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In dark fantasy or horror the parallel world is often a hiding place for unpleasant things, and often the protagonist is forced to confront effects of this other world leaking into his own, as in most of the work of H. Lovecraft and the Doom computer game series, or Warhammer 40K miniature and computer games.
In such stories, the nature of this other reality is often left mysterious, known only by its effect on our own world.
This is found in folklore: King Herla visited Fairy and returned three centuries later; although only some of his men crumbled to dust on dismounting, Herla and his men who did not dismount were trapped on horseback, this being one folkloric account of the origin of the Wild Hunt. The division between science fiction and fantasy becomes fuzzier than usual when dealing with stories that explicitly leave the universe we are familiar with, especially when our familiar universe is portrayed as a subset of a multiverse.
Picking a genre becomes less a matter of setting, and more a matter of theme and emphasis; the parts of the story the author wishes to explain and how they are explained.
While the terms "parallel universe" and "alternative reality" are generally synonymous and can be used interchangeably in most cases, there is sometimes an additional connotation implied with the term "alternative reality" that implies that the reality is a variant of our own.
There are many examples where authors have explicitly created additional spatial dimensions for their characters to travel in, to reach parallel universes.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.Heaven, Hell, Olympus, and Valhalla are all "alternative universes" different from the familiar material realm.Plato reflected deeply on the parallel realities, resulting in Platonism, in which the upper reality is perfect while the lower earthly reality is an imperfect shadow of the heavenly. Modern fantasy often presents the concept as a series of planes of existence where the laws of nature differ, allowing magical phenomena of some sort on some planes.