Monday, August 10, 2009

Murray Leinster's "Sidewise in Time" (novella, parallel universe): What if our universe is "closed" & subject to influenced from "outside"?

Quote from short story titled Sidewise in Time by Murray LeinsterSaid to be the first parallel universe story. And among the early alternate history stories.

"Sidewise Awards" are named after this story.

I didn't come back as impressed as the reputation of the story suggests. But that could be because

  1. I've read it three quarters of a century after publication!
  2. And alternate history parts - like most alternate history fiction - will likely have only local appeal, in these case only for US readers. Mostly adventures in parts of US where alternate universe versions have replaced normal land - like where Chinese colonized US, ...
Caution: It's been a while since I read this story. Descriptions are accurate to the extent I recall, but I'm not inclined to read it again for this post.

Story summary.

Professor Minott, "instructor in mathematics on the faculty of Robinson College in Fredericksburg, Va", is one of the few who has an idea of strange upheaval happening everywhere - like familiar sight across the road getting replaced with strange scenery. Cross the boundary, & you are in a parallel universe. With the turmoil still on, you might never be able to return to your original universe. Signs have been around a while, in the form of much stranger physical phenomena.

Professor knows exactly what he wants: take his secret lady love "Maida Hayns, daughter of the professor of Romance languages" & cross as many of these parallel universe boundaries as needed - till he is in a timeline where he can call the shots & live happily ever after.

He will also take some other students - 3 other couples - along on horses & with guns. Not only the students not take kindly to his one-sided affections for the girl, but the group have many adventures among the people populating alternate versions of US (mostly cliched versions of alternate cultures, obviously inferior to that of adventurers!)

By the end of the story, all students including Maida, will return to our universe. All but one. One of the girls, Lucy Blair, will go with Prof on his parallel universe adventures.

Collected in.

  1. J J Pierce (Ed)'s "The Best of Murray Leinster".

Fact sheet.

First published: Astounding Stories, June 1934.
Rating: B.
Related: Stories of Murray Leinster.