As any schoolchild learns, the time shuttler who goes into the past introduces an alien variable into the spacio-temporal matrix at the instant when he emerges. The time stream forks, an alternative universe is born in which his visit is given its proper place, and when he returns it will be to a future level in the new world which he has created. His own universe is forever barred to him.
‘Wait a minute,’ I said. ‘Explain this alternative universes deal again.’ ‘I was about to. There are, he proved, an infinite number of universes coexisting, an infinite number of space-time continuums. Given this, it is easy to comprehend that somewhere, in all these infinite universes, everything has happened, will happen and is happening. Everything. ’ ‘Now let me get this,’ I said desperately. ‘You mean that somewhere there is an earth in which George Washington lost the Revolutionary War and the British still own America?’ ‘That’s right,’ he nodded. ‘And somewhere, Napoleon won at Waterloo, somewhere Hitler won the second World War. And so on and so on. I repeat, everything has happened, will happen and is happening.’
The aim of science today is then to discover that super self-control whereby man learns to master, shift and expand the focal length of consciousness and so apprehends further alternative universes, as in the nineteenth century the rise of alternative geometries opened the way to new cosmogonies.
And that was when this alternative universe, this continuum in which Grimes and his people were invaders, had run off the historical rails.
‘Not in this continuum,’ he corrected me. ‘But what happened in the alternative Universes has a certain bearing upon our present predicament. Thanks to your otherwise unpardonable outburst, we can remember now—’
‘So in this alternative Universe of yours,’ I said tolerantly, ‘the Rim Worlds never got colonized.’
Science fiction thrives on content, and content has become its natural resource. Not restricted to the here and now, it extrapolates, makes up, dreams, and invents. Alternative universes, space-time continuums, clones, faster than light travel, extraterrestrials, genetic surgery, cyborgs, fusion power, mass minds, all bits of the science fiction terrain, all fodder for stories.
Best of the bunch are ‘Return of the King’, featuring an alternative universe where an Elvis Presley revival threatens the existence of rap music, and ‘Imprisoned’, where the PCs struggle to escape a 1950s suburban nightmare right out of ‘Leave It to Beaver’.
Apparently unaware of what universe I came from—the first historically alternative universe to be discovered by Confederate scientists—Gable blamed it all on immigrants to the Confederacy.
P. Schuyler Miller, 'As Never Was'
Last modified 2020-12-16 04:08:47
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.