alternate englands - belated questions

Roger Burton West roger at
Sun Feb 13 05:58:19 EST 2005

On Sun, Feb 13, 2005 at 09:07:34AM -0000, Charles Butler wrote:

>One thing that seems pretty clear is that in the Chrestomanci multiverse
>world-splitting doesn't happen every day. DWJ has said she wasn't thinking
>of (and indeed wasn't aware of) the quantum mechanical idea that new
>universes are spawned every time a quantum event has to be decided, for
>example, which would mean that billions of new universes were created every
>second (as I understand it). And the nomenclature used in the Chrestomanci
>books (12C and so on) suggests a much more limited number of worlds. So,
>what causes worlds to split at some points in time but not others?

One approach taken in many-worlds fiction is to start with the quantum
mechanical idea as you outline, but to modify it. (As Larry Niven
pointed out in _All the Myriad Ways_ [1968], a true many-worlds system
with crossways travel is not only pure chaos but impossible to tell
meaningful stories about.) The idea here is that worlds _do_ split all
the time, but almost all of them merge again either at once or later;
it doesn't really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things if
someone dies, _unless_ he would have gone on to do something amazing.

One sub-idea of this that I particularly favour is that errors in memory
are caused in part by this merging process.

>Then again, to take Paul's example, the difference between a world with
>magic and one without seems quite unlike the difference between a world in
>which either Wellington or Napoleon won at Waterloo. The latter is a
>question of the fortunes of war, which are notoriously fickle; the former
>seems to require a different kind of world altogether, in which different
>(ie. magical) laws either do or do not apply

Not if one believes that magic is possible in "our" world as well, which
many people do.


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