"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Peripheral 1.6: Now or Soonest

A really high-octane high-intellect episode 1.6 of The Peripheral on Amazon Prime Video tonight -- by which I mean the action, as good as it was, was easily surpassed by the ideas and razor sharp conversation.

And the height of the conversation was offered by Inspector Lowbeer, given a tour-de-force performance by Alexandra Billings, who at her best barely let my near-namesake Lev get a word in edgewise as she spelled out what she thought was going on and what she wanted.  Lots of gems in that one-way conversation, but my favorite was her response to Lev asking her when she wanted to see the three peripherals and their operators -- i.e., our heroes from the near future -- that Lowbeer had instructed Lev to summon.  "Now -- or soonest," she responded.  That order is both a paragon of presumptive and reasonable, at the very same time.

Lev, though, contributes something more substantive in the subsequent conversation, in which he explains how every contact in the past provokes a branching of a new reality, which Lev and his people call a "stub".  That's as good an explanation as you'll find of what travel to the past can do, and how indeed it is even possible -- whether the travel is physical or informational -- because it explains how you could want to travel to the past in the first place, or want to change something there, if you succeed on interfering back then and changing that something.  Without branches, that very change in the past that you wanted would remove the very reason you wanted to change that something in the first place.  It would erase the very motive for the erasure.  In other words, what some people (like me) usually call alternate realities, which any interference in the past generates -- or, as I like to say, is tripped off by any time traveler's tip or drop of the hat -- is called a "branch" by Lev, who adds: "we call" that "a stub".

And in a further linguistically sweet part of the conversation, Lowbeer then wonders why "stub" -- not because it reminds her of something you see on Wikipedia (I don't know if they have Wikipedia in that reality) -- but because stub "sounds nasty, short, brutish".  Lowbeer continues, "wouldn't you expect the fork's new branch to continue to grow?"  Lev responds, "we do" (I agree with Lowbeer and Lev, of course -- fine acting by J J Feild in that role, too, by the way).  It's left to Ash (well played by Harry Potter's Katie Leung) to explain that calling the branches stubs makes it easier for this future to practice imperialism on the past.

Wow!  I don't think I've ever thought of the future manipulating the past as a kind of imperialism -- or "colonialism," as Lowbeer then quickly puts it -- but it's a powerhouse concept, and just one of the reasons I said I thought this episode was sheer intellectual dynamite.

See you back here next week with more.

See also The Peripheral 1.1-1.2: Cyberpunk, Time Travel, and Alternate Reality ... 1.3: John Snow ... 1.4 Who Took Lev's Tea? ... 1.5: The AI Therapist

It's Real Life

alternate reality about The Beatles on Amazon, and  FREE on Vocal

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