alternate englands: when?

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Mon Feb 7 08:15:15 EST 2005


Hallie O'Donovan wrote:
>Philip:
>
>>Charlie, replying to Deborah:
>>
>>>>  -- Charmed Life is contemporary, right?
>>>
>>>  Surely not - I had it down as Edwardian, with Lives of Christopher Chant
>>>  Victorian (say the 1880s). With scare-quotes around both those periods,
>>>  of course, but just going by general things such as technology, social
>>>  mores and dress - any or all of which might of course be fundamentally
>>>  different in Chrestomanci's world.
>>>
>>>  Magicians of Caprona I also have down in Edwardian period, but one in
>>>  which the Renaissance chopping up of Italy by foreign powers never
>>>  happened (and neither did its unification at the time of Garibaldi).
>>>  Only Witch Week seems to be definitely contemporary.
>>>
>>>  Have I been 'seeing' these books very differently from everyone else?
>>
>>Well, Charmed life is contemporary in the sense that Janet is 
>>brought in from a world that I think is meant to be ours, which is 
>>contemporary, and which split off from the Chrestomanci world some 
>>centuries before.
>
>Right, *if* you accept that the world from which Janet is brought is 
>ours, simply because it's contemporary, then it would follow that 
>Christopher's world is 'retarded' both technologically and socially, 
>(as are Ingary and Dalemark).  Off the top of my head it would seem 
>that this is more common as an assumption in alternate history (other 
>that that like Sorcery and Cecelia, which sticks with Regency society 
>as it was and just adds magic) than the opposite.  (I suppose you 
>could put Tale of Time City against that, but it is rather outweighed 
>by all the others.)  Does that seem right?  And if so - why?  I can't 
>immediately think of anything in the Chrestomanci books or Howl 
>suggesting a reason for the difference in development, and would be 
>interested if there is anything.

For me the difficulty arises because I tend to assume that if the people
in the different worlds are effectively the *same* people in many cases
(Gwendoline/Janet, and so forth) they need to have had effectively the
same ancestry, which somehow implies at least the same number of
generations.  I'll agree that on one world people may get married when
they are much younger, as a trend, but even so I am left feeling that
the worlds ought to be the same "age" as each other, and Chrestomanci's
home-world and Janet's 1960s-ish one feel somewhat at odds.  The one in
which Gwendoline ends up is sufficiently more-different for it not to
jar so much, but the Chrestomanci, the Magicians of Caprona and the
Janet one are too alike as well as too different, and the Witch Week one
too one can see how it got there from here.  As it were.  So the
different tech niggles more in the ones that are more alike.

This is badly-expressed, as it always is when I start thinking about
this, because it confuzzles me.

The alternative would be that given a fairly small original gene-pool
(isn't it something like fifty or sixty individuals are ancestors of
everyone in the world, or something?) one might end up with the same
combinations from entirely different ancestry, in an entirely random
pattern.  And I am not struck on that as an explanation.

Minnow

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