series written by H. Beam Piper
consists of several short stories, one novella, and one novel; they
deal with an advanced civilization that is able to travel between
alternate histories, and uses that ability to trade for goods and
services their own, exhausted Earth cannot provide. Specifically,
the Paratime series deals with the Paratime Police, the
organization that protects the secret of paratime travel.
Stories in the Paratime Series
These stories were written by Piper:
- He Walked Around the
Horses (Astounding Science Fiction
Magazine, April 1948)
- Police Operation (Astounding Science Fiction
Magazine, July 1948)
- The Last Enemy (Astounding Science Fiction
Magazine, August, 1950)
- Temple Trouble (Astounding Science Fiction
Magazine, April, 1951)
- Genesis (Future
Magazine, September, 1951)
- Time Crime (novella) (Astounding Science Fiction
Magazine, February and March 1955)
- Lord Kalvan of
Otherwhen (novel) (Analog Science Fiction, 1965) in two
parts: "Gunpowder God" and "Down Styphon!"
A sequel to Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, Great Kings' War
, was written by
Roland J. Green and John F. Carr.
Some persons dispute He Walked Around The Horses
being Paratime stories, however Genesis
is the account of a group of Martian colonists arriving on Earth
between 75,000 and 100,000 years ago exactly as described by Piper
in several of his Paratime Police stories. All of the names used in
follow the conventions used in all of the Paratime
stories but not used in Piper's other stories. Additionally the
events in He Walked Around The Horses
are referred to by
Tortha Karf in the story Police Operation
describes the event briefly to Verkan Vall.
The Paratime Levels
In Piper's Paratime universe, there are an infinite number of
timelines, but in each timeline, events occurred differently. They
are grouped into five Levels, based on the probabilities of success
of an attempt by Martians to colonize Earth 75,000 to 100,000 years
ago; humans, on timelines where they are present, are the
descendants of the Martian colonists.
This is the level of complete success of the Martian colonization.
However, in this level are several sectors of several thousand
Home Timeline, and its associated Fifth Level Commercial, Fifth
Level Passenger, Fifth Level Industrial Sector, Fifth Level Service
Sector, is the home of the Paratime civilization. This is the only
known timeline with paratime travel capacity, and protection of the
Paratime Secret is the highest priority.
colonized by the Home Timeline (or in the case of Mars, reclaimed),
and paratime transport exists there as well.
The Dwarma sector is one where paratime travel was never
discovered, and the Martian colonists settled down into a
subsistence agriculture economy to survive. The culture is
pacifistic and nonaggressive, though Dwarma peoples eat meat. One
major event people remembered for years is when a farmer and trader
contradicted themselves on the price of a pig; they raised their
voices and shouted at each other. Verkan Vall and Dalla Hadron were
planning a vacation in the Dwarma Sector when it was interrupted by
the discovering of a paratemporal slave-trading ring in Time
The Abzar sector is one where the survivors exhausted the resources
of Earth and exterminated each other in a series of wars. Some
timelines were used as a hideout of a crime organization that
traded slaves across timelines.
In the Second Level, the colony succeeded, but there were
intermittent periods of Dark Ages between civilizations.
The Akor-Neb civilization of Last Enemy
is Second Level;
its technology is almost identical to the Home Timeline.
The Jak-Hakka civilization follows an ideology of "Dictatorship of
the Chosen," it has been used as an example of political structures
the Home Timeline wishes to avoid.
The Khiftan sector is one whose cultures are brutal and violent.
Their cities are low domes, for protection against nuclear blasts;
the priesthood of Fasif punishes blasphemy with torture; and an
example of Khiftan craftsmanship seen in Time Crime
whip, the tip of which can be heated by a nuclear battery to 200
. A commonly used curse by
Verkan Vall is "By the Fangs of Fasif" referring to the religion
common in the Kiftan Sector.
Third Level timelines, as Piper described them, were "A few
survivors—a shipload or so—were left to shift for themselves while
the parent civilization on Mars died out. They lost all vestiges of
their original Martian culture, even memory of their
Some Third Level timelines have developed space travel; the Esaron
civilization developed space travel before it developed the germ
theory of disease and suffered a great setback when Venusian
microbial life killed off most of the population.
The Caribbean islands of this sector are over run with Pirates
reported to be the best knife fighters in all of Paratime. Verkan
Vall learned his knife fighting technique from them.
The Fourth Level is the level of highest probability: the survivors
lost all concept of their Martian origins and believe themselves to
have developed on Earth.
The Nilo-Mesopotamian cluster of sectors, including the Macedonian
Empire Sector, the Alexandrian
and Europo-American (which
includes our own timeline), there was an Aryan invasion of Eastern
Europe and Asia Minor about four thousand elapsed years ago.
In the Aryan-Transpacific sector, the Aryans moved east, through
Asia into North America (the Minor Land Mass); one timeline in
Aryan-Transpacific is the setting of Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen
After Piper's death, three additional books
have been written based in this
The Proto Aryan Sector had the Aryan migration occur 1500 years
later than in our sector, where the presence of established
Sumerian and Nile civilzations inhibited their migration.
