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Black Gate 4

Parallel Universe

When it comes to the parallel universes we visit in speculative fiction, some of my personal favorites are the ones where Rome never fell, the one where Spock has a goatee, and Universe R. I don’t know if anyone’s written about Parallel Universe R, or named it before, but I imagine a lot of you have thought about it. It’s that other place where great artistic works were never lost. It's the land where overlooked, forgotten, or underappreciated poets, playwrights, authors, and artists were encouraged and celebrated and lived on to craft more work. I don’t mean the Egoverse where you’re the top of the charts or have written a chain of bestsellers – this one is for the artists you wish had gotten a better deal. Universe R can’t be completely logical, of course. For instance, if the Library of Alexandria had survived, then we’d probably be further along with a lot of developments and some of the later artists might not ever have been born. When I think about Universe R I don’t worry about it making that kind of sense.

 

I dropped by my counterpart’s home in Universe R to look around his shelves: The work of Aeschylus, Sophlocles, and Euripides came to us complete in Universe R, rather than just a few plays from each, and the works of Menander and Sappho reached us whole, rather than just a few tantalizing fragments. Jumping ahead a bit, Chaucer finished The Canterbury Tales, though he had to live to 90 to pull it off, and it takes up a huge chunk of a shelf. There’s no confusion over Shakespeare folios and I see one fine copy of his Cardenio and other tantalizing things lost to history. On the music rack, Bach’s work was better preserved so that some of his music wasn’t lost  because it was sold as fish wrappers. Mozart lived to a ripe old age, cranking out more and more astonishing and varied works.

 

On my fiction shelf in Parallel Universe R I can find all the great historical swashbuckling novels Harold Lamb wrote when he almost gave up fiction in the 1930s, just as his prose was at its peak. Near it is a complete run of all of Robert E. Howard’s fiction. He went back to writing fantasy a few times after the 1930s, but he turned also to westerns and teamed up with Hollywood producers to create some western film masterpieces. His DVDs are over there on the other shelf, next to the run of the original Star Trek. Here in Universe R the dogs of Star Trek’s second season never got made and the show didn’t get thrown to the wolves in the third season – thanks to the diligent work of the story editors and producers, the final three years of the show built upon the promise of early episodes. When a sequel series finally came out, Captain Sulu was also a resounding success. (Sure, I dare to discuss Bach and Sophocles and Robert E. Howard and Star Trek and Shakespeare in the same entry.) In Universe R The Beatles realized that they were greater together than the sum of their individual parts, and regrouped every few years to make amazing music, even while experimenting with their side projects.

 

I could go on, but this post is long enough already. I’ll save one more entry for later: The 27th of this month is the birthday of one of my favorite musicians, the guy who prompted this post because in April I always think about how things should have turned out for him. He was a Beatles contemporary who soared to acclaim in Universe R. I’ll post about him closer to his birthday.

 

So what works are on your shelf in Universe R? 

Howard

Comments

In my R, Archimedes "The Method" never got lost...so we had Integral Calculus about 2000 years before it was 'discovered'....

Oh, and Ansen Dibell's "Tidestorm Limit" and "The Sun of the Grand Return" got published in English, instead of just French and Dutch...

Edited at 2008-04-22 06:07 pm (UTC)
That all sounds fine by me. As long as we're talking ancient technology and science, lets have all of Heron's works, too.
That palm-sized Ancient Greek audio/video holographic treasure map from the Tomb Raider movie would be pretty awesome.
Titus Awakes by Mervyn Peake
Orson Welles' original cut of The Magnificent Ambersons and his film of Don Quixote
Freaks and Geeks, Seasons 2-4
Some sequels to Jack of Shadows, darn it!



Yeah, let's hear it for more Freaks and Geeks. The transformation of Haverchuck into jock stud would have been awesome...clearly Vicki Appleby sensed his massive stud potential.
Those will be fine editions to my shelf in Universe R. Don't forget the rest of Robert E. Howard's historicals, especially those five Viking novels.

