Sidewise in Time

"Sidewise in Time" is a science fiction short story by American writer Murray Leinster that was first published in the June 1934 issue of Astounding Stories. "Sidewise in Time" served as the title story for Leinster's second story collection in 1950.

The Sidewise Award for Alternate History, established in 1995 to recognize the best alternate history stories and novels of the year, was named in honor of "Sidewise in Time."

"Sidewise in Time"
ASF 0043
AuthorMurray Leinster
CountryUnited States
Genre(s)Science fiction
Published inAstounding Stories
PublisherStreet & Smith
Media typePrint (Magazine, Hardback & Paperback)
Publication dateJune 1934

Plot summary

Professor Minott is a mathematician at Robinson College in Fredericksburg, Virginia who has determined that an apocalyptic cataclysm is fast approaching that could destroy the entire universe. The cataclysm manifests itself on June 5, 1935 (one year in the future of the story's original publication) when sections of the Earth's surface begin changing places with their counterparts in alternate timelines. A Roman legion from a timeline where the Roman Empire never fell appears on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. Viking longships from a timeline where the Vikings settled North America raid a seaport in Massachusetts. A traveling salesman from Louisville, Kentucky, whose van bears a commercial logo including Uncle Sam with the Stars and Stripes, finds himself in trouble with the law when he travels into an area where the South won the American Civil War. A ferry approaching San Francisco finds the flag of Tsarist Russia flying from a grim fortress dominating the city.

When a forest of sequoias appears north of Fredericksburg, Professor Minott leads an expedition of seven students from Robinson College to explore it. They reach the Potomac River, and find on its banks a Chinese village surrounded by rice paddies. At this point, Minott reveals the true situation to the students: he knew in advance that the timeline exchanges were going to take place, and he intends to lead the students to a timeline where he can use his scientific knowledge to gain wealth and power. The party returns to Fredericksburg, which in their absence has been replaced by wilderness, and Minott informs the students that they cannot return to their original timeline.

That night, an airplane from their own timeline makes a crash landing near Minott's party. Before the pilot dies, they learn from him that Washington, D.C. from their timeline was still in place. A student named Blake wants to make for Washington, but Minott refuses. The forest catches fire from the burning airplane, and the party flees to a Roman villa. They are captured by the villa's owner, except for Blake, who escapes. Later that night Blake secretly returns to the villa and frees the others from the slave pen, shooting the owner in the process. The next morning, the party finds itself near a section of their own timeline. Blake leads the other students there, but Minott refuses to come; he still intends to travel to a more primitive timeline and make himself its ruler. One of the women in the party joins him, while the rest of the students return to their timeline.

The students are able to contact the rest of the world and inform them of Minott's deductions about the event. Within two weeks, the timeline exchanges trail off, leaving bits and pieces of other timelines embedded in our own.


"Sidewise in Time" was among the first science fiction stories about parallel universes.[1] In 1903 H. G. Wells wrote "A Modern Utopia" in which people from our timeline were shown traveling to another, but Wells used this mainly as a literary device to present his speculations of a perfect society. Leinster's story, conversely, introduced the concept to the pulp science fiction readership, bringing about the creation of one of the field's subgenres. L. Sprague de Camp's 1940 story "The Wheels of If" followed a single man as he was involuntarily transported through a series of alternate timelines. H. Beam Piper's paratime series (1948–1965) postulated the existence of a civilization that could travel at will across the timelines, a theme echoed in Larry Niven's "All the Myriad Ways" (1968), Frederik Pohl's The Coming of the Quantum Cats (1986), and Harry Turtledove's Crosstime Traffic series (2003–2008). Other stories dealing with travel to parallel timelines include Isaac Asimov's "Living Space" (1956), Keith Laumer's Imperium series (1962–1990), Jack Vance's "Rumfuddle" (1973), and Jack L. Chalker's G.O.D. Inc trilogy (1987–1989). Lawrence Watt-Evans' story "Storm Trooper" (1992) is set in world whose inhabitants, like those of "Sidewise in Time", must cope with the sudden appearance of sections of other timelines. Gordon R. Dickson's Time Storm (1977) depicts an Earth ravaged by a cosmic storm that randomly changes the historical periods of local regions, much like "Sidewise in Time". The anime series Orguss took "Sidewise in Time" as one of its inspirations, and showed the world caught in a trap of constantly changing territories of alternate-Earths.

The setting of Fred Hoyle's October the First Is Too Late (1966) is similar to that of Leinster's story, except that the segments of Earth which are brought together and interact with each other are from different historical periods, rather than from different parallel histories.

