This seems like a relevant topic to pick on, given that it is the main subject of my upcoming debut Sci-Fi Novella, The Forgotten Fairground. Have I mentioned that it’s coming out on 19th April 2022 and is currently available for pre-order (full details at the end of this post). It also seems relevant given the recent expansion of the MCU into a multiverse – correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel that over the next half a dozen MCU films, we are all going to become pseudo-experts in the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics.
Disclaimer: Right now, I am NOT an expert in the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics, pseudo or otherwise, and I am not likely to become one any time soon!
Regardless of whether or not we actually exist in a multiverse – with new worlds diverging depending on the choices we make – it is an extremely appealing concept to explore in fiction.
I have been fascinated with the idea of other (fictional) worlds for quite a long time. As a Science Fiction/Fantasy writer, it’s hard not to be. Whether it’s exploring other planets, spotting the differences between our world and its closest parallel neighbours, or discovering a forest and a lamppost at the back of a wardrobe, the possibilities are endless in both Science Fiction and Fantasy.
Here are a few of my personal favourites – I’m sure you’ll be able to guess some of them already.
For the purposes of this list, I am looking at worlds that exist alongside our own and that the characters of the respective stories can step between with ease (other planets will have to wait for another day).
Kicking things off is, of course, everyone’s childhood favourite. A land of magic and talking beasts. When I was growing up, the BBC released the TV series of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, together with Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Silver Chair. Sunday evenings were automatically booked for each of them and I couldn’t wait to return to Narnia with each instalment. Yes, I knocked on the back of my wardrobe hoping to get there. Yes, I had a doll called Lucy, a teddy bear called Edmund (and still do), and a toy lion called Aslan.
As I grew older, all seven Narnia books became firm favourites on my bookshelf, with the part in The Magician’s Nephew where Aslan sings Narnia into existence being one of my all-time favourite passages of prose of all time.
I don’t know if you remember this show from the mid 1990s. It was about a group of people who would slide from one parallel world to another, each time hoping they would find their way home.
Honestly, I really only remember snippets of it, but one moment in particular has stuck with me over the years. There was one episode where Quinn and his friends were certain they had made it home. Everything matched up with their own world and they were just settling back into things when the realised …
The Golden Gate Bridge was blue. Their devastation when they realised they had not arrived home was heart-breaking and will not be forgotten any time soon.
At the end of Season 1 of Stargate SG-1, Daniel Jackson stumbled into a parallel world where the SGC was losing the battle for earth against the Goa’uld. From then on, other parallel worlds would make their way into the show from time to time – often when the writers needed an excuse to tease the relationship between Sam and Jack. Their military ranks in their own world stopped any romantic attachment from forming, but that wasn’t always the case in a parallel world (see: There but for the grace of God, Point of View, and Continuum for starters).
But more than being fan service for ever-persistent Sam/Jack shippers like myself, each time a parallel world was explored, it gave the opportunity to see “the road not taken” – a trait that many multiverse stories explore.
4: What If …?/Loki/The MCU
[Potential spoilers ahead!]
And speaking of multiverses …
I have only just recently finished watching What If …? on Disney+ and particularly enjoyed seeing Peggy Carter taking on Hydra as Captain Britain, not to mention Thor and Loki living the highlife in Las Vegas.
One thing I find intriguing about the MCU’s take on parallel worlds is that they don’t feel the need to restrict the alternate versions of their characters to the same actors. I will admit that this was a little disappointing when it came to Loki – I was very much looking forward to multiple versions of Mr Hiddleston on screen (and granted there were a few moments where he did double up, but not enough). But that disappointment dissipated fairly quickly as Sylvie’s story unfolded and the implications became clear.
5: The Forgotten Fairground
Well, I couldn’t go on about my favourite parallel world stories without mentioning my own, right?
The Forgotten Fairground introduces a network of parallel worlds that are connected by the Eternity Mirrors. Nick (my main character) discovers the mirror in his own world and then gets a lot more than be bargained for when he goes through it and his whole world view (not to mention his life) is altered instantly. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers ahead of the release, but as you may be able to tell from the tagline (“Every choice you’ve ever made has brought you here …”), “Choice” is a central theme to the story. Each of the characters is living with the consequences of their choices and actions, to varying degrees, even if they were uninformed choices at the time.
If you want to find out more about The Forgotten Fairground, check out the full details below. You can also still enter the Pre-Sale Giveaway and receive a sneak peak at the book (in the form of the Prologue), as well as being entered into a prize draw for one of three prize boxes.
In the meantime, why not share your own personal favourite parallel world stories in the comments below.
About The Forgotten Fairground: Book 1 of the Eternity Mirrors Series
“Every choice you’ve ever made has brought you here …”
Nick’s quiet life is shattered when he follows Megan through a mysterious mirror and discovers a vast network of parallel worlds, all connected by the Eternity Mirrors.
Unable to return permanently to his own world, and pursued by terrifying shadow creatures, Nick joins a group of Outsiders – others who have left their worlds – at their refuge in the Rift Between the Worlds. But life in the Rift is far from simple. Devoid of all natural resources, Nick and the Outsiders must venture into the worlds to scavenge what they need while evading the ominous shadows.
With danger waiting in every world, and secrets lurking in the Rift, do the Outsiders have what it takes to survive?
And can Nick come to terms with his new life?