Monday, 10 September 2012

Alternative Literatures

Literary references become strange when a text is set in an alternative reality. Here is one that remains unchanged. In Poul Anderson's Operation Luna (New York, 2000), Ginny Matuchek's new familiar is a raven called Edgar. At one point, he says, "Nevermore," and she addresses him as "...you Edgar Allan Crow!" (p. 105)

Edgar Allan Poe's dates are 1809-1849, safely before the Operation... timeline overtly diverged from ours in 1901. Therefore, their life and works of Poe are indistinguishable from ours.

However, Ginny wears, as a talisman, a cloak in which Fritz Leiber had played Prospero. (Ginny's daughter will encounter a timeline where Prospero was real.) Leiber's dates are 1910-1992. What he wrote in the Goetic Age has to differ from what he wrote in our twentieth century.

It seems that, in that timeline, Robert Heinlein (1907-1988) continued to write under his early pen name of Lyle Monroe - unless there was another writer of that name?

What would Poul Anderson (1926-2001) have written in the Goetic Age? First, he might not exist in that timeline. Changing history changes the lives of individuals, therefore changes whether or when they have children. In Anderson's "Delenda Est," there is a timeline in which Carthage won the Second Punic War. Therefore, all of history is different from that point onwards. Therefore, soon after that and certainly by the twentieth century, the world population is entirely composed of different individuals.

There would be timelines in which:

exactly the same Poul Anderson exists because those timelines diverge after his death;
the same Anderson exists but his life and experience differ from a certain point onwards;
a different version of Anderson exists, e. g., genetically identical but with life and experience differing from birth;
no Poul Anderson exists because his parents did not exist or did not meet or came together in other circumstances and had different children etc.

The Goetic Age Anderson could have written:

the same historical fiction as in our timeline;
futuristic fiction about goetically powered interstellar travel, time travel and artificial intelligence;
speculative fiction about the timeline in which Einstein and Plank independently originated relativity and quantum mechanics instead of cooperating on rheatics.

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