In his comments on the story in Before the Golden Age, Isaac Asimov writes that "Sidewise in Time" had a long-term effect on his thinking. "It always made me conscious of the 'ifs' in history, and this showed up not only in my science fiction, as in 'The Red Queen's Race', but in my serious books on history as well. I also used the alternate-history theme, in enormous complexity, in my novel The End of Eternity."

Themes touched upon by Leinster would be taken up at greater length by others: Confederate victory in the American Civil War, a Roman Empire which never fell, enduring Viking colonization of America, Russia keeping its 19th-century colonies in Pacific America, Chinese colonists finding their way to America.

The idea of a scholar using a cataclysmic event to make himself the ruler of primitive people was taken up by S. M. Stirling in the Nantucket and Emberverse series, where the main villains do this repeatedly.

Publication history

  • Astounding Stories, June 1934
  • Sidewise in Time, edited by Murray Leinster, Shasta, 1950
  • Worlds of Maybe, edited by Robert Silverberg, Dell, 1970
  • Before the Golden Age, edited by Isaac Asimov, Doubleday, 1974
  • The Best of Murray Leinster, edited by J.J. Pierce, Del Rey, 1978
  • The Time Travellers—A Science Fiction Quartet, edited by Robert Silverberg & Martin H. Greenberg, Donald I. Fine, 1985
  • Great Tales of Classic Science Fiction, edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg & Charles Waugh, Galahad, 1988
  • First Contacts, edited by Joe Rico, NESFA Press, 1998


  1. ^ Gale, Floyd C. (April 1963). "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 155–159.

External links

A Logic Named Joe

"A Logic Named Joe" is a science fiction short story by Murray Leinster that was first published in the March 1946 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. (The story appeared under Leinster's real name, Will F. Jenkins. That issue of Astounding also included a story under the Leinster pseudonym called "Adapter".) The story is particularly noteworthy as a prediction of massively networked personal computers and their drawbacks, written at a time when computing was in its infancy.

Alternate history

Alternate history or alternative history (Commonwealth English) (AH), is a genre of speculative fiction consisting of stories in which one or more historical events occur differently. These stories usually contain "what if" scenarios at crucial points in history and present outcomes other than those in the historical record. The stories are conjectural but are sometimes based on fact. Alternate history has been seen as a subgenre of literary fiction, science fiction, or historical fiction; alternate history works may use tropes from any or all of these genres. Another term occasionally used for the genre is "allohistory" (literally "other history").Since the 1950s, this type of fiction has, to a large extent, merged with science fiction tropes involving time travel between alternate histories, psychic awareness of the existence of one universe by the people in another, or time travel that results in history splitting into two or more timelines. Cross-time, time-splitting, and alternate history themes have become so closely interwoven that it is impossible to discuss them fully apart from one another.

In Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan and Galician, the genre of alternate history is sometimes called uchronie / ucronia / ucronía / Uchronie, which has given rise to the term Uchronia in English. This neologism is based on the prefix ου- (which in Ancient Greek means "not/not any/no") and the Greek χρόνος (chronos), meaning "time". A uchronia means literally "(in) no time". This term apparently also inspired the name of the alternate history book list,

American Civil War alternate histories

American Civil War alternate histories are alternate history fiction that focuses on the Civil War (or a lack thereof) ending differently. The American Civil War is a popular point of divergence in English-language alternate history fiction. The most common variant of these detail the victory and survival of the Confederate States. Less common variants include a U.S. victory under different circumstances than in actual history, resulting in a different post-war situation; African-American slaves freeing themselves by revolt without waiting for Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation; a direct British intervention in the war; the survival of Lincoln during John Wilkes Booth's assassination attempt; a retelling of historical events with fantasy elements inserted; the Civil War never breaking out and a peaceful compromise was reached; and secret history tales. The point of divergence in such a story can either be a "natural, realistic" event (such as one general making a different decision than he did in our timeline, or one sentry detecting an enemy invasion which he failed to notice in reality), or else it can be an "unnatural" fantasy/science fiction plot device such as time travel, which usually takes the form of someone bringing modern weapons or hindsight knowledge into the past. American Civil War alternate histories are one of the two most popular points of divergence to create an alternate history in the English language, the other being an Axis victory in World War II.Depictions of the later development of a victorious Confederacy vary considerably from each other – especially on two major, interrelated issues: an independent Confederacy's treatment of its Black population and its relations with the rump United States to its north.

