Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Worlds Within Worlds

Two Observations About Alternative Histories

(i) Persons and events that are fictions in one history may be realities in another. Thus, Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest is set in the seventeenth century of an Earth where Shakespeare was the Great Historian, not the Great Dramatist. Figures as diverse as Sherlock Holmes, Huckleberry Finn, Winston Churchill, Nicholas van Rijn and the Prince Rupert of the Rhine from the Shakespearean history congregate in the Old Phoenix, an inn between the worlds.

(ii) Every work of fiction is set in an alternative history, one that did not contain the author imagining its events. For example, SM Stirling imagined one of his Draka:

"...loose in our world. Or at least something very like our timeline; one without an S.M. Stirling, who imagined the Draka." (Drakas!, p. 284)

DC Comics had fun with a multiverse including:

Earth 2, inhabited by the original versions of the superheroes;
Earth 1, inhabited by the current versions of the superheroes;
Earth X, conquered by Nazis resisted by super-powered Freedom Fighters;
other Earths inhabited by superheroes bought from former competitors;
Earth Prime, inhabited by comic book writers mentally tuning in to the other Earths.

In Drakas!, edited by SM Stirling, Anne Marie Talbott contributes a story in which Stirling's Draka character Gwen crosses to an Earth where Drakas are fictions and indeed seems to meet the author of this story.

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