The Millions

Parallel Lives Lost: K Chess’s ‘Famous Men Who Never Lived’

In Ezra Sleight’s classic sci-fi novel The Pyronauts, the world ends in fire. Aliens in crystal spaceships arrive on Earth bearing peaceful solutions to humanity’s deepest crises: war, illness, racism, xenophobia. But the well-intentioned extraterrestrials bring along an unintended stowaway: a toxic parasite that destroys all plant life on earth. One by one, crops, flowers, and trees wither and die. Animals starve, and with them, humans. The scattered survivors resort to burning the infected landscape in hopes of killing the virus. The earth is left to smolder, charred black beyond recognition.

is often heralded as a masterwork, a mournful allegory for the dangers of colonialism or the nuclear age. Sleight’s home in New York has been doesn’t actually exist—at least not in this world. Ezra Sleight and are part of an alternate timeline, a parallel universe that split off from ours in the early years of the 20th century.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Millions

The Millions7 min read
Drifting Toward Wonder: The Millions Interviews Lia Purpura
The associative impulse confirms the deep systems holding us together even if we’re bent on ignoring or destroying those tethers. The post Drifting Toward Wonder: The Millions Interviews Lia Purpura appeared first on The Millions.
The Millions16 min read
Missives from Another World: Literature of Parallel Universes
Like a dream where unfamiliar rooms are discovered in one’s own house, the alternate history has a spooky quality to it, and the mere existence of such conjecture forces us to confront profound metaphysical questions. The post Missives from Another W
The Millions2 min read
Aspen Words Literary Prize Awarded to Tayari Jones
The Aspen Words Literary Prize was awarded yesterday to Tayari Jones for An American Marriage, at a ceremony in New York City. The prize, which operates out of the Aspen Institute, awards $35,000 annually to “an influential work of fiction that illum