Possible Prologues

In the original version of Dark and Deep, I didn’t explain where or when the settlers were, or how they got there… only that they were there. I did this because I simply do not care about those issues. The material point, for me, was that two dozen more or less contemporary people found themselves in the wilderness with a few tools and animals, and had to take it from there.

When I floated this past my husband, he said, “yeah, you’ve got some explaining to do.” So I wrote the first version of the prologue, hoping that it explained just-enough while leaving scope for the reader’s imagination. The first prologue went thusly:

In the twenty-first century as the currents of commercialism, information, technology, and globalism became ever stronger, so did cross-cultural currents of survivalism, homesteading, off-gridding, simplifying, environmentalism, fundamentalism, cultural reconstruction, and maker culture. Some began to wish that there was a way to live in a smaller, simpler world in which their ideologies could be fully implemented and authentically lived out.

And then they found a way.

I liked this prologue, but it turned out to be not enough. The most common pieces of feedback I get about the versions of Dark and Deep that include it are, first, “I found a typo,” and second, “I was so distracted by trying to figure out where they are!”

Well, curious is good but distracted isn’t. So, after writing The Thin Line, in which I sort out that question more thoroughly, I wrote a new prologue for Dark and Deep. It answers the question in a way. It isn’t a way that I’m invested in–as I said, I really don’t care how or when or where my settlers are, only that they are. You as the reader are, as far as I’m concerned, free to concoct any other explanation you want, and I would love to hear those explanations. But if you need answers, if you need to be told so that you can concentrate on the rest of what happens, there are now answers.

Last night, at a Fourth of July cookout, I talked to a lovely woman named Pippa who offered up the first alternative explanation I’ve heard, and I loved it. She assumed that the settlers were some time in the future, a time when vast tracts of rural land had been completely abandoned in favor of cities, and that the settlers were re-colonizing that land. No spaceships. No time travel. No special technology. I love that explanation.

Anyway, for people who have older versions of Dark and Deep, here is the new prologue. Answers given, if you want them.

In the seventeenth century, the philosopher Gottfried Liebniz suggested that while there were other possible worlds in which history had unfolded differently, our world was the best of all possible worlds—where all things are for the best.

In the twentieth century, philosophers began to explore modal logic using the phrase possible world to describe the difference between things that could have been true, things that must be true, and things that couldn’t possibly be true. This phraseology caught on with philosophers of religion, some of whom posited that these possible worlds might be real, physical places, not just convenient tools of discourse.

In the middle of the twenty-first century, scientists found a way to access alternate Earths, and they too began to use the term Possible World. Some of these worlds were ecologically similar to the one that had housed humanity since its inception, except that—for reasons unknown—there was no human habitation. The human race promptly began to colonize these worlds as a way to relieve the pressure of overpopulation, expand natural resources, and escape the course of human history in the Old World.

Felons, displaced ethnic groups, the brave, the misanthropic, and the merely eccentric flocked to these Possible Worlds. People could be transported to them along with animals and goods. Those who had been troubled by past choices of the human race could now attempt to start it again, this time on their own terms.

There were two caveats: first, that while transport to a specific place on a specific world could be guaranteed with a high degree of precision, the temporal target of the transport was less sure. Different groups transported on the same day to nearly the same target in time and space might, in the Possible World, find themselves separated by hundreds of years.

The second caveat was that while people could be transported to the Possible Worlds, they couldn’t be transported back.

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