L.Sprague De Camp's Lest Darkness FallFriday, February 03, 2012
“Ah, yes, the nature of time. This is a silly idea of mine, you understand. I was saying all those people who just disappear, they have slipped back down the suitcase.”
“The trunk, I mean. The trunk of the tree of time. When they stop slipping, they are back in some former time. But as soon as they do anything, they change all subsequent history.”
“Sounds like a paradox,” Said Padway.
“No-o. The trunk continues to exist. But a new branch starts out where they come to rest. It has to, otherwise we would all disappear, because history would have changed and our parents might not have met.”
“That’s a thought,” said Padway. “It’s bad enough knowing the sun might become a nova, but if we’re also likely to vanish because somebody has gone back to the twelfth century and stirred things up---”
From L. Sprague De Camp's Lest Darkness Fall, 1939
I found Lest Darkness Fall in a used books store in Cranbrook, BC on June 26, 1987. I was there to teach photography for the Emily Carr Outreach Program.
Culver lived on Eagle Island, off West Vancouver and access to it was a small metal barge with an outboard. Culver picked me up and we hit it off. Somehow our conversation involved time travel so I mailed him the book you see here.
The crux of the book is that history professor Martin Padway is hit by lightning while in Rome and suddenly finds himself in a Rome about to fall with no gadgets with which he can awe the natives. But he does awe them in the end and becomes the ruler of that world. It is a world in which history is changed and the dark ages never happen. How did he do this? With two simple innovations. One of them being the distillation of Roman wine into brandy and the other double entry bookkeeping which happened to be Culver’s forte!