The Rough Guide to the Multiverse, Guest Post from ian McDonald + INT giveaway!

You remember my raving review of Planesrunner, peeps? Well, as soon as I finished the book I've begged Ian for a guest post, so I can share the awesomeness of Everness series with you.
Ian's guest post will give you some idea of utterly fascinating world he creates in his Everness series and after reading it I dare you not to get interested in it!
I'm also giving away Planesrunner or Be my Enemy in the end, so stick with us :)

The Rough Guide to the Multiverse

I’ve always loved parallel universe stories. What excites me about them is the sense of familiar and unfamiliar at the same time –our world, with a twist of strange. Alien, but there are places, people, events I recognise. Close at hand, but further than the furthest star. Thousands, millions of them, all around me, but I can never see them. Parallel worlds give me a particular delicious shiver.

Every parallel world story, I think, has three components.

The ground

We need to know that this is not an alien planet around a distant star, but our world in another universe. For a parallel universe to work, it has to be different from something we know and are familiar. Places, names, cities, people, countries, events, these can be the things that make us feel relaxed and familiar. But there always has to be that element of mild shock when we realise, hey, that’s not... right. That’s not what it seems to be. We’re not at home any more. I call this...

The twist. 

The difference –big or small—that generates that shock of non-recognition. Some parallel worlds clearly bud off from our own at some point in history –a battle won or lost, an unexpected assassination, plague or war, yet again, these can be tiny details, or massive.

 In the Everness series, Earth 4 differs from our Earth in that aliens arrived in 1964 and over the next 50 years turned the far side of the Moon into a giant thinking machine. In Book 3 in the series, Empress of the Sun, the Point of Departure (as this style of parallel world story is known) is that the dinosaurs didn’t die out. They survived. They evolved. They got smart. They built something immense. There are other mechanisms –I play with alternative geology –on Earth 2, the island of Britain lies just off the coast of Spain and Morocco. Earth 3 is a world without any oil –it runs on coal and electricity. Sometimes it can be social, or biological. The twist makes us think –this is not our world.

The allure

makes us care. If it’s not world, if there no direct way to it from our world, if it’s not connected to or influences our world, why should we care? The allure is what makes this world, its history, the lives that live in it, as compelling as our own. It can be that idea that every one of us has doubles in parallel universe –what could be more alluring than the idea of those other lives and other selves, or how famous people in our world turn out in another one?

There may be connections between our world and the parallel worlds –in the Everness series, the Heisenberg Gates links the Ten Worlds of the Plenitude together –and there are many beyond that. It may be the very idea that for every decision we have made, there exists a world where that decision was made differently. There are hundreds of different ways –as many as there are parallel universe—of making us connect to those others worlds out there, of making us care.

So how do I try and make these three laws work out in the Everness series? 

Let’s take a tour of the Plenitude of Known Worlds (and a few others beside). Se if you can spot the three elements. Teasers for the series abound!

Earth 8 is a world we see for the first time in the forthcoming ‘Empress of the Sun’ (Everness 3). The headquarters of the Plenitude tends to be in the equivalent of London in parallel Earths for the simple fact that it was Imperial University London in Earth 1 that opened the first Heisenberg Gate.

In Earth 8 the equivalent is Belden, a city of islands and bridges where the rivers Rhine, Seine and Thames meet... what? In this world, Britain is not an island, and Belden stands on the river flood plain where, in our universe, the English channel lies. But that’s not the big twist. The fun element is that everyone is a twin. Everyone. Identical twins. And more than twins –they see themselves as one mind in two bodies. If one twin starts a sentence...the other will finish it. What one feels, the other feels too. They can share experiences, sensations. Every part of their world mirrors the fact that they are twins. Twins marry other twins. In their version of Christianity, Jesus was a twin... And no matter how far you separate Earth 8 twins, in space or across parallel universes, they will always be in contact with each other. They make great diplomats, spies and agents. They’re a human embodiment of the quantum theory principle of entanglement. What would that be like?

But that’s nothing compared to Earth 5. (This world features in a later proposed book in the series). It’s got 18th century levels of technology –I’m a huge fan of the 18th century.

Everything looked incredibly cool in the 18th century, and the contrasts in 18th century European society fascinate it –they had two complete opposite values: ‘ton’, which means style, refinement, culture and quality, and ‘bottom’, which the famous 18th century love for the rude, crude, lewd and ribald. They existed in people at the same time...a fascinating idea.