Analog Science Fiction and Fact

Analog Science Fiction and Fact is an American science-fiction magazine published under various titles since 1930. Originally titled Astounding Stories of Super-Science, the first issue was dated January 1930, published by William Clayton, and edited by Harry Bates. Clayton went bankrupt in 1933 and the magazine was sold to Street & Smith. The new editor was F. Orlin Tremaine, who soon made Astounding the leading magazine in the nascent pulp science fiction field, publishing well-regarded stories such as Jack Williamson's Legion of Space and John W. Campbell's "Twilight". At the end of 1937, Campbell took over editorial duties under Tremaine's supervision, and the following year Tremaine was let go, giving Campbell more independence. Over the next few years Campbell published many stories that became classics in the field, including Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, A.E. van Vogt's Slan, and several novels and stories by Robert A. Heinlein. The period beginning with Campbell's editorship is often referred to as the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

By 1950, new competition had appeared from Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Campbell's interest in some pseudo-science topics, such as dianetics (an early version of scientology), alienated some of his regular writers, and Astounding was no longer regarded as the leader of the field, though it did continue to publish popular and influential stories: Hal Clement's novel Mission of Gravity appeared in 1953, and Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations" appeared the following year. In 1960, Campbell changed the title of the magazine to Analog Science Fiction & Fact; he had long wanted to get rid of the word "Astounding" in the title, which he felt was too sensational. At about the same time Street & Smith sold the magazine to Condé Nast. Campbell remained as editor until his death in 1971.

Ben Bova took over from 1972 to 1978, and the character of the magazine changed noticeably, since Bova was willing to publish fiction that included sexual content and profanity. Bova published stories such as Frederik Pohl's "The Gold at the Starbow's End", which was nominated for both a Hugo and Nebula Award, and Joe Haldeman's "Hero", the first story in the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning "Forever War" sequence; Pohl had been unable to sell to Campbell, and "Hero" had been rejected by Campbell as unsuitable for the magazine. Bova won five consecutive Hugo Awards for his editing of Analog.

Bova was followed by Stanley Schmidt, who continued to publish many of the same authors who had been contributing for years; the result was some criticism of the magazine as stagnant and dull, though Schmidt was initially successful in maintaining circulation. The title was sold to Davis Publications in 1980, then to Dell Magazines in 1992. Crosstown Publications acquired Dell in 1996 and remains the publisher. Schmidt continued to edit the magazine until 2012, when he was replaced by Trevor Quachri.

Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg (locally (listen)) was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, by Union and Confederate forces during the American Civil War. The battle involved the largest number of casualties of the entire war and is often described as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Meade's Army of the Potomac defeated attacks by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, halting Lee's invasion of the North.

After his success at Chancellorsville in Virginia in May 1863, Lee led his army through the Shenandoah Valley to begin his second invasion of the North—the Gettysburg Campaign. With his army in high spirits, Lee intended to shift the focus of the summer campaign from war-ravaged northern Virginia and hoped to influence Northern politicians to give up their prosecution of the war by penetrating as far as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, or even Philadelphia. Prodded by President Abraham Lincoln, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker moved his army in pursuit, but was relieved of command just three days before the battle and replaced by Meade.

Elements of the two armies initially collided at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, as Lee urgently concentrated his forces there, his objective being to engage the Union army and destroy it. Low ridges to the northwest of town were defended initially by a Union cavalry division under Brig. Gen. John Buford, and soon reinforced with two corps of Union infantry. However, two large Confederate corps assaulted them from the northwest and north, collapsing the hastily developed Union lines, sending the defenders retreating through the streets of the town to the hills just to the south.On the second day of battle, most of both armies had assembled. The Union line was laid out in a defensive formation resembling a fishhook. In the late afternoon of July 2, Lee launched a heavy assault on the Union left flank, and fierce fighting raged at Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, Devil's Den, and the Peach Orchard. On the Union right, Confederate demonstrations escalated into full-scale assaults on Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill. All across the battlefield, despite significant losses, the Union defenders held their lines.

On the third day of battle, fighting resumed on Culp's Hill, and cavalry battles raged to the east and south, but the main event was a dramatic infantry assault by 12,500 Confederates against the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, known as Pickett's Charge. The charge was repulsed by Union rifle and artillery fire, at great loss to the Confederate army.Lee led his army on a torturous retreat back to Virginia. Between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers from both armies were casualties in the three-day battle, the most costly in US history.

On November 19, President Lincoln used the dedication ceremony for the Gettysburg National Cemetery to honor the fallen Union soldiers and redefine the purpose of the war in his historic Gettysburg Address.

