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John Brunner$
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Jad Smith

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037337

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037337.001.0001

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Parallel Worlds

Parallel Worlds

(p.1) Introduction Parallel Worlds
John Brunner

Jad Smith

University of Illinois Press

This introductory chapter discusses the metaphor of parallel worlds as it relates to the work of John Brunner. Brunner once observed that while we all inhabit the same world, we live in and among parallel worlds. He believed that a good science-fiction writer should cultivate awareness of parallel forms of experience and open up vistas onto the future that make readers more mindful of them. In keeping with this view, he developed plots with an eye toward the possible interplay of parallel worlds, imagining zones of contact as native to human experience as the tense friendship of the WASP and “Afram” roomies Donald Hogan and Norman House in Stand on Zanzibar (1968), and as foreign to it as the alternate ecology and symbiotic biotechnologies of The Crucible of Time (1983). Throughout his career, he made a practice of conducting idiosyncratic “thought experiments” in his fiction. These ranged from mirroring the moves of a famous 1892 Steinitz-Chigorin chess game in the plot of The Squares of the City (1965) to exploring the ethical quandaries of artificial intelligence through the grafted consciousness of a sentient spaceship in A Maze of Stars (1991). Time and again, Brunner proved himself an idea merchant of the first and best order. His narrative ventures often brought together parallel genres just as dynamically as parallel worlds, and he enjoyed a lasting reputation for handling even conventional storylines and concepts with an alluring difference that made them distinct—and distinctly his.

Keywords:   John Brunner, science fiction authors, science fiction writers, parallel worlds, The Crucible of Time, Stand on Zanzibar, The Squares of the City, A Maze of Stars

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