 So, how does a world with pistols and swords and sedan chairs happen to have Heisenberg Gates that allow them to travel to parallel universes? On Earth 5 they’re natural phenomena. I got the idea from the Oklo reactor in Gabon in West Africa. Water got into uranium deposits and started a controlled fission reaction. Now this was 1.7 billion years ago, but it gave me an idea: what about naturally occurring points of quantum uncertainty? Natural Heisenberg Gates. The Earth 5-ers have been using them for centuries to visit other universes, without any degree of understanding or control –where do you think ghosts in our world come from?
Oh, and there’s another big difference. On our world and most of the worlds of the Plenitude, we have one type of human. On Earth 5 there are five.
Earth 2, which, since the quarantine of Earth 1 following the Nahn outbreak, has been the leading world of the Plenitude, is an alternate geography world –that’s the one where Britain is an island off the coast of Spain and Morocco. There are a couple of other big geographical changes as well –Australia and New Guinea are where the Philippines are. But the simple fact that Britain is a thousand miles south of where it should be gives it a different history –Roman and Moorish. A Roman north –what we call Scotland is vaguely Spanish in history, language and culture, and England and Wales Moorish –and immensely civilized and progressive hi-tech Islamic culture that, from the 15th to the 19th centuries, battled the Ottoman Empire for control of the Mediterranean –and the new lands of the Caribbean and South America. Al Buraq, as the country is known, is a fairy-tale place.

And then there’s Earth 11 –the next world to join the Plenitude. The twist here is: alternative planetary physics. What if our world was in fact two worlds, a double planet, orbiting around a common centre? Two worlds, so close that they share a common atmosphere (okay, it gets pretty thin at the midpoint between them) –but that means you can fly by plane from one planet to another? An alien planet you can visit for the weekend? Each world with the other in its sky all the time on one hemisphere, the other, nothing. Above you only sky. Two worlds, that have shared organic chemicals and bacteria over billions of years, but have completely different ecologies –and sentient species! Two worlds that can’t get away from each other, but have fought great wars between them over the decades.

What about our world, Earth 10? Amongst all these other worlds our world can seem a little dull, but the fact is, everyone assumes that what they live in is normal, and from the point of view of some of the other worlds in the Plenitude, our world is pretty cool and strange. We’re good at computers –we’re better than every Plenitude World except Earth 2 –and Earth 1 but no one goes there. Our politics are... well... weird. Our London is a big, busy, brilliant, multicultural place. Things happen and change very fast on our world compared to some of the other ones. Thinking about parallel universes always makes us look back at our own world, and realise what a strange, fascinating, complex and brilliant place it is.

 Ian McDonald (1960-) is a British science fiction novelist, living in Belfast. His themes include nanotechnology, postcyberpunk settings, and the impact of rapid social and technological change on non-Western societies.

McDonald was born in 1960, in Manchester, to a Scottish father and Irish mother, but moved to Belfast when he was five, and has lived there ever since. He therefore lived through the whole of the 'Troubles' (1968-99), and his sensibility has been permanently shaped by coming to understand Northern Ireland as a post-colonial (and so, in his view, de facto 'Third World') society imposed on an older culture. He became a fan of SF from childhood TV, began writing when he was 9, sold his first story to a local Belfast magazine when he was 22, and in 1987 became a full-time writer. He has also worked in TV consultancy within Northern Ireland, contributing scripts to the Northern Irish Sesame Workshop production Sesame Tree.

McDonald is known for his work set in developing nations. His 1990s 'Chaga Saga' is particularly notable for its analysis of the AIDS crisis in Africa. His 2004 River of Gods is set in mid-21st-century India, and his 2007 Brasyl (2007), set in the 18th and 21st centuries in Lusophone South America, was nominated for, and reached the longlist of, the £50,000 Warwick Prize for Writing.

There is not one you. There are many yous. There is not one world. There are many worlds. Ours is one among billions of parallel earths.

When Everett Singh’s scientist father is kidnapped from the streets of London, he leaves young Everett a mysterious app on his computer. Suddenly, this teenager has become the owner of the most valuable object in the multiverse—the Infundibulum—the map of all the parallel earths, and there are dark forces in the Ten Known Worlds who will stop at nothing to get it. They’ve got power, authority, the might of ten planets—some of them more technologically advanced than our Earth—at their fingertips. He’s got wits, intelligence, and a knack for Indian cooking.

To keep the Infundibulum safe, Everett must trick his way through the Heisenberg Gate that his dad helped build and go on the run in a parallel Earth. But to rescue his dad from Charlotte Villiers and the sinister Order, this Planesrunner’s going to need friends. Friends like Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, her adopted daughter, Sen, and the crew of the airship Everness.

Can they rescue Everett’s father and get the Infundibulum to safety? The game is afoot!

 Everett Singh has escaped with the Infundibulum from the clutches of Charlotte Villiers and the Order, but at a terrible price. His father is missing, banished to one of the billions of parallel universes of the Panoply of All World, and Everett and the crew of the airship Everness have taken a wild, random Heisenberg Jump to a random parallel plane. Everett is smart and resourceful and from a frozen earth far beyond the Plenitude plans to rescue his family. But the villainous Charlotte Villiers is one step ahead of him.

I'm giving away a copy of Planesrunner or Be My Enemy if you read the first book already.
Open to all within the Book Depository countries of shipping.
Ends 23rd of November 2012.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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