape.
In Eon, an artificial worldlet called the Thistledown, which somehow arrives from the future, contains the machinery for generating ‘The Way’, a kind of tubular wormhole universe, fifty kilometers in diameter and more or less infinitely long, snaking, not only through space and time, but alternate universes too.
This started off as a story by Jack called ‘The Alpha Tree’, about a boy who could see into alternate universes… I skewed Jack’s idea somewhat, building the story instead around a concept that had long fascinated me—an intuition of how easy it would be to become lost among the billions of probability-worlds that are born and die around us every second of every day.
Sci fi was applied to the most miserable sort of juvenile fiction, to stories about dragons on other planets, to Burroughs-type adventure fiction, to mundane fiction which the author insisted occurred in the near future, even to sword & sorcery fiction and alternate universe novels.
What distinguished human intelligence from so-called artificial intelligence, the reason machines could not be said to think as humans did, was the existence of alternate universes.
To make it credible the ‘Western Barbarians’ can deploy witchfire at need, for this is more Sword-&-Sorcery than an alternate-universe story.
I remember hearing that a long time ago Salman Rushdie entered, but didn’t win, an sf novel contest. Perhaps in some nearby alternate universe he did win…
I encountered her in the very first alternate universe I ever visited: a futuristic London where she was the daughter of a duchess.
in Fantasy & Science Fiction
Last modified 2021-02-25 15:14:01
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.