alternate englands - belated questions

Paul Andinach pandinac at
Sun Feb 13 07:34:37 EST 2005

On Sun, 13 Feb 2005, Virginia Preston wrote:

> 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.

It's been estimated that the Battle of Waterloo is in the top five
most common subjects for alternate history, after World War II, the
American Civil War, the period of European history that includes both
World War I and the Russian Revolution, and about the same as the
Spanish Armada and JFK.

I think that there is something about it, over and above its actual
effect on the course of history, that gives it a hold on the
imagination. (Gili's speculation may be part of it.)

> 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?

The battle of Agincourt was in 1415, less than a century after
Janet's world split from Cat's, and had root causes going back over
three hundred years. It doesn't seem unlikely on the face of it that
the battle might have occurred in both worlds. (I'd have been less
inclined to believe that it ended the same way in both worlds, mind

Also, there were probably hundreds more things that went completely
differently, that Janet just didn't get asked about. (As well as
several she did, like Atlantis.)

> 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...

It seems likely (unless there is some sort of omniversal tendency
toward ape-descended humanoids; you never know). There are hundreds of
worlds in Chrestomanci's multiverse outside the Related Worlds, all by
definition stranger than the ones that are in the Related Worlds.

> 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?

Mm. Except that cats can do magic as well, and dragons and mermaids
and giant eels maybe (or maybe they just *are* magic).

> Virginia
> 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.

Hello, Virginia. Have a cup of something choclatish that is not cocoa
but much nicer, while I try to remember whether we have a standard
welcoming ceremony.

"Hold fast to the one noble thing."

To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at

More information about the Dwj mailing list