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Alternate Worlds

Entry updated 20 December 2011. Tagged: Theme.


An alternate world – some writers and commentators prefer the designation "alternative world" on grammatical grounds – is an account of Earth as it might have become in consequence of some hypothetical alteration in history. Many sf stories use Parallel Worlds as a frame in which multiple alternate worlds can coexist, sometimes interacting with one another. Previous editions of this encyclopedia discussed Alternate History under the Alternate Worlds heading; the general trend of usage has since established Alternate History as the preferred Terminology.

Murray Leinster introduced the idea of alternate worlds to Genre SF in "Sidewise in Time" (June 1934 Astounding), and Stanley G Weinbaum used it in a light comedy, "The Worlds of If" (August 1935 Wonder Stories); but the first serious attempt to construct an alternative history in sf was L Sprague de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall (December 1939 Unknown; exp 1941; rev 1949). [BS/DRL]

see also: Counterfactual; Paranoia; Sidewise Awards; Steampunk.

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