Book description

Book info

eBook formatNook, (torrent)En
PublisherPhoenix Pick
File size0.9 Mb
GanreScience Fiction
Release date 02.02.2011
Book rating4.41 (28 votes)
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This Novella is included in the anthology 'The Forest of Time and Other Stories' published by Phoenix Pick. It was nominated for the Hugo Award for best novella.

From the Author's Commentary:

I had wanted to write a “parallel Pennsylvania” story ever since reading H. Beam Piper’s “Gunpowder God” in high school. Growing up in Easton, Pennsylvania, the historical themes were all Revolutionary, so it was only natural that when I thought alternate history, I thought of that era. Sometimes we forget how revolutionary our Revolution was. How many other revolutions have slipped from republicanism to bonapartism and wound up with a Napoleon, a Lenin, or a Khomeini? After all, when you overthrow a System, those who must build something new afterward have only ever known the System. The acorn then does not fall far from the tree.

Alone among constitutional states, ours does not grant rights to the people. The people told the government what it was allowed to do? Read the Bill of Rights, especially Amendments Nine and Ten. People possess rights under the Natural Law, and the government is forbidden to interfere with them. If you think that that is only a semantic quibble, think again: The “right to privacy” is mentioned nowhere in the Constitution.

But what if this Union had never happened and North America had filled with squabbling petty states—“as many Nations in North America as there are in Europe,” as John Adams once feared? Prior to telegraph and radio, new ideas spread with traveling people, such as merchant-traders. Tariff and custom barriers would dampen trade and commerce, and with it, the spread of new ideas. Until the Constitution eliminated tariff barriers among the states, little England was the largest free trade zone in the world. So I imagined a pre-World War I milieu, full of what Winston Churchill called “pumpernickel principalities.”

Speaking of pumpernickel, could Pennsylvania really have become German-speaking? Wer kennt? In Revolutionary times fully half the colony spoke German and even today it hosts Pennsylvaanisch, a Swabian dialect. Towns in my heimatland, the Lehigh Valley, bear names like Schenkweilersville, and hills are called Swoveberg and Hexenkopf. In June 1858, 14% of the students in the Northampton County schools spoke English only while 50% spoke German only. (The rest were bilingual, deutsch und englisch.) My Irish grandfather bore the unlikely sobriquet of “Dutch” Flynn because of his accent. (His mother was an Ochenfuss.) In the 1930s, German was still a required course at my mother’s elementary school, and our parish church had native-born German pastors until after I went off to college. I was raised on “German Hill,” where you could toss a rock and hit five Deutschers before you hit an Italian or a Gael. So, decouple the Commonwealth from the other English-speaking colonies, throw in some anti-Yankee enmity, and … what do you think could have happened?

But all this is background. The story is not about an alternate Pennsylvania. That is only the setting. My one halfway original notion was that the departure and arrival of a cross-time traveler were themselves events which spawned new parallel worlds, and which therefore changed the “para-time” distances between them. One little slip in the quantum foam and—hey, presto!—you would be lost amid an infinity of worlds. The story was born of the single image of a man unable to find his way home and slowly losing hope because of it.

Like the blind men touching the elephant, Vonderberge and the Hexmajor, General Schneider and Rudi Knecht, each found something different in Kelly. Dour, dutiful Rudi remains one of my favorite characters.

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