Jonbar adj.

in time-travel or alternate-history contexts: denoting a point at which a (trivial) action can result in a significantly different timeline (chiefly in form Jonbar hinge, Jonbar point)

[after Jonbar, an empire in Jack Williamson’s The Legion of Time (1938), named after the character John Barr, whose act as a young boy of picking up either a magnet or a pebble leads to the creation of either a utopian civilization or a tyrannical state (see 1938 quots.)]


SF Encyclopedia

SF Criticism

Time Travel

  • [1938 J. Williamson Legion of Time in Astounding Science-Fiction May 28/2 page image Jack Williamson bibliography

    In that sense, neither is yet real. Neither Jonbar nor Gyronchi. Somewhere, there is a turning in the Path of Time that leads, one way, to Jonbar. The other branch leads to Gyronchi.]

  • [1938 J. Williamson Legion of Time in Astounding Science-Fiction July 123/2 page image Jack Williamson bibliography

    ‘That is John Barr…. That metropolis of future possibility is—or might be—named in honor of the boy, barefoot son of a tenant farmer. He is twelve years old in 1921. You saw him at the turning point of his life—and the life of the world. ’…. ‘The bifurcation of possibility is in the thing he stoops to pick up…. It is either the magnet that we recovered from Sorainya’s citadel—or an oddly colored pebble which lies beside it.… If he picks up the discarded magnet, he will discover the mysterious attraction it has for the blade of his knife, and the mysterious north-seeking power of its poles. He will wonder, experiment, theorize. Curiosity will deepen. The scientist will be born in him.’]

  • 1977 B. Ash Future & Alternative Histories in Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction 123/1 page image Brian Ash bibliography

    Almost certainly the best-known work set in a world where Hitler won the war is Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1962) [...] In Dick’s case the ‘Jonbar hinge’, the point at which the story departs from genuine history, is an attempted assassination of President-elect Roosevelt in 1933.

  • 1979 J. S. Peek Time War: A Game of Time Travel and Conflict (board game) page image

    Time War is an exciting new tactical level game that begins in the future. A future where governments, using their ability to send men and equipment into time, fight their wars and vie for power in the past. Highly evolved computers predict the ‘Jonbar Junctions’ (Critical moments in history) and what actions can be taken by the time forces to create a favorable change in the power balance of their own time.

  • 1983 M. Sweeney Godwar: How to Run a Multiverse Campaign in Different Worlds June 25/2 page image

    A gate between universes is called a nexus, also a junction, portal, or star-gap. [...] Nexi are intimately connected with Jonbar junctions. These are critical moments when several alternate worlds could arise. Nexi are often found before pivotal, world-shaking events.

  • 1992 ‘P. Morgan’ A Dangerous Energy in Brum Group News (#252) Sept. 7/2 (review) page image Pauline E. Dungate

    [Author John] Whitbourn is brave to have tackled the problem. He has put considerable thought into the changes wrought by his deviations and found interesting ways of conveying them to the reader. He has perhaps been a little over-ambitious especially as there is more than one turning point (jonbar hinge). Not content with a different time line, this world is one where elves (nasty, vicious creatures if you believe the stories) lurk in the extant ancient forests. And there is magic.

  • 2002 J. Clute Happy Hours in Escape World in Scores (2003) (review) page image John Clute bibliography

    These Worlds to escape into—created at a time when the discovery of the planet was nearing completion, and the hegemony of the imperialist West over lesser tribes was no longer an unquestionable given—are clearly ancestral to the kind of alternate history story S M Stirling wishes to write, the kind of adventure in which sf-style journeys to lost worlds, or to planets where topless girl warriors fall in love with you, are replaced (it is a simple paradigm shift) by Jonbar Points which bifurcate reality into histories that are no longer ‘fixed’, playgrounds where adventure is still possible.

  • 2007 J. Howard & S. Baxter Time’s Tapestry in Interzone (#210) June 69/1 (interview) page image Stephen Baxter John Howard bibliography

    [Howard:] Conqueror is very sfnal in that it gets the reader to ask the question ‘What if...?’ Alternate or stillborn realities seem to be a theme that you can never quite keep way from, so what jonbar hinges are the most important in Time’s Tapestry? [Baxter:] The basic conceit in Time’s Tapestry is that we’re working through historical epochs, each of which is subject to meddling from the then future, our near present. So the whole thing is full of jonbar hinges.

  • 2013 K. S. Decker Who is Who?: The Philosophy of Doctor Who vii. 189 page image Kevin S. Decker bibliography

    ‘I mean, it’s only a theory, what do I know, but I think certain moments in time are fixed. Tiny, precious moments. Everything else is in flux, anything can happen, but those certain moments, they have to stand.’ If this is correct (and he [sc. the Tenth Doctor] admits it’s only a theory), then there are apparently ‘Jonbar Struts’ as well as ‘Hinges’, with the vast majority of events in space-time ‘in flux, anything can happen’, implying that they are causally or historically less significant than ‘Jonbar’ events.

  • 2021 H. Elber-Aviram Rewriting Universes: Post-Brexit Futures in Dave Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe Quartet in Humanities (vol. 10, no. 3) 3 Sept. 3 page image Hadas Elber-Aviram

    As O’Toole perspicaciously demonstrates, the Second World War constitutes the Jonbar hinge of the Brexit imaginary, constructing a mental space where national and personal identities are configured by binary oppositions: victor and loser, powerful and powerless, and in O’Toole’s formulations, ‘dominant and submissive, colonizer and colonized’.

Research requirements

antedating 1977

Last modified 2022-03-23 20:36:46
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.