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Background

One evening, back in the 1990s, I had dinner in London with the Oxford theoretical physicist David Deutsch. His exposition on the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics was enough to provoke me into writing Paths to Otherwhere, as the dedication says. The MWI also provides the basis of two other of my novels, The Proteus Operation and Mission to Minerva.

Another good friend of mine, from the days when I lived in California and was a regular attendee at West Coast sf conventions, was John Cramer, professor of nuclear physics at the University of Washington in Seattle. John has proposed an interpretation of QM known as the Transactional Interpretation that has received considerable attention in recent years, which treats as real the "advanced wave" solutions to the quantum wave equations that involve waves traveling backward in time and are normally dismissed as a mathematical artifact having no physical significance. The notion of physically meaningful influences traveling back through time were of irresistible appeal to a science fiction writer. But apart from the immediately obvious--a means of communicating through time, which I'd used anyway in Thrice Upon a Time--what might it be good for?

The spark that sets the ideas moving that eventually produce a novel is often the result of thoughts suddenly connecting that have existed side by side in separate brain compartments, sometimes for years. A philosophical question that had intrigued me for a long time--and still does--was on the difference between living and nonliving things. Fundamental to it would seem to be that living things are able to alter their behavior to benefit themselves in various ways, whereas nonliving things are subject totally to the whims of chance and forces from the outside. Now let's make the leap of suggesting that what living things are doing is reacting to backward-propagating influences by "steering" preferentially toward ones that "feel better"--much in the kind of way that bacteria move toward sunshine and nutrients in a pond. And lo, we have the basis of a new realm of science combining quantum physics with biology, and plenty to keep a bunch of characters busy and arguing through the length of a book..

Especially if the conditions on another world are such as to produce inhabitants who turn out to be a lot better at it than we are. And who are therefore able to avoid the evils that are causing Earth so much trouble.

 
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