Five legends about alternate timelines and parallel universes

Traveling between parallel universes (or timelines as they are sometimes called) dates back a long time to SF, but has become more popular since the 1950s and the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, where the result of each quantum – via Create new parallel versions of the entire universe for each possible outcome to resolve scale events.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I just finished the ninth novel of my own alternate universe, The Legend of the Jump Merchant starts with family trade As an ordinary first glance portal fantasy. In a portal fantasy, the protagonist from our own world travels to another world, where the situation is different, and returns frequently, but usually strictly back and forth. Think The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis or The Chronicles of the Wind Rose by Barbara Hambly. But three books in the series turned into a corner of science fiction, and nine more, invisible sun It ends with a space battle, and the curtain rises, revealing an infinitely vast future, a war as massive as any space opera conflict in the Galactic Empire.

Where does the enduring appeal of parallel universe travel come from, and how does it differ from portal fantasy (or alternative history, for that matter)?

In SF, traveling to parallel universes is a convenient solution to the puzzling difficulty of rationalizing travel to other worlds within our own continuum. You don’t need a hyperdrive or a starship to visit the universe next door! Plus, when you travel to another version of Earth, you’re almost guaranteed to have a habitable biosphere. So you can play a whole new world without building a world like exoplanetology or FTL drives. You can also take advantage of parallel histories: what if you found yourself in a version of Earth where the Russian Revolution failed, or France invaded and occupied Britain in 1756 and the Industrial Revolution was delayed by a century?

Parallel universes are also popular in fantasy, albeit for a different reason: they provide an excuse for changing the laws of nature (and magic). If you make it too strict, magic becomes indistinguishable from technology, but adding parallel worlds to fantasy allows you to shake the basic logic of the setup. It’s also a good excuse for a different travelogue than usual. If you’re going to the dimension of airships and steam engines (or dragons, for that matter), you don’t need the minutiae of sailboats, horses, or carriages.

Here are five examples of good tropes, written in fantasy and sci-fi styles:

The Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny

by. . .start The Nine Princes of Amber (Published in 1970), Zelazny’s ten-book series brings joy to dysfunctional families. Corwin of Amber, our original amnesiac protagonist, is one of the ten quarrelling children of the Amber King, who casts endless shadows over the chaotic abyss – and I mean other worlds. The family inherited supernatural powers — the ability to travel through the shadows to any world they could imagine, incredible healing powers, extraordinary longevity — but what they didn’t have was friendship: their slander and strife could be deadly. The godlike King Oberon is missing, the fate of the universe is in jeopardy, and…they are the archetypal specimens of fantasy parallel universe travel. These are short books, written with Zelazny’s characteristic dynamism and playfulness, published between 1970 and 1991: while their age is long (30 to 50 years ago), they are not as old as many other works That sucks. the same period.

Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library Series

Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library series (from the titular invisible library, first published in the UK in 2014) mirrors the setting of The Amber Chronicles while using it for a very different purpose. There is chaos (characterized by evil and capricious faeries), and there is order (maintained by dragon oppression), and the world in between complete chaos and complete order exists in various states. Far from the endless cold war between goblins and dragons is the library, which exists beyond time and space: a critical space curated by librarians who harvest unique works of fiction that span the entire multiverse. Our protagonist, Erin, is a sensible lady, wearing sensible shoes — better for running, whatever book she gets (read: stolen) for the library. She’s assigned to an offshoot of a volatile, chaotic steampunk London (with blimps, famous detectives, werewolves, and clockwork crocodiles), where it’s gradually discovered that a struggle for control of the multiverse is underway, and the library There is a danger of being involved. Very interesting and an example of a table that is currently updated.

Paratime Collection by H. Beam Piper

From 1948 until his death in 1965, H. Beam Piper wrote a series of short stories and a novella about the colonial expansion of a technologically advanced civilization, the people of the family timeline, who secretly exploited the inhabitants (high-tech and low tech) ) other timelines they access via conveyor belts. Their own worlds are depleted of resources, so of course they will use their access to Timeout to extract wealth and material from their unwitting neighbors, while overseeing Timeout to keep the secret of its existence out of the inhabitants of other timelines. They have been published as stand-alone short stories and a novel (Lord Calvin at other times) from the 1960s short stories: also included in the comprehensive edition of The Complete Paratime (2001).

For moderns, this setup has a ruthless colonial advantage: if there is any mitigating circumstance, they lie in secret parallel empires headquartered in East Asia, not the relocation of the British Empire (Piper apparently took into account the some of their political mechanisms).

(I cite the Amber Chronicles and Parallel Worlds stories as the taproots of my own Merchant Prince universe: in the former, the ability to travel between timelines is inherited, while in the latter, with And with that comes imperial exploitation. I think Piper’s Paratime is significant as one of the earliest examples of parallel universe travel in modern American science fiction — that doesn’t mean it’s without problems.)

dark magic shadow by VE Schwab

VE Schwab’s magical trilogy, from dark magic shadow, is another fantasy work of trade between parallel universes, albeit a heavily restricted one: Antari is a rare (very rare) magician with access to other versions of London – red, grey, white, As well as the now-banned black version. (Grey London almost lost its magic, ruled by George III.) Antarikael of the Red London King served as ambassador to the White and Grey London royals. While visiting Grey London, he encounters a one-eyed pickpocket who forces him to take a ride to another world. Other than that, anything I say would be a spoiler: Suffice it to say, it’s a character-driven adventure, beautifully executed, and a great illustration of changing the rules of magic in fantasy using parallel universes.

Tough girl Joanna Russ

Feminist science fiction published in 1975 is just as angry and effective as it was when it was written in 1970, Tough girl We are given four parallel universes in which there are overlapping versions of the protagonists (Joanna/Jenny/Janet/Jayle) – who visit each other, compare their prescribed gender roles and socialization, and check identities. It’s widely considered one of the sources of feminist science fiction, not parallel universe travel, but I’m including it here to prove that parallel universe travel isn’t just an excuse for travel writing: it can be used effectively to contrast different outcomes.

(Trigger warning: Jael was partly criticized for being transphobic – not uncommon in works related to second wave feminism. Russ then apologized. Like Paratime and Amber, Tough girl Reflects the era and culture of writing. Attitudes from the relatively recent past may offend or upset readers. )

Honorable Mention:

There are too many legends in the parallel universe to list them all. But I feel like I should at least mention here some of the more prominent ones that don’t support my big-ticket agenda, in particular: Lathe in the sky Ursula K. Le Guin The Fall of Ile-Rien by Martha Wells, long earth By Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett, The Millennium Rule series by Trudi Canavan, wayward child Seanan McGuire’s collection, eternal and forever by Greg Bear.

Charles Stross, who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, has so far won three Hugo Awards and been nominated twelve times. He also won the Locus Award for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best Novella, and was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke and Nebula Awards.Stross is the author of the best-selling Merchant Prince series, the Laundry series, and several independent novels, including Greenhouse, Accelerando, and Children of Saturn.

Leave a Comment