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Birthday Reviews: Jody Lynn Nye’s “Theory of Relativity”

Thursday, July 5th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Bob Warner

Cover by Bob Warner

Jody Lynn Nye was born on July 5, 1957.

Nye began her career writing technical articles and gaming related fiction, including several choose-your-path adventures in the Crossroads Adventures series for Anne McCaffrey’s Pern and Piers Anthony’s Xanth. She followed those ups with The Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern and Magic of Xanth before beginning to publish her own works as well as collaborative novels. Many of her novels and short stories are humorous and she has also written military science fiction. Nye was good friends with Robert Lynn Asprin and collaborated with him on the later books in his Myth series before continuing the series after his death. Her own series includes the Mythology 101 series, the Imperium trilogy, the Dreamland series, and others.

She wrote “Theory of Relativity” for Larry Segriff and Martin H. Greenberg for the anthology Past Imperfect. Published in 2001, the story has never been reprinted.

“Theory of Relativity” is an epistolary story, although the framing device seems superfluous. It does immediately tell readers that they are in a slightly different world since Nye refers to both the book packager, TeknoBooks, and one of the books editors, Larry Segriff, disguised as Barry Seacliff, although it is questionable how many people would catch the two references since the book was published by DAW. This framing device does recur at the end, when Seacliff’s partner, Dr. Gruneberg (Martin H. Greenberg) is referenced.

The story opens with some techno babble about the time travel, or dimensional travel, device created by Dr. Rachel Fenstone. Once that information is out of the way, the story can really begin, with Rachel writing about her trip to another timeline, which appears to be closer to our own, to discover her doppelganger, June Fennell. The two women connect and once June is informed about Rachel’s experiment, they work together to figure out when their two worlds branched from each other, determining it happened shortly after their great grandfather came to the United States. Their next stop is to travel back to see him and figure out which of their timelines is “real,” although they each know it is their own.

Nye is clearly enjoying playing with the idea of multiple timelines. While Itzhik Finkelstein’s decision clearly isn’t the catalyst for the historical differences between Rachel’s and June’s worlds, his decision does make a difference on the microlevel, setting their own family history (histories?) in motion. Rachel admits that there are more momentous historical events to seek out, but certainly not more emotionally personal ones.

Reviewed in its only publication in the anthology Past Imperfect, edited by Larry Segriff and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW Books 2001.


Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Doing Business at Hodputt’s Emporium” in Galaxy’s Edge. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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