Thursday, 4 February 2016

Alternative Shakespeare

(The Old Phoenix sequence, the Time Patrol series and the Technic History in a single image.)

Poul Anderson, A Midsummer Tempest (London, 1975), Chapter xii.

Valeria points out to Rupert that he inhabits a world with a particular geography, astronomy, natural laws, people, nations, societies, past, present and future. He agrees although I can imagine him getting puzzled and asking how it could be otherwise. She is used to the idea of multiple worlds; he is not, yet.

Next, she asks him to imagine a divergent history. Since she is starting easy with the idea of alternative histories, not of alternative cosmologies, why does she initially confuse the issue by mentioning geography, astronomy and even natural laws? She prompts him with the obvious example of "'A battle lost instead of won...'" (p. 100) An obvious starting point in England would be 1066: two crucial battles with several possible outcomes. Instead, Rupert goes further back, imagining that:

Hamlet did not die young;
thus he, not Fortinbras, became King of Denmark;
King Hamlet helped his kinfolk to overthrow the usurper, Macbeth;
then the Danes turned their primitive cannon against Norman William...

This is both a crossover and an alternative history/imaginary story/Elseworld/What if? etc for Shakespeare's plays.

Valeria explains that there could be two whole universes but she uses twentieth century terms that Rupert cannot possibly understand:

"space-time" - he will have a common sense understanding only of "space" and of "time";
"galaxies" - he will not know what this means;
"planets" - he will have a different understanding of this term (Sun and Moon are "planets," Earth is not);
"matter and energy particles" - he might know some Greek Atomist philosophy but that does not refer to energy particles;
"dimensions" - will this mean anything?

Holger rightly points out that Valeria is leaving Rupert behind. However, the reader gets the message, more or less.

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    And one amusing "sidebar" of this incident of Prince Rupert with Valeria Matuchek was how he completely missed that Clodia Pulcher was trying to let him know how interested she was in him. Much to her disgust! She finally settled for Will Fairweather.