Non-"Sci-Fi/Fantasy" Parallel Universes
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One of my favorite examples is The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie. There are several mentions of historical events that are just slightly different, like the American President's near miss in Dallas Texas. and Jesse Parker's hit song "Heart Break Hotel"
Mostly those little things just bring a quick smile, but also by seperating the story from the "real world" they make the story's world just a touch more real to me.
Any other examples?
How about The Plot Against America by Philip Roth? Or The Yiddish Policemen's Union for another extremely mainstream example?
Others will have more ideas about this, I hope. Anyone?
Anyway, a short list:
SS-GB by Len Deighton, set in Britain after a successful 1940 German invasion.
Resurrection Day by Brendan DuBois, set in the USA roughly a decade after the Cuban Missile Crisis spiralled into a limited nuclear war.
Fatherland by Robert Harris, set in Nazi-dominated Europe in the early 1960s.
The Woodrow Wilson Dime by Jack Finney doesn't *quite* make the cut because the hero slips into the alternate universe from ours, but Finney makes no serious attempt to explain how he does so.
Harry Turtledove did a series of short stories set in a world where Islam never arose and the Byzantine Empire never collapsed. They were collected in Agent of Byzantium. His long series of novels that began with How Few Remain and continued with The Great War: Walk in Hell also have no overt SF elements. Nor, for that matter, does In The Presence of Mine Enemies (Nazi-occupied America or Ruled Britannia (Shakespeare's England, ruled by Spain after the Armada succeeds).
Finally, at the risk of getting *totally* off track, there are two fine novels, that--though clearly SF--use the kind of subtly different timelines that morydd was talking about. Tranquility Alternative by Allen Steele takes place in a world where (because of a slightly different end to WWII) the US manned space program starts in 1947 rather than 1959. Voyage by Stephen Baxter changes a single critical event in November 1963 (no points for guessing which one, but he does it gracefully) and uses the change to set up a story about the first manned Mars landing in 1985.