I have always been fascinated by the premise of “Alternative Worlds”. I loved “Stargate SG-1”. I also love the many anime titles that cover the subject, especially those that give a fresh perspective.
If I remember correctly, my first contact with this subject was the anime “El Hazard”. It was a blast, being a comedy and all. The latest anime on this, “Gate: Thus the JDF fought there/ゲート 自衛隊 彼の地にて、斯く戦えり” did the genre much credit. Pitting modern armies against Roman-style legions…well…that is almost exactly like a scene from a game of Civilization. (It made me go play it again…twice)
Well how do we travel from one world to another? In the stories, “Gates” of either magical and technological origins are the norm. “Death & rebirth” is another. With the advent of the age of AR/VR, we now have “virtual worlds” too in this genre. VR worlds are particularly attractive because it is actually within our technological grasp. I mean, even IBM is getting in on the action. Personally, I hope to be able to live to see it (as in the quality as imagined by the authors).
Virtual worlds aside (they will be curated, hence limiting), what would I do if I were physically thrust into an alternate world that is technologically less advanced? Would I be a hero or zero? Now that’s some food for thought and hence why this post is an “introspective”.
Putting it right out front, I won’t try to be a hero, unless forced to by circumstance. Going out to fight a monster for example, well, I treasure my life. That said, I probably won’t sit idly in the corner either. To put it simply, why wave a sword at my enemy when I can attempt to reinvent the cannon to take him out?
For the following narrative, I will assume that time is not of the essence.
Phase 1: The beginning
The starting point in the new world will play a big role in how things turn out. Would I start with nothing? Or dropped into some kind of situation where I can get some high level support right off? In any case, the first order of business will be to understand the new world and to survive. Make a livelihood if you will. Hence to start things out, find the nearest village or town. Find a job(s) and securing a livelihood will start the second phase.
In the event that there is time before being whisked away, consider bringing a tablet with encyclopedias installed along with a solar powered charger (From anime “No Game No Life”), or just bring your college science textbooks.
Phase 2: Knowledge is power
Anyone who has received a proper education in this world will have a massive advantage over any native. In a less advanced world, even the most basic knowledge in Physics, Chemistry and Biology can turn one into a god. As Arthur C. Clarke puts it, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Assessing the current technological and societal order will be important in this phase. Then pray hard that what I know and remember is applicable in this new world.
Regardless of starting out from the bottom or the top, I would try to get noticed in a good way by the people around me. I would use any appropriate knowledge I have to help out, hopefully something simple, yet profound. For example, “boiling water kills pathogens”, “adding carbon to iron makes steel”.
Building a repute is important. The idea is to get into contact with the people in power. Basically, prove that I am useful and am worthy of help. Access to funding and political support will make a big difference.
Phase 3A: Empowering myself
As with any good RPG, I would seek to empower myself next. If this is a world of magic, I would seek out magic tutors. I prefer reading a dusty tome than swing a sword. If not, I would have no choice but to seek out trainers for combat skills. This is more for self-protection than to be a hero. However, this can’t really be done unless there is no need to work for a livelihood. No time!
In a world of magic and swords, an average person like me would be extremely vulnerable. Gaining some personal strength would be wise in my opinion.
Phase 3B: Empowering the natives
With the breathing room created with some access to funding and support, I would try to empower the natives to solve their own problems. Like I said earlier, if the problem is an evil overlord of some kind, then I would attempt to reinvent advanced weaponry and sell that knowledge to the locals. I am not that nice to give it out for free.
Ideally I would gain social status without much risk to myself.
Phase 4: Reap the benefits
By this phase, hopefully I would have carved out a comfortable existence for myself. The major problems of the new world that threatened my existence are mostly resolved.
I will use the resources I have to build myself a nice sub-urban manor to live out life in peace. However, I don’t have it in me to be idle. I will likely do what I can to set up some kind of income-generating estate and spend the rest of my time on studies, on both magical if present and mundane.
However if I have any political connections, I will most likely try to fade into the background. Being in the spotlight politically is a warrant for assassination, risky.
If I hold any position of power (a backwater governorship is ideal), I will apply my beliefs in my area of influence. Social equality (gender, religious…etc), establishment of a meritocracy are a few things I would do. It is also my belief that free people (slavery is likely to be common) make happy and loyal employees, so it will be one of the things I will seek to achieve.
In a sense, I think this is probably what anyone would do. Gunboat diplomacy is always a good option if pure rhetoric doesn’t work out.
Would I succumb to temptation or be able to use it for good? Now that’s the question.
Phase X: Now comes the catch, going home
Now all of what I have previously mentioned will work out well if I were still a single without any lingering thoughts on this world. Obviously, that (being comfortable in the new world) is out the window when you are married with kids.
Would I seek out a way to come back to this world? If I can be sent there, then it is not implausible to think that a reverse path is available. If the way is readily available, then there is not much room for hesitation. I will go back to my world.
However, what if it takes a long time to find the way or if it is uncertain if there is even such a way for a long time? How long would I be able to search for a way home? In my loneliness, would I start a new family in the new world? Or is that something only a jerk would do? At the end of the search, do I even want to go back? To be honest, I don’t know. Loneliness can be nigh unbearable. 5 years is doable, 10 years maybe. Beyond that, it is anyone’s guess.
What would you, my reader, do? Now that’s some food for thought.