Monday, 14 July 2014

Alternative Everards II

Robert Silverberg, "Christmas in Gondwanaland" IN Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois, Editors, Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds (Burton, MI, 2014), pp. 215-244.

From our vantage point entirely outside a fictional universe, we can observe any continuity changes within that universe. Thus, we can make the otherwise absurd statement that Clark Kent, who originally came to Earth in the early 1920's, now arrived instead in the 1990's but it would make no sense whatsoever to tell a Clark Kent who remembers having grown up in the 1920's that he now grew up in the 1990's. These are alternative Clark Kents.

Similarly, when Time Patrol agent Lora Spallanzani, informing fellow agent Manson Everard about an alternative timeline, says, "'...we five still get born,'" (p. 229), she refers to alternative versions of Everard, of herself and of three other colleagues. The Spallanzani who is speaking and the Everard whom she is addressing were not born in the alternative timeline so why do they exist in it? According to the rules of time travel expounded in Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, someone originating in an earlier timeline can survive into a later timeline only by traveling pastward along the earlier timeline, then returning futureward through the moment of change into the later timeline. But Everard certainly has not done this and the others probably have not.

The five are:

Manson Everard, mid-20th century;
Elio Gonzalez, late 21st century;
Lora Spallanzani, 24th century;
Daniel Ben-Eytan, 28th century;
Hideko Nakamura, post-human, 80th century.

Knowing precisely when each of the five lethal gas-containing capsules was activated by one of the terrorists (see previous posts), each Patrol agent arrives four minutes earlier, decommissions the capsule and waits to apprehend the arriving terrorist, even though in at least three of the cases this involves a fight that could have gone either way. Unlike the Patrol agents, the terrorists have some way of arriving and departing almost immediately without using a time machine.

The Time Patrol Founders, whose lives the agents are saving, must surely notice all this activity, which is out in the open in broad daylight in the central courtyard of their camp, but must also have been forewarned not to interfere. Time Patrol II (see previous posts) does not intervene but why should it even know that for a few weeks in Gondwanaland there was a Founding Convocation for an alternative Patrol?

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