Alternate Realities is an omnibus collection from 2000 of three short science fiction novels by science fiction and fantasy author C. J. Cherryh. The three books included in this anthology are: Wave Without a Shore (1981), Port Eternity (1982), and Voyager in Night (1984). All three novels are set in Cherryh's Alliance-Union universe and share a common theme of people encountering and coping with a reality different from their own.

The original books as well as the omnibus edition were all published by DAW Books. The novels are what Cherryh and her publisher at DAW, Donald A. Wollheim, referred to as "magic cookie" books. Such works explore unusual themes and ideas in science fiction, and can in some sense be seen as thought experiments. Wollheim encouraged Cherryh to experiment in this way during the late 1970s and early 1980s because he felt that the science fiction market would support such unusual offerings at the time.[1]

One consequence of this approach is that the original novels were therefore short by contemporary standards, each having only approximately 90,000 words. The relative brevity of the books facilitated DAW's release of the omnibus edition in 2000.

Port Eternity Edit

Port Eternity is a romantic thriller set aboard the space yacht Maid of Astolat, owned by an extremely wealthy woman. She, her current lover and her cloned Azi servants live out her fantasy, each representing a figure from the world of Arthurian legend. However, disaster strikes when the ship hits a knot in space-time and they are drawn into a parallel dimension. There they gravitate to a huge mass consisting of ships of various species which had been similarly trapped in the past. With no way back, they join the cobbled-together cosmopolitan society.

The story takes place in the Alliance-Union universe, in Union-side space. Cherryh originally named the story Involutions, because it "spirals in upon itself", but after discussing the title with her publisher, Wollheim's suggestion of Port Eternity was adopted.[2]

Although the book is a work of science fiction, some might consider it to be a science fantasy because of the Arthurian elements, medieval dress, and sometimes archaic mannerisms of the ship's inhabitants (see image below). Cherryh begins each chapter of the novel with a quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson's series of Arthurian poems Idylls of the King.

Voyager in Night Edit

Voyager in Night is about the Lindy, a small starship used for ore prospecting with a crew of three that collides with an ancient alien ship. But the crew of the alien ship are long dead; it is controlled by the ship's computers, which take the humans aboard and begin replicating and experimenting with them.

The story takes place in 2355-56 in the Alliance-Union universe near the newly constructed Endeavor Station in Union space.

Voyager in Night was a finalist in 1984 for a Philip K. Dick Award. Although clearly a science fiction story, it incorporates elements of the Horror fiction genre.

Wave Without a Shore Edit

Wave Without a Shore is a philosophical story that takes place on an Alliance-side planet shared by humans and the alien "Anhit" race. But the humans not only don't recognise the aliens, they don't even see them! This idyllic life is shattered when a student confronts the reality of the situation and begins consorting with the aliens. The book is an example of soft science fiction.

The Age of Exploration Edit

Port Eternity and Voyager in Night are from C. J. Cherryh's Age of Exploration series, a collection of three science fiction novels that share a common theme, but are unrelated to each other:

  • Port Eternity (1982)
  • Voyager in Night (1984)
  • Cuckoo's Egg (1985)

Footnotes Edit

  1. Author's introduction to Alternate Realities.
  2. Author's introduction to Port Eternity in the Alternate Realities omnibus.
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