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Thus, another common term for a parallel universe is "another dimension", stemming from the idea that if the 4th dimension is time, the 5th dimension - a direction at a right angle to the fourth - are alternate realities.
A parallel universe is a hypothetical self-contained reality co-existing with one's own.
A specific group of parallel universes are called a "multiverse", although this term can also be used to describe the possible parallel universes that constitute reality.
Sometimes the parallel universe bears no historical relationship to any other world; instead, the laws of nature are simply different from those in our own, as in the novel Raft by Stephen Baxter, which posits a reality where the gravitational constant is much larger than in our universe.
(Note, however, that Baxter explains later in Vacuum Diagrams that the protagonists in Raft are descended from people who came from the Xeelee Sequence universe.) One motif is that the way time flows in a parallel universe may be very different, so that a character returning to one might find the time passed very differently for those he left behind. Lewis made use of this in The Chronicles of Narnia; indeed, a character points out to two skeptics that there is no need for the time between the worlds to match up, but it would be very odd for the girl who claims to have visited a parallel universe to have dreamed up such a different time flow - from their perspective, the girl had only been gone for a few minutes though she was in Narnia for hours, and if she was making it up surely she would have spent a while longer hiding than a few minutes.
A universe where the very laws of nature are different – for example, one in which there are no Laws of Motion – would in general count as a parallel universe but not an alternative reality and a concept between both fantasy world and earth.
The actual quantum-mechanical hypothesis of parallel universes is "universes that are separated from each other by a single quantum event." Fantasy has long borrowed an idea of "another world" from myth, legend and religion.
In other cases, in both fantasy and science fiction, a parallel universe is a single other material reality, and its co-existence with ours is a rationale to bring a protagonist from the author's reality into the fantasy's reality, such as in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. Lewis or even the beyond-the-reflection travel in the two main works of Lewis Carroll.
Or this single other reality can invade our own, as when Margaret Cavendish's English heroine sends submarines and "birdmen" armed with "fire stones" back through the portal from The Blazing World to Earth and wreaks havoc on England's enemies.
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