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Lyon Sprague de Camp (November 27, 1907 – November 6, 2000) was an American author of science fiction and fantasy books, non-fiction and biography. In a writing career spanning 60 years, he wrote over 100 books, including novels and notable works of non-fiction, including biographies of other important fantasy authors, notably Robert E. Howard, whose work de Camp successfully returned to the public eye decades after Howard's death. De Camp contributed popular works to the alternate history and time travel genres.

Harry Turtledove's interest in writing alternate history was sparked by de Camp's novel, Lest Darkness Fall (1939). In 1999, Turtledove wrote "The Pugnacious Peacemaker", a sequel to de Camp's Wheels of If which was published in Down in the Bottomlands and Other Places. In 2005, Turtledove edited a volume of short stories called The Enchanter Completed, which celebrated de Camp's writing. Turtledove's own contribution was "The Haunted Bicuspid".

Relevant Camp works[]

Lest Darkness Fall[]

Lest Darkness Fall is an alternate history science fiction novel written in 1939 by de Camp. The book is often considered one of the best examples of the alternate history genre; it is certainly one of the earliest and most influential. Harry Turtledove has said it sparked his interest in the genre as well as his desire to study Byzantine history.

American archaeologist Martin Padway is visiting the Pantheon in Rome, Italy in 1938. A thunderstorm arrives, lightning cracks, and he finds himself transported to Rome in the year 535 AD. At this time, the Italian Peninsula is under the rule of the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths. Padway is able to make a copper still and sell brandy for a living. He teaches his clerks Arabic numerals and double entry bookkeeping, and later develops a printing press, issues newspapers, and builds a crude semaphore telegraph system utilizing small telescopes. However, his attempts to reproduce mechanical clocks, gunpowder and cannon are failures. He becomes increasingly involved in the politics of the state as Italy is invaded by the Eastern Roman Empire and also threatened from the south and east.

Turtledove edited the 2005 de Camp tribute anthology The Enchanter Completed, which includes "The Apotheosis of Martin Padway," by S.M. Stirling. In 2021, Turtledove's own "The Fake Pandemic" featured Padway and serves as a more direct sequel to Darkness.

The Wheels of If[]

The Wheels of If is an alternate history science fiction story by de Camp, first published in the magazine Unknown Fantasy Fiction for October, 1940, and first appeared in book form in de Camp's collection The Wheels of If and Other Science Fiction (Shasta, 1940).

New York City lawyer Allister Park is inexplicably torn from his normal existence and thrust into a series of parallel universes. Each morning he discovers he has become someone else, in a world changed from his own, initially finding himself in worlds where the American Revolution failed and France won the Napoleonic Wars. Ultimately he finds himself a bishop in the alternate New York City of "New Belfast," in Vinland, a North America colonized by descendants of the Vikings and now divided between Norse- (and Irish-) derived and native polities. He determines that this new world's differences from his own stem from two divergences in the course of history, relative to his own world. Establishing himself as a politician, he is able to better the lot of many people in his new world.

Turtledove's "The Pugnacious Peacemaker" is a direct sequel to Wheels.

See also[]

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