Topics for Discussion

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1. Niven believes the idea of alternate timelines to be nonsense, and in "All the Myriad Ways" he shows why. If this is so, why has he continued to write alternate timeline stories such as the Svetz series (please see the entry for "There Is a Wolf in My Time Machine") and "The Return of William Proxmire"?

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2. What clue tips us off that the timeline of "All the Myriad Ways" is not actually our own? (A help for the teacher: Note the references to the Cuba War.)

3. Is it possible that some people would never kill themselves or murder anybody and thus would never have a timeline in which they commit suicide or murder?

4. What does Niven imply about human nature with the events of "All the Myriad Ways"?

5. "All the Myriad Ways" paints a grim picture of human beings under stress. What might account for its appeal to young readers in spite of the grimness?

6. Is Trimble a stick figure or is he developed enough to seem fully human?

7. Which are more important in the story, the themes or the characters? Why?

8. Why does Trimble shoot himself? What would Bentley and other police officers make of his suicide?

9. Could fiction, especially short stories like "All the Myriad Ways," exist in a culture in which there is no cause and effect? What might literature be like in such a culture? Would there be any literature?

10. How does "All the Myriad Ways" show that what one does in every life is important, that no actions are meaningless?

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