Being a SF devotee for many years, I’ve always been fascinated by parallel worlds stories. Unfortunately we have a bunch of them which are quite lame. A few years ago a friend of mine asked, "Whatever happened to parallel worlds? It used to be all the rage in SF." Maybe the answer is that nobody believes in that shit any more.
Is the parallel worlds theory merely the firing of electrons across synapses within an organic superstructure? Must they be subject to the same quantum effects? This year I read a wonderful book on quantum consciousness (The Nature of Consciousness: "Are the Androids Dreaming Yet? - Amazing Brain. Human Communication, Creativity & Free Will" by James Tagg). I'm having a hard time believing stuff like this. At the end of the day it may mean that versions of our minds, the so-called "quantum consciousness" are just deeply interwoven between parallel worlds. What if a thought of mine in this world, say about Shakespeare, in this consciousness, would be registered in an alternative version of my mind existing in a parallel universe? Or in a number of them? For the same reason, ideas might suddenly appear into my mind head unbidden and fully formed because a version of the mind in another universe has sent a ripple effect through my brain at the quantum level thus firing an eureka idea. What about dreams? They may also be a transmission or reception of quantum variations of reality between parallel versions of my mind. Maybe if a dream seems real enough to me, maybe that's because it is - somewhere out there. The big question in my book: can I consciously alter a parallel reality by willing it?
In terms of SF worldbuilding is crucial. The first item on the agenda is plausibility, i.e., the world must be entirely plausible; only through worldbuilding can we achieve it. Characterisation and plotting. The world created must also be an inherent and interwoven part of it. Plot. It must be bound up in aspects of the SF world such as the physics, environment and the types of exploration available to the characters. I’ll give you an example: if the world is an parallel post-apocalyptic wasteland with only a few small pockets of civilisation, the main character must face a very different set of challenges compared to someone living in my back of the woods village. Talking about outmoded SF ideas, I don’t remember the last time I read an article on string theory, much less a SF novel dealing with it. Forget 20, 30 or 100 dimensions wrapped up in tiny balls; a 4D parallel world would be infinitely larger than the infinite three dimensional universe I already “seem” to be living in. That's big enough for me and, when this is all finally understood, it should explain everything. Everything except why is there “anything” at all…
This longer preamble is necessary to give context to the Ian Sales quartet. Where does it excel? There's not much worldbuilding per se (it's a novella), but the worldbuilding that comes is interwoven in the slight warps, sometimes so slight I can only understand them by reading the appendices (never in SF were the annexes so fundamental to the understanding of the work at hand). What didn’t work this time around? The unevenness of the "up" and "down" narratives. They seemed not to “belong” to the same thread, i.e., they seemed a bit disjointed. Once you grok all the inner workings of this delightful work, there’s a goldmine of fun to be tapped into. It goes without saying that I’d love to split up my mind into parallel worlds in order to do some kinky things to my understanding of it… local causality and temporal effects are the key concepts here.
NB: The previous two stories about the Apollo Space Program:
Literary-Hard-SF: "Adrift on the Sea of Rains" by Ian Sales
Otherness instead of Alternateness: "The Eye With Which the Universe Beholds Itself" by Ian Sales
SF = Speculative Fiction.