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Oct 22, 2016

Yōd, Virginia


The Asimov Reality
In another Reality, this blog post might have been titled "Yōd, Virginia and Asimov" or maybe Xista, Yōd, Zeta (XYZ). Yōd is my most recently "acquired" collaborator. I've been trying to make use of Yōd as a source of information about the First Reality, but she keeps pushing me back towards investigation of the Asimov Reality. Today, during a discussion of Deep Time, I mentioned to Yōd that Angela Fersoni had named (here) one of Isaac Asimov's research collaborators in the Asimov Reality: Virginia Gerstenfeld.

Final Reality
Angela's account of the life of Asimov skipped over the events of the years 1935 to 1953. We must not forget that the analogue of Asimov led a very different life in the "Asimov Reality" than what history recorded here in our timeline of the Final Reality. In many ways, the development of civilization in our Reality was delayed and corrupted, at least as compared to the course of events the preceding three Realities.

According to Yōd, all of Western Civilization was more enlightened in the Asimov Reality than here in our world. As a specific example, there was a network of great universities in the New York City of the Asimov Reality. According to Yōd, unlike the situation for the Ekcolir Reality, the location of New York City was the same in the Asimov Reality and here in the Final Reality. Even the part of New York known as Brooklyn was quite similar. The analogue of Isaac Asimov in the "Asimov Reality" had no difficulty getting a first rate medical education.

Angela's Exit
Reality According to Yōd
Yōd told me, "Angela's story was quite incomplete."

I would have preferred to turn the discussion back towards events in the First Reality, but Yōd is a force of nature that I can rarely deflect from her path. I asked, "Does it matter? Didn't the Reality that Angela described, in which Asimov studied the human brain, get erased?"

Yōd tipped her head in a delicate nod, but noted, "Nothing in Time is ever completely erased. At the very least, there is a record of the entire Asimov Reality in the Sedronic Domain. Anyhow, Angela failed to mention how Virginia and Isaac first met."

I thought of Virginia as a minor player in a lost Reality, so I simply shrugged. "Virginia was just one of many researchers in the laboratory of Janet Asimov."

In the Ekcolir Reality (see also)
Original cover art by Edward Valigursky
"Ah, but Xista had worked long and hard to position Virginia in Janet's lab at the correct time." Yōd jumped out of her chair and began to pace back and forth across the floor. "Towards that end, Xista took pains to assure that Isaac and Virginia met in 1937."

I was surprised by this revelation, having imagined that the "Virginia" in Angela's story was much younger than Asimov; a research scientist of the next generation after Asimov's. I asked, "How is that possible? Virginia would have been just a child, about ten years old."

Yōd laughed at my ignorance. Only later did Zeta let me in on the joke. "No, actually Virginia was older than Asimov and in the Asimov Reality she graduated with her B.S. in chemistry a year before Asimov did. They crossed paths when Virginia presented the results of her senior research project at a symposium at Columbia University, just before she graduated from NYU."

I complained, "But if she graduated in 1937.... no, that's not right." The years would not align in my mind. "Why didn't she go to graduate school until.... much later?"

Yōd explained, "Ten years later. She had a very successful mini-career as an industrial chemist upon graduating, working at a company called Nanopore. She was involved in the development of nanopore filters and owned a fortune in Nanopore stock by 1947."
In the Asimov Reality: the Pore Wars.

I could only repeat foolishly, "Nanopore?"

Zeta had been listening to us an she finally joined the conversation. "Nanopore was the first nanotechnology company in the Asimov Reality. They worked out an inexpensive process for manufacturing nanopore filters that allowed for efficient production of fresh water from sea water. Virginia's ten years at Nanopore is only relevant in that it explains her wealth. Xista, knowing the future and guiding Virginia through life, was able to make Virginia a very wealthy woman."

I mumbled, "I begin to understand."

Zeta continued, "What Yōd has not bothered to tell you is that here in the Final Reality, Virginia led a quite different life and became the wife of Robert Heinlein."

Recognition of the name Virginia Gerstenfeld finally came to me. "Wait, now. Are you going to tell me that Asimov, Virginia and Heinlein all met in the1930s of the Asimov Reality?

Yōd shook her head. "Don't be silly. In that Reality, Heinlein was an obscure politician in the middle of the continent."

I looked at Zeta with suspicion and asked, "How long have you know all of this?"

Zeta gave me a strained grin, "Everything I know about this, I've learned from my sources in the Hierion Domain during just the past few minutes."

I turned back to Yōd and asked, "So what happened when Asimov and Virginia met in 1937?"

"Well, remember, Virginia was 21, leaving college and moving on to her job at Nanopore corporation. Asimov was a 17-year-old kid." Yōd winked at Zeta. "Until he met Virginia, Asimov had been guided towards his future career by Maghy, acting through the agency of the man, a family friend, who Asimov called his uncle."

I exclaimed, "Ah, the mysterious Uncle Boris! Angela would only tell me his name. So, Boris was one of Maghy's cover identities?"