Near our timeline are timelines where there was a Second War
Between the States, as well as a band where racial-based fascism
rules North America as a result of a Nazi victory in 1940.
The Fifth Level are those where the colonization failed or never
took place; they are empty of Martian derived human life. Piper
described the Fifth level as "on some sectors Subhuman brutes...on
most of it nothing even vaguely human...". Fifth level Neanderthal
man exists in a stone age culture having evolved on Earth
independently, but never advanced.
Travelling through Timelines
The means of traveling through timelines is a conveyor using the
Ghaldron-Hesthor field-generator. Conveyors are fixed in place,
which means that as they travel through timelines, they may end up
inside nuclear reactors or other hazards or be caught in warfare (a
common activity on at least one timeline in nearly every trip,
Paratimers note). Weakening of the transposition field is a concern
Because there are so many timelines and many conveyors, it is
possible for two conveyors to "cross" each other and end up with
mutually weakened fields. In this case, objects from the outside
may penetrate the conveyor. Often these objects are alive. If they
are people, they face two choices: be shot or have their memory
obliterated. The Paratime Secret is more important than one
outtimer's life. Sometimes they stumble out of the conveyor onto
another timeline: this could have happened to British diplomat
in He Walked Around the Horses
(Note: This "could" is
almost a certainty since the details of the story of such an
occurrence that Tortha Karf tells in Police Operation
match exactly the events in this story) or to the stranger on the
train in Crossroads of Destiny
as it did to Pennsylvania State Police
Calvin Morrison in Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen
. In those
cases, the Paratime Police try to return them to their home
timelines with memory obliteration. In other cases, such as a
"Christian Avenger" of the Hitler-victory timeline, they decided
he's better off dead and will let the locals do the job.
The Home Timeline
The people of the Home Timeline, overall, believe themselves to be
. Their calendar numbers days of the year
rather than months.
The Home Timeline's capital city apparently is Dhergabar, as is the
home of many of its prominent scientific and cultural
The government of the Home Timeline, the "Management", is a
The Service Sectors
Many of the inhabitants of the Service Sector, as well as servants
and low-status workers in Home Timeline, are Fourth Level tribesmen
from primitive cultures who are recruited by the tribe to work.
They are not mistreated, but they do not have Citizen status, which
can be granted through adoption into a Citizen family. At least two
divisions of soldiers are stationed in Service Sector to deal with
riots and rebellion.
The Paratime Secret and the Paratime Police
To supervise Paratime, the Paratime Commission exists; to enforce
the Paratime Code, the Paratime Police exists.
There is only one law that is totally inviolate: no one from
outside the Home Timeline civilization must ever know about
paratime travel. The Paratime Transposition Code sets out legal
penalties for this, as well as other crimes involving paratime,
such as kidnapping and enslavement. Paratime Police officers are
authorized to use extrajudiciary means, such as assassination, of
both Home Time residents or outtimes, to protect the secret if
necessary. This action is at the agent's discretion.
Another method to protect the Paratime Secret involves spreading
uncertainty and doubt about accounts of encountering paratimers. In
the case of pre-scientific cultures, this is easier; actions can be
explained as acts of the gods. In our timeline, the Paratime Police
have spread stories which are implausible when investigated;
however, the number of stories to investigate lessens the chance of
detecting the truth.
Headquarters for the Paratime Police is at the city of Dhergabar,
which is the Capital city on home Timeline. There is also a
separate timeline that is exclusively for the use of the Paratime
Police; they can locate conveyors wherever necessary there, or
commandeer private property to locate a temporary conveyor.
In many timelines, business agents working from the Home Timeline
hold a reserve commission as Paratime officers, and are expected to
activate their powers when needed.
The Chief of the Paratime Police at the beginning of the series is
Tortha Karf. Special Chief's Assistant Verkan Vall, is the
protagonist of most of the Paratime stories.
Characters in the Paratime Series
All persons in the Paratime stories have names where the familial
name is last instead of the pattern we are used to. For example
Verkan Vall is called Vall by his friends, Hadron Dalla is known as
Dalla to her friends and so on. It is also the case that nearly all
male names have a two syllable first name and a one syllable
Vall was born on the island of Nerros (Cuba) in the Home
Timeline some time in the late 1800s; in Last Enemy, he
noted he was eighty when he and Dalla Hadron were first
He is described as having "handsome regularity of
his strangely immobile features." He is a member of the nobility of
the Home Timeline, able to style himself His Valor, the Mavrad of
Nerros, though he does not and often forgets he has a title. (This
indicates that a mavrad is approximately equivalent to a duke
Vall's Paratime Police position is Special Assistant to the Chief
of the Paratime Police, Tortha Karff's personal roving inspector.
