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Leinster, Murray – “The Life-Work of Professor Muntz” (1949)

07/10/2012

A parallel-universes story, which Bleiler and Dikty give Leinster credit for inventing. The Professor of the title is deceased when the story opens, and we are reminded over and over that normally there would be no intersections between his life and that of the meaty, hairy, lowly truck driver protagonist. Mr. Grebb, however, has moved into the building recently vacated by the good professor, and his landlady asks him to do something with the machine left in the basement. He does and is transported to a slightly different universe where Muntz successfully dodged the truck that did him in in the original world, although Grebb continues to receive newspapers from the old world so that the reader can track what’s different. This doesn’t make any sense in the context of the story, though. Much is made of the fact that if Grebb were a smarter man he could play this situation to his advantage – “Mr. Grebb’s brain was not analytical. When something happened which he did not understand, he assumed aggrievedly that somebody was acting smart.” The obligatory surprise ending is that Grebb was driving the truck that killed/did not kill Muntz.

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