Zeta explained, "As part of his work on Earth, Maghy could take control of the behavior of people like Boris. That control lasted for days, weeks, or years, as in the case of Boris; whatever was needed to shape Asimov's life and keep him moving towards a career in biomedical science."

One of my deepest fears is that I have been subjected to that kind of mind control. I had to ask, "To what extent was Asimov's mind directly shaped and guided by Maghy?"

Yōd slowly shook her head. "No. That's a misguided question. Think it through. The Asimov Reality was in the middle of the Time War. All outside influences on Asimov had to be subtle and indirect if there was to be any chance of avoiding detection by the Overseers of Earth."

My thoughts were bubbling with fascination for the revelation that there was an Asimov-Heinlein connection in the Asimov Reality. Puzzled, I mused, "I thought that both the Foundation Reality and the Asimov Reality were low points for science fiction in Deep Time."

"Well, that is true," Yōd shrugged. "In the Asimov Reality, Asimov was a scientist, Heinlein a politician. Neither of them ever wrote a science fiction story in that Reality."

"Ah, I begin to understand." I tried to guess the role of Virginia in the Asimov Reality. "So, Virginia was not a link between Asimov and Heinlein."

Yōd asked, "Do you recall the search parameters that Svahr provided to Maghy at the start of his mission? He was forced to limit his search to Earthlings born after 1917."

Zeta pressed the point, "Why 1917?"

During our discussion, I was seated at my desk with my computer nearby. I did a quick check and discovered that Virginia had been born in 1916. A strange thought popped into my head. "Are you telling me that Virginia could have become the focal point Svahr's intervention in the 20th century?"

Yōd chuckled at my dismay. "Svahr was systematically working her way through the 20th century, searching for good ways to accelerate Earthly technology without attracting the attention of Overseers. Before Maghy's intervention was tried, an intervention that was built around Virginia had already been studied and eliminated from contention." Yōd finally stopped her moving around the room and returned to her seat.

Zeta said to Yōd, "But Svahr had discovered a powerful temporal linkage between Asimov and Virginia."

Yōd was sitting in a chair across the room, her hands folded in her lap. She gazed down at her hands and spoke quietly. "That was inevitable. Virginia and Isaac shared a genetic pattern that made them almost free of influence from their zeptite endosymbionts. They were among a handful of Earthlings who were the most free to make new scientific advances. Such people tend to attract one another. In 1937, when Asimov saw Virginia presenting her research results, he felt an immediate intellectual connection to her."

Zeta added, "And of course, it was Xista, working secretly behind the scenes, who had made sure that Virginia and Isaac would meet."

I asked, "What was Maghy doing at this time?"

Yōd replied, "During the1930s, Maghy was busy working through another Earthling named Natasha Schachner, who, along with the biochemist Arthur Zagat, was among the most influential teachers that Asimov had during that time."

"Wait. Those names seem familiar." I turned back to my computer, but Zeta saved me from having to figure out the spellings and do a search.

Zeta said, "Here in the Final Reality, Schachner and Zagat had an important influence on Asimov as a story writer. In the Asimov Reality, they helped shape Asimov as a scientist."

Intrigued by the idea of both Maghy and Xista at work in the 1930s on Earth, I made a faulty assumption. "So, Maghy had to be kept ignorant of the future, but Xista could step in as needed make corrections to Maghy's plans."

Zeta shook her head. "Virginia was a danger. Her brilliance was dazzling. Svahr was careful to use Virginia as a decoy, someone who would attract the attention of the Overseers. The original plan that had been devised by Svahr and Xista was to let Virginia 'take the fall', allowing Maghy to escape from Earth and return to Tar'tron."

"I still don't understand why so much could be done by means of altering the behavior of Earthlings such as Virginia, but poor Maghy had to actually actually live as an Earthling for many years."

Yōd explained, "Svahr wanted the Overseers to believe that all interventions were carried out by physically planting Interventionist agents like Maghy on Earth."

Zeta smiled, producing a forced and painful grin. "Svahr tried to hide the fact that Interventionist agents, working from the safety of the Hierion Domain, could so easily influence the thoughts and behavior of Earthlings like Virginia."

"The mysterious Svahr." I tried to order my thoughts around what little I knew of Svahr. "In the end, all of Svahr's efforts to change Earth seem to have been useless."

Gohrlay's Brain
Yōd laughed at my naivete. "Svahr worked hard to create that illusion. She arranged for dramatic Reality Changes that would be reversed by the Overseers. Svahr was part of a larger program by which R. Gohrlay made subtle adjustments to the shape of the Asimov Reality. With folks like Svahr charging up and down the timeline, creating chaos and distractions, the Overseers were too busy to even notice the more subtle changes that Gohrlay made to Time."

I suspected that Yōd was telling me about Virginia and Natasha in the Asimov Reality as part of an attempt to distract me from my current obsession, my investigation of events in the First Reality. I suggested, "Yōd, you should write down the story of Virginia and Natasha. The story of their interactions with Asimov would make a nice sequel to Angela's tale."

Next: an end of October ghost tale
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