alternate englands - belated questions

Gili Bar-Hillel gbhillel at
Sun Feb 13 07:18:55 EST 2005

I wonder if Waterloo is perceived as crucial because there is a perception
that the outcome of the battle of Waterloo was an unlikely outcome. It's
easier to see the butterfly effect in such cases: what happened because of
the lost horseshoe nail, or the bad egg in the breakfast that gave Napoleon
indigestion... whereas a more predictable outcome seems harder to change or
prevent, and therefore less imagination is expended on wondering out all the
"what ifs" after the battle as well as before. I am less and less sure I'm
making any sense at all.

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-dwj at [mailto:owner-dwj at]On Behalf Of
Virginia Preston
Sent: Sunday, February 13, 2005 1:55 PM
To: dwj at
Subject: RE: alternate englands - belated questions

Charlie wrote about the possible turning points in history that cause a
world to split, and how they are chosen:

It's interesting that Waterloo is seen as a crucial point by other authors
too; Connie Willis's historians in _To Say Nothing of the Dog_ can't get
near Waterloo when they try, it seems to be too important to the continuum.
I think one can make a case for Waterloo as pretty important to the whole of
Europe, not just the UK, and, because of empire, to the world. (Still
human-centric of course; though trade patterns have consequences for eg
cholera bacteria.) Guy Fawkes I agree seems rather too localised for a
universe-generating event. Interesting that in fact in all the worlds except
the one of _Witch Week_, which eventually gets folded into ours, Guy Fawkes
didn't succeed. Is there something there about the unlikeliness of
particular events, and so the consequences of it succeeding are more

And of course we don't always know which events are world-generating and
which not. Janet (I think) gets the result of Agincourt wrong in a lesson,
but does that have to mean it was a split, or just that things worked out
differently in her world? Perhaps it does have to be a split, or why would
there be battles of Agincourt in two or more worlds where history had
already diverged? That does seem particularly anglocentric. And could the
results of the battles be the consequence of (eg) a particular person, or
disease, or spell, happening or not happening, it's just we can't see that's
why the battle is won (or lost). Don't know if that makes sense at all.

I wonder if there are also barren worlds, which don't get counted in the
sequence, where (eg) life never got going, or a pandemic/meteorite hit
killed off everything to the point where it couldn't get started again. Or
one where the dinosaurs didn't die out...

Perhaps one of the points about magic/not magic is that the same potential
exists on all the worlds, but is expressed differently. And if magic is
important, and only humans can do magic, does that explain some of the
anthropocentrism? Now I'm envisaging an early magician doing a spell which
would make the worlds split in future... Though I'd then expect that to mean
something about the conditions of the world making magic easy or hard (like
the worlds in the Ayewards/Naywards line), which can't be the case if they
are the same world to start with.

delurking briefly; I've been on the list for ages but never seem to have
time to contribute, though I love reading all the discussions, and have been
a DWJ fan since I got _Power of Three_ and _Charmed Life_ through the Puffin
book club when I was nine.
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