Today I noticed a small article in The New York Times. Glancing at the headline, I thought I saw “New Literary Prize in honor of Harry Potter”. Well, that seemed interesting. How often are prestigious literary awards created in honor of fictitious characters from juvenile literature?

When I looked more closely, I realized that the headline had actually said “New Literary Prize in honor of Harold Pinter”. Well, yes, that is considerably more consistent with the world as we know it. Yet by the same token, it is also far less interesting news.

I began to wonder in what sort of parallel universe a prestigious literary award would be named after J.K. Rowling’s intrepid boy wizard. It would, in a sense, be a world that had much in common with our own. For one thing, it would clearly contain Harry Potter, and most likely his friends Ron and Hermione. But it would also likely be a world with a distinctly different set of values and priorities. In other words, interestingly different.

There is a long tradition in science fiction of convergence theories of alternate universes. From Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” to Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” through to the recent “Star Trek” reboot (I wonder whether it is even possible to discuss J.J. Abrams’ recent film without using the word “reboot” at least once), universes that run in parallel with ours always seem to contain eerie coincidences of fact, even when they differ from ours in the fundamental rules of physics itself.

For example, according to Pullman, Cambridge University survives fundamental differences in the nature of humanity itself, while according to Abrams, every parallel universe apparently produces a certain intrepid starship crew with all of its members magically in place, whatever other calamitous events may befall the changed world around them.

The newspaper headline I had so carelessly misread got me to thinking that headlines might be a nice way to define such oddly parallel yet tellingly different alternate universes, worlds running alongside our own that resemble ours in the particulars but diverge in the fundamentals.

Imagine if tomorrow you were to wake up and read a headline along these lines: “Dolly Parton chooses new interim vice president.” What might that say about the world you had just woken up into?

I for one would be curious to find out.

5 Responses to “Headlines”

  1. Michael says:

    One could say: Good Sci-Fi is just a mis-print away from reality 😉

  2. Michael says:

    @Lisa: I’m quite positive that it’s a hoax. Just like this event that allegedly took space 40 years ago.

  3. admin says:

    Actually both stories are based in fact. Governor Schwarzenneger did indeed go into space, but it was Mars, not the Moon. I saw a documentary about it once. I think it was called “Total Recall”…

  4. Lisa Reynolds says:

    @admin: Are you absolutely sure you’re not sitting in ‘the chair’ as we speak?

Leave a Reply