(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Tales of parallel worlds or alternate histories include works such as Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889), which sends a technologically talented man back to the fantastic Middle Ages of King Arthur’s Court. Murray Leinster, author of “Sidewise in Time” (1934), has been given credit for the “parallel worlds” idea of science fiction, the idea that there are other worlds branching off from this one and that all things are possible in that infinite number of worlds. Most critics credit L. Sprague de Camp as writing what is considered the first “true” alternate history, for his Lest Darkness Fall (1941), the story of a man, “slipped back in time,” who has the opportunity to prevent the Dark Ages that followed the fall of Rome. Other examples of alternate histories include Randall Garrett’s stories in Lord Darcy (1983), which take place in a universe where Plantagenets rule a twentieth century empire in which magic has taken the place of science; Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee (1953), a novel about an America in which the South wins the Civil War; and Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1962), often considered the best alternate history novel, about a world in which Germany and Japan won World War II.

The idea of alternate time lines seems to have gained popularity in the 1980’s and 1990’s, judging by the num-ber of novels and anthologies published...

(The entire section is 442 words.)