Before the Golden Age

Before the Golden Age: A Science Fiction Anthology of the 1930s is an anthology of 25 science fiction stories from 1930s pulp magazines, edited by American science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. It also includes "Big Game", a short story written by Asimov in 1941 and never sold. The anthology was first published in April 1974, and won the 1975 Locus Award for Best reprint anthology.The anthology was inspired by a dream Asimov had on the morning of 3 April 1973. In his dream, Asimov had prepared an anthology of his favorite science fiction stories from the 1930s and was delighted to get a chance to read them again. After waking, he told his fianceé Janet Jeppson about the dream, and she suggested that he actually do such an anthology. Doubleday agreed to publish the anthology, and Asimov's friend Sam Moskowitz provided him with copies of the relevant science fiction magazines. Asimov completed work on the anthology on 10 May.

The stories were selected by Asimov, and the main selection criterion was the degree to which they influenced him when he was growing up in the 1930s. The prefatory material and individual introductions to the stories fill in the details about the early life of the child prodigy, which effectively makes the volume an autobiographical prequel to his earlier collection The Early Asimov.

The anthology was first published as a large hardcover by Doubleday in 1974 and re-issued as three smaller paperbacks by Fawcett Books the following year. The series was re-issued multiple times in the period of 1975-1984 in sets of either three or four paperbacks. As of 2018, it is out of print.

Bring the Jubilee

Bring the Jubilee is a 1953 novel of alternate history by American writer Ward Moore. The point of divergence occurs in July 1863 when the Confederate States of America wins the Battle of Gettysburg and subsequently declares victory in a conflict referred to within the book as the "War of Southron Independence" on July 4, 1864, after the surrender of the United States of America. The novel takes place in the impoverished rump United States in the mid-20th century as war looms between the Confederacy and its rival, the German Union. History takes an unexpected turn when the protagonist Hodge Backmaker, a historian, decides to travel back in time to witness the moment when the South won the war.The phrase "Bring the Jubilee" is a reference to the chorus of the popular military song "Marching Through Georgia".

History of US science fiction and fantasy magazines to 1950

Science fiction and fantasy magazines began to be published in the United States in the 1920s. Stories with science fiction themes had been appearing for decades in pulp magazines such as Argosy, but there were no magazines that specialized in a single genre until 1915, when Street & Smith, one of the major pulp publishers, brought out Detective Story Magazine. The first magazine to focus solely on fantasy and horror was Weird Tales, which was launched in 1923, and established itself as the leading weird fiction magazine over the next two decades; writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard became regular contributors. In 1926 Weird Tales was joined by Amazing Stories, published by Hugo Gernsback; Amazing printed only science fiction, and no fantasy. Gernsback included a letter column in Amazing Stories, and this led to the creation of organized science fiction fandom, as fans contacted each other using the addresses published with the letters. Gernsback wanted the fiction he printed to be scientifically accurate, and educational, as well as entertaining, but found it difficult to obtain stories that met his goals; he printed "The Moon Pool" by Abraham Merritt in 1927, despite it being completely unscientific. Gernsback lost control of Amazing Stories in 1929, but quickly started several new magazines. Wonder Stories, one of Gernsback's titles, was edited by David Lasser, who worked to improve the quality of the fiction he received. Another early competitor was Astounding Stories of Super-Science, which appeared in 1930, edited by Harry Bates, but Bates printed only the most basic adventure stories with minimal scientific content, and little of the material from his era is now remembered.

In 1933 Astounding was acquired by Street & Smith, and it soon became the leading magazine in the new genre, publishing early classics such as Murray Leinster's "Sidewise in Time" in 1934. A couple of competitors to Weird Tales for fantasy and weird fiction appeared, but none lasted, and the 1930s is regarded as Weird Tales' heyday. Between 1939 and 1941 there was a boom in science fiction and fantasy magazines: several publishers entered the field, including Standard Magazines, with Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories (a retitling of Wonder Stories); Popular Publications, with Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories; and Fiction House, with Planet Stories, which focused on melodramatic tales of interplanetary adventure. Ziff-Davis launched Fantastic Adventures, a fantasy companion to Amazing. Astounding extended its pre-eminence in the field during the boom: the editor, John W. Campbell, developed a stable of young writers that included Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and A.E. van Vogt. The period starting in 1938, when Campbell took control of Astounding, is often referred to as the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Well-known stories from this era include Slan, by van Vogt, and "Nightfall", by Asimov. Campbell also launched Unknown, a fantasy companion to Astounding, in 1939; this was the first serious competitor for Weird Tales. Although wartime paper shortages forced Unknown's cancellation in 1943, it is now regarded as one of the most influential pulp magazines.