(Anonymous)

Buddy Holly didn't board that plane, lupus research and treatment outstripped Flannery O'Connor's failing health in plenty of time, Jefferson never burned his letters, Ussher's source documents were all collected in one place, and Lovecraft hated ice cream.
All good.
Firefly seasons 2-6. Deadwood season 4. Rome season 3.
Well, I haven't seen Deadwood or Rome, but I really did mean to put Firefly on my list of Universe R DVDs above. I, too, would have all 6 seasons.
You covered the Greek guys pretty well. I'd like some of the lost Greek epics, too, though: like the Nostoi, about the returns of heroes from the Trojan War. A complete volume of Sappho's works would also be great. Likewise the lost books of Livy, Tacitus, Petronius and Seneca. And some more Old English epics along the lines of Beowulf. Other lost epics: Ariosto's sequel to Orlando Furioso and Milton's epic about King Arthur.

In more recent stuff: I'd certainly have all the volumes Kuttner should-have-written about Prince Raynor, Books 6-10 of Zelazny's Amber series (not the ones he actually wrote, though), a Hammett novel where the Continental Op crosses paths with Sam Spade (and, who knows, maybe Nick & Nora Charles). William Hope Hodgson's later work, after he escaped death in WWI, would certainly (have) be(en) worth a read; likewise the postwar novels of Saki. But I think my most prized possession would be a complete run of Unknown, 1939-present. Without it, who knows what would have happened to heroic fantasy in the mid-20th century? Would Pratt have written his sequels to Well of the Unicorn without it? Or would C.S. Lewis have tragically failed to complete Ten Years After? Hard to say.

Music-wise, I'd certainly be listening to the later symphonies of Tchaikovsky, the music Schoenberg would have written if he hadn't become involved in that atonal junk, the albums Billie Holliday cut in old age with her voice more broken and beautiful than ever. Favorites would include the mature work of Bix Beiderbecke and Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix and many another artist who laid his life and his talent down as offerings at the brazen feet of some stupid addiction.

I'm pretty sure my DVDs would include the lost film of I, Claudius starring Charles Laughton, the Star Wars movies filmed from Leigh Brackett's scripts, John Boorman's Lord of the Rings movies, Witchblade seasons 1-6 (but not the season 2 that actually happened), more Firefly and Star Trek. I think, in my version of Universe R, Gene Roddenberry left ST to produce Genesis II and Gene Coon came back to produce the final four seasons of Star Trek...

(Anonymous)

Universe R

Willis O'Brien, fresh from his success on KING KONG, dives into and completes WAR EAGLES. The film, which climaxes with warriors from a lost world flying on giant birds of prey battling a giant zeppelin over New York, is such a smash that O'Brien becomes a superstar.
Armed with new-found fame and fortune, O'Brien and his youthful protege Ray Harryhausen begin work on a series of films based on the work of R.E. Howard. The Conan films, the most elaborate and beautiful fantasy films ever made, bring Howard an unexpected windfall. This wealth grants the Texas author unanticipated freedom and allows him to hire top specialists to care for his ailing mother and, later, his pen-pal H.P. Lovecraft.
Howard introduces Lovecraft to O'Brien, and by 1940 O'Brien and Harryhausen have defied both Hollywood and convention by filming a spectacular version of HPL's CALL OF CTHULHU. The movie is so overwhelming in its lushly bizarre and grotesque imagery that it is quickly banned.
Today, in Universe R, I have the completely restored DVD of this film.

Sobbing uncontrollably,

John Hocking
The night before he was scheduled to fight a duel over honour, Évariste Galois sat down and cranked out as much alebraic theory as he could in the wan hours of the morning.

In Universe R, he got so wrapped up in his theories he didn't leave his desk for days, save to fetch a hurried bite of food or relieve himself when the pressure of his bladder outweighed the pressure of algebra in his brain. By that time, his fellow duelist had long since branded him a coward and went home for dinner.

In Universe R, all the early cinema films were faithfully archived and copied before their cannister contents crumbled away (and I can watch all of DW Griffith's "Intolerance").

Also, all the old radio dramas were diligently recorded and preserved for our later enjoyment.

In Universe R, actress Maude Adams didn't burn her diaries and personal letters before she died.
I have to admit that I had to look up info on Galois. As I was somewhat allergic to math in school, I'm not surprised I wasn't familiar with him, but I would be glad to see his work on shelves in Universe R.

Early film preservation? Great idea. Wish someone had thought of that a lot sooner.

Mine...

Re: Mine...

Nice. I found myself thinking about that Strider thing several times yesterday.

And I see that your post started an avalanche of other posts on Universe R.