alternate englands: when?

Paul Andinach pandinac at
Tue Feb 8 21:36:08 EST 2005

On Tue, 8 Feb 2005, Belben, Philip (Energy Wholesale) wrote:

> > Does anyone know definitive dates for several alternate Englands?
> I've just thought of another one: Warren Peace, which I think was by
> Bob Shaw.  This is an alternate England of the 24th century, that
> split off from ours around 1900 due to a difference in the laws of
> physics compared with our world that made electricity (and some
> related technologies) unreliable.

Which reminds me of Poul Anderson's Operation X series[1] world, which
diverged from ours around 1910 when somebody[2] found a way of
subatomically tweaking iron so it wasn't inimical to magic, with the
result that a lot of modern technology is magical instead of
'scientific' (for instance, everyone drives brooms instead of cars
because they're more environmentally friendly, and you can get large
family models with six seats...). It makes a change from most "our
world but magical"  alternate timelines because (possibly as a result
of the divergence being so recent) the society *isn't* strikingly
different from in real life; I have a feeling Anderson did that

Another one I haven't seen mentioned yet is Randall Garrett's Lord
Darcy series - which is another "our world but magical" where the
society is "behind" ours - the divergence here was back in Richard the
Lionheart's time. (Although, come to think of it, I got the feeling
last time I re-read it that Darcy's world wasn't *really* just
old-fashioned and that Garrett was being deliberately vague about some
of the details in order not to confuse people.)

Both of these were explicitly contemporary in setting.

[1] The titles in the series are all "Operation [something]", from
"Operation Afreet" through 'Operation Luna'.

[2] Anderson attributed it to Henry Moseley, with a leg up from a
collaboration between Einstein and Planck. But see also the paper
"Einstein, Planck, laws of nature and related things in one of Poul
Anderson's parallel universes", by the physicist Bela Lukacs.

"Hold fast to the one noble thing."

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