He serves as a general troubleshooter for Chief Tortha Karf and is
assigned to cases that require special attention from the Paratime
Police. In Police Operation
, he has to hunt down a
Venusian night-hound that escaped onto our timeline; in Temple
, he must rescue Home Level paratimers from torture and
execution; in Last Enemy
, he must locate researcher Dalla
Hadron; and in Time Crime
, he is in charge of an
investigation to track down a large criminal organization of slave
traders. At the end of Time Crime
Vall is promoted to
Chief of Duplicate Paratime Police, a new system set up on Police
Terminal to seek out and destroy large organized crime syndicates
operating across Paratime like the Organization described in
Vall is a crack shot with either hand (like most Paratimers, he is
ambidextrous) and learned knife fighting from the Third Level
Khanga pirates of the Caribbean Islands, who were reputed to be the
best fighters in all paratime.
In Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen
, Vall investigates the
wounding of a Paratime Policeman by Calvin Morrison and determines
whether or not Calvin should die or live. He decides that Morrison
is no threat to the Paratime Secret, though he must have deduced
it. Vall takes occasional service with the Morrison-led army of
Hos-Hostigos as a colonel of scouts.
Hadron Dalla is a psychical researcher and has been married to
Verkan Vall twice. On the home timeline, she is a member of Rhogom
Memorial Foundation of Psychic Science in Dhergabar. Dalla traveled
to the Akor-Neb sector to continue research, where she discovered
evidence that human consciousness survives the body and
reincarnation is a scientific fact; this research led to a major
upset of Akor-Neb politics and societal structure, and forced
Verkan Vall to retrieve her lest the Paratime Secret be disclosed
(see Last Enemy
Dalla (as she is referred to in the stories; we do not know if this
is a peculiarity of Home Timeline culture or paternalism on Piper's
part, almost all female characters are referred to by their
familial name.) remarries Vall. Before they can go on a vacation on
the Dwarma sector, Vall is called to investigate a gang of paratime
slave traders; Dalla goes along with him on the investigation. Her
skills as a psychic researcher and investigator are highly valuable
to the investigation, and she becomes a member of the Paratime
Dalla goes with Verkan to the kingdom of Hos-Hostigos in Lord
Kalvan of Otherwhen
, serving as a second pair of eyes and a
companion to Princess Rylla, who becomes Morrison's wife.
At the beginning of the series, Tortha Karf is a man entering
at 290; he is beginning to run
to fat and have gray hair.
Karf comes from a family of Paratime Police; his grandfather had
problems with the Spanish
on the Europo-American line. As a member of the
Paratime Police, Karf inadvertently picked up Benjamin Bathurst
, who was shot
by local authorities before he could be recovered. See "He Walked
Around The Horses" for the details of what happened to Benjamin
Bathurst from the viewpoint of the inhabitants of the timeline he
was transported to.
Karf owns the island Sicily
, including a
farm, on one Fifth Level timeline where goes for recreation and
where he plans to retire.
Deputy Sub-Chief of the Esaron Sector, discovered the Organization
inter temporal slave trading activities while on detached duty
working as a Guard Captain for Consolidated Outtime Foodstuffs
Company under the cover name Kiro Soran. Originally a field agent
he was working as a Guard Captain after a two year assignment on
the Fourth Level Kholghoor sector when he recognized the slaves
sold to his employer as being from Kholghoor because they were
speaking Kharanda, their native language. Realizing that the slaves
had been imported from another time line he reported the situation
and secured the scene. By the end of the story Time Crime
he was promoted to Deputy Sub-Chief for the Esaron Sector and he is
also mentioned in passing by Verkan Vall in Lord Kalvan of
Otherwhen as being very helpful in surveillance on the Kalvan
timeline and its nearest neighboring lines.
The Influence of Piper's Paratime on Other Art
Piper himself was not well known as an author. His suicide in 1964
prevented further works in the series from coming out after
Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen
. However, Ace Science Fiction
republished many of his works in the later 1980s, where they
influenced a new generation of readers. Roland J. Green
and John F.
wrote a sequel to Kalvan
, Great King's
. Carr also wrote Kalvan Kingmaker
, and is currently working on Queen
, a sequel to Siege
There are many memic similarities between Piper's Paratime and
Harry Turtledove's Crosstime Traffic
- The home timeline faces a crisis of resources until travel to
other timelines is established.
- The secret that there is a culture capable of traveling through
timelines is carefully kept.
- However, in Turtledove's universe, there is no Paratime Police;
the Crosstime Traffic Company is self-policing.
- Inhabitants of the local timelines who learn the secret are
taken back to the Home Timeline for resettlement, instead of mental
alteration or execution.
- Turtledove also notes that other timelines that have come close
to learning paratime travel on their own have had their work
- The home timeline trades manufactured goods for agricultural
goods or minerals in less advanced timelines; in Piper's universe,
several corporations operate plantations or mines outtime.
- These include the Outtime Trading Corporation, in Last
- Slavery across timelines is a serious crime, though a
potentially lucrative trade.
Other works influenced heavily by Piper's Paratime include the
trilogy by Jack
, and Michael Kurland
(first volume of the not-yet-continued