Thursday, 24 November 2016

If Not

Here is a thought that applies to every human being, real or fictional. Doreen Arnstein reflects:

"...if it hadn't been for the Event, you'd never have met Ian, not really - never even have considered marrying him, at least. No David then, or Miriam."
-SM Stirling, On The Oceans Of Eternity (New York, 2000), Chapter Eleven, p. 211.

If there had been no Starkad Affair, then Dominic Flandry would not have met Persis d'Io and they would not have had a son. Any one of us might not have existed, would not have existed if earlier events had gone differently. No overt difference would have been necessary. All it would take would be for a different sperm and egg to meet...

Certain accidents led to my meeting Sheila. Without that meeting, Ketlan would have moved to Lancaster but would not have met our daughter here. Not only is the existence of every living being contingent. There is an indefinite number of potential people whom we would have met and with whom we would have interacted if they had had the good fortune to be born. The idea of divergent timelines and alternative histories comes very close to everyday existence. At every moment, we make choices, however trivial.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    And my favorite "what if" of history is pointing out that if the Sarajevo Assassination of 1914 had not occurred, everything would have been different! For better or ill, the world would have been completely different a century later.


  2. My paternal grandmother met my father's father because while traveling from Southampton to Boston in 1912 it struck an iceberg in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the passengers were rescued and taken to St. John's, Newfoundland, where my great-grandfather owned a hotel. She met his son there... And my mother's parents met because her father was gassed at Passchendaele in 1917, and met a VAD nurse while convalescing. Their parents violently opposed the match -- different class backgrounds, they'd never have met in peacetime -- and so they eloped to Peru in 1919 because it was as far away from England as they could get. My mother's father died of pneumonia aggravated from the lung damage, and so my grandmother and mother (and aunt) moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where my mother met my father in 1942. All vanishingly unlikely chances.

    1. Yet here you and we are and, in a parallel universe (maybe), an entirely different cast of characters is conversing by the Internet.

    2. Dear Mr. Stirling and Paul,

      And MY parents first came to meet because my father met my mother's older brother at Villanova College. If my father and uncle had never met I and my siblings would never have been born.