alternate englands: when?

Charles Butler hannibal at
Mon Feb 7 13:44:06 EST 2005


> The line that things are generally more old-fashioned actually comes
> originally from _Charmed Life_ (have I mentioned yet that Amazon's
> Search-Inside-the-Book feature is neato!?).  Janet asks if there are cars.
> Cat says that there are, but only rich people have them.  Janet then
> points out that there is electric light, "but everything else is
> old-fashioned compared to my world."  She goes on to provide her own
> explanation for this (which I probably read when I was young enough that
> it tends to be my default explanation for this kind of thing in fantasy
> stories in general) - "I suppose people can get what they want by
> witchcraft."

I think Cat's account of the technological state of things is a pretty
accurate description of Edwardian England, so my mistake (if it was one) is
at leat understandable. Anyway, Janet's explanation is only Janet's, and I
don't think we need take it as author's writ - it may be that (like Tom in
*Tom's Midnight Garden*) she lacks the historical knowledge that would show
her she's in an earlier epoch.


>But Janet, whose world is parallel, and a part of the same series, is
clearly from a contemporary England and comments at some length on the
differences in the culture and technology. She didn't *time* travel. All of
the worlds in the same series (series A) are the same age, and the dates
would be the same.

Do we know that Janet didn't time travel? Very little is said on the
mechanism of travel between worlds, as far as I recall, or of the temporal
relations between them. I don't remember anything about Time being a
universal constant.

I do see some argument for saying that magic might hold back technological
progress. The classic example would be the Magicians of Caprona rushing off
to lay down extra spells to hold up the bridge. What chance the development
of reinforced concrete in such a world? Isambard Kingdom Brunel (if not a
magic user) would be sent home jobless. But like Hallie, I don't see how
this works at a social level. When we enter the Chrestomanci world we are
already in a situation where a powerful elite (magic users) have
volunteered, as it were in a democratic spirit, to restrain their power -
and how often does one see that in real life? Yet in other respects the
Chrestomanci world seems to have retained (or, as I would have it, to
exhibit) the same social snobberies and class hierarchies that we might
recognize as Victorian/Edwardian. I'd love to know the historical series of
events that leads to this situation.


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