Jack Vance's "Rumfuddle" (novella, mystery): To improve human history, put would-be evildoer babies elsewhere
- This is the first story of Vance where I found a para obnoxious for racist reasons - Orientals are dirt, filthy; the idiots need to have the superior western world view forced; etc. A character says it, & I understand that may or may not reflect author's views. Still...
- Significant parts of the story refer to figures from European history, & parts of Asian history presumably well known in the West. Mostly, but not always, to villains from history. A lot of them were unfamiliar to me; story may mean more to those better familiar with these figures.
- There is a sentence in the story that could cause riots in some Muslim countries. I won't quote it.
- another world somewhere in galaxy or outside it, similar to Clifford D Simak's "The Big Front Yard".
- to a time & place in earth's past.
- Either of the above in a parallel universe. Actually, if I understand correctly, travel to past is always to a parallel earth rather than ours.
Story summary.Gilbert Duray works on earth but lives at Home, a whole world to himself, as many others do in this universe of infinite available worlds. His children go to school on earth too! Transport is easy - you step through the "passway", as you would cross a door.
One fine day, Gilbert finds the portal back home "closed" when returning from work. Checks elsewhere show all portals to his Home are closed. It means his wife & three daughters are now marooned, forever cut off from him & rest of humanity.
Story is of his work on unraveling the mystery. Happy ending, eventually.
- Story uses the word "cognate" to designate "corresponding" in a parallel universe. A parallel earth is a cognate earth. Gilbert from our earth meets his wife Elizabeth's cognate in a parallel earth. Etc.
- Evil-doers are removed as babies, presumably from a parallel earth, to our universe, at least in some cases. Means our own history is unaltered? Only some parallel universes get a better history? Going to so much trouble changing history for betterment in a parallel world! Sounds too idealistic to me.
- How come time never comes in the way traveling instantly across worlds? I mean, kids go to school & papa goes to office in the morning - where morning at Home & in office world or school world is always the same?
- David G Hartwell (ed)'s "The Science Fiction Century".
Fact sheet.First published: Robert Silverberg (ed)'s "Three Trips in Time and Space" (1973).
Related: Stories of Jack Vance.