Sunday, December 20, 2015

Visitors To and From the Universe Next Door?

The idea that our world, our universe, is one part of a vaster interconnected multiverse has been long posited in both the worlds of science and of science fiction.  Many eminent scientists, such as Stephen Hawking, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Hugh Evertt, and a host of others, support of this theory.  While the jury is out on whether the science behind the multiverse theory is valid, speculation continues.

Not surprisingly, science fiction writers are among the chief speculators. A staple of alternate universe science fiction has long been when the person from our own universe is inexplicably transferred from our own universe to the universe next door, with the usual hijinks ensuing.  
Benjamin Bathurst, where are you?

Science fiction pioneer H.Beam Piper – known for his Paratime alternate universe series of novels and short stories and his longer Terro-Human Future History – wrote one such short story, He Walked Around The Horses (1948).  He based it on the curious – and true – story of Benjamin Bathurst, a British diplomat who disappeared while travelling through Prussia in 1809.   

Benjamin Bathurst merely joins a long list of people who have similarly dropped off the face of the earth, including Ambrose Small, Judge Crater, Amelia Earhart, and D.B. Cooper, to name just a few.  Foul play? Aliens? Misadventure?  Or did they merely want to drop out of sight for other, more personal, reasons? Or maybe, for just a split second, did the walls between the universes dissolve just enough to allow a person to step through?

The Shoe is on The Other Foot?

The reverse might’ve happened too.  Take the case of a visitor who allegedly arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport one warm day in 1954. To all intents and purposes the bearded man seemed like the rest of the business travelers getting off the plane that day; except for one difference: the passport he presented to the customs officers was for a country that didn’t exist – Taured.

The visitor, who spoke a number of languages, including Japanese and French, seemed understandably puzzled when told his homeland didn’t exist.  His passport clearly showed visa stamps from the countries he had visited, including Japan, yet when the Japanese officials checked, the company he claimed he was meeting with had no record of his appointment nor did the hotel he claimed he was staying at have any record of a reservation. The stranger grew downright upset when he was shown a map of Europe and Taured – which he maintained occupied roughly the same spot as Andorra did on the border between France and Spain  – wasn’t there.

The Japanese officials put the stranger up for the night in a hotel and took his all of his personal documents which included his passport and his driver’s license, while they tried to sort through the mystery.

However, the mystery would remain unsolved. In the morning the stranger had vanished. His documents had similarly vanished from the locked airport security office. The police and airport officials searched in vain for the stranger.

Perhaps this is an urban legend. But... if he existed, where did the stranger go? Perhaps it was all some elaborate joke.  But who exactly was the joke on?  Perhaps he just caught the first flight back to the universe next door, back to Taured.

What’s Next?

I’ve picked up two new books for review on this blog – by that I mean I buy the books; they’re not given to me.  They’re both alternate history books by authors I respect and that I’ve wanted to read for some time. First, there’s Harry Turtledove’s Joe Steele, a retelling of Joseph Stalin's biography in a very different setting; and Robert Charles Wilson’s Burning Paradise, a novel of a quite different 20th Century. 

I'll be sure to update you on both of these books in the new year.  

Meanwhile, you can help out a poor unemployed writer by purchasing Elvis Saves JFK! for just 99 cents and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History, for $2.99 and now The Key to My Heart, also $2.99 (all are free to preview). All books -- which are already on Smashword's premium distribution list -- are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Sony, Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.   Thanks.

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