Only eight science fiction and fantasy magazines survived World War II. All were still in pulp magazine format except for Astounding, which had switched to a digest format in 1943. Astounding continued to publish popular stories, including "Vintage Season" by C. L. Moore, and "With Folded Hands ..." by Jack Williamson. The quality of the fiction in the other magazines improved over the decade: Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder in particular published some excellent material and challenged Astounding for the leadership of the field. A few more pulps were launched in the late 1940s, but almost all were intended as vehicles to reprint old classics. One exception, Out of This World Adventures, was an experiment by Avon, combining fiction with some pages of comics. It was a failure and lasted only two issues. Magazines in digest format began to appear towards the end of the decade, including Other Worlds, edited by Raymond Palmer. In 1949, the first issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction appeared, followed in October 1950 by the first issue of Galaxy Science Fiction; both were digests, and between them soon dominated the field. Very few science fiction or fantasy pulps were launched after this date; the 1950s was the beginning of the era of digest magazines, though the leading pulps continued until the mid-1950s, and authors began selling to mainstream magazines and large book publishers.

List of alternate histories diverging at the American Civil War

List of alternate histories diverging at the American Civil War is a compilation of alternate history fiction whose point of divergence is the American Civil War. These Civil War alternate histories typically focus on a Confederate victory but others focus on scenarios such as a Civil War being averted, British intervention in the conflict, a Union victory occurring under different circumstances, a massive slave revolt occurring without the Emancipation Proclamation, or Lincoln never being assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.

List of alternate history fiction

This is a list of alternate history fiction, sorted by type.

List of fiction employing parallel universes

The following is a list of fiction employing parallel universes or alternate realities.

Murray Leinster

Murray Leinster (June 16, 1896 – June 8, 1975) was a nom de plume of William Fitzgerald Jenkins, an American writer of science fiction and alternate history literature. He wrote and published more than 1,500 short stories and articles, 14 movie scripts, and hundreds of radio scripts and television plays.

Parallel universes in fiction

A parallel universe is a hypothetical self-contained reality co-existing with one's own. A specific group of parallel universes are called a "multiverse", although this term can also be used to describe the possible parallel universes that constitute reality. While the terms "parallel universe" and "alternative reality" are generally synonymous and can be used interchangeably in most cases, there is sometimes an additional connotation implied with the term "alternative reality" that implies that the reality is a variant of our own. The term "parallel universe" is more general, without implying a relationship, or lack of relationship, with our own universe. A universe where the very laws of nature are different – for example, one in which there are no Laws of Motion – would in general count as a parallel universe but not an alternative reality and a concept between both fantasy world and earth.

The actual quantum-mechanical hypothesis of parallel universes is "universes that are separated from each other by a single quantum event."

Proxima Centauri (short story)

"Proxima Centauri" is a science fiction short story by American writer Murray Leinster, originally published in the March 1935 issue of Astounding Stories. Unusually for the time, the story adhered to the laws of physics as they were known, showing a starship that was limited by the speed of light, and which took several years to travel between the stars. In his comments on the story in Before the Golden Age, Isaac Asimov thought that "Proxima Centauri" must have influenced Robert A. Heinlein's later story "Universe" and stated that it influenced his own Pebble in the Sky.

Shasta Publishers

Shasta Publishers was a science fiction and fantasy small press specialty publishing house founded in 1947 by Erle Melvin Korshak, T. E. Dikty, and Mark Reinsberg, who were all science fiction fans from the Chicago area. The name of the press was suggested by Reinsberg in remembrance of a summer job that he and Korshak had held at Mount Shasta.

Sidewise Award for Alternate History

The Sidewise Awards for Alternate History were established in 1995 to recognize the best alternative history stories and novels of the year.

Sidewise in Time (collection)

Sidewise in Time is a 1950 collection of science fiction short stories by Murray Leinster. It was first published by Shasta Publishers in 1950 in an edition of 5,000 copies. The stories all originally appeared in the magazines Astounding and Thrilling Wonder Stories.

The Mammoth Book of Classic Science Fiction

The Mammoth Book of Classic Science Fiction: Short Novels of the 1930s is a themed anthology of science fiction short works edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh, the first in a series of six samplers of the field from the 1930s through the 1980s. It was first published in trade paperback by Robinson in June 1988. The first American edition was issued in trade paperback by Carroll & Graf in July of the same year. A hardcover edition was issued under the variant title Great Tales of Classic Science Fiction by Galahad Books in May 1990.The book collects ten novellas and novelettes by various science fiction authors that were originally published in the 1930s, together with an introduction by Asimov.

Timeline of science fiction

This is a timeline of science fiction as a literary tradition.

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