Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Alternate Realities by accident and by design

Alternate realities are part of both science fiction and fantasy. but they also happen, both accidental and by design, in fan fiction. Ultimately, fan fiction always is a bit of an alternate reality of existing books, movies, TV series, games, or whatever. Fans take the characters and the worlds and use them to tell stories they would want to see told with them.

Accidental alternate realities tend to happen in series, no matter whether they are novel, movie, or TV series. The series is not finished, but people are already writing fan fiction. They will try to anticipate future developments and usually they are wrong. For a lot of fan fiction in that area, you can easily tell how much of the series was out by the time the fan fiction in question was designed.
Alternate realities by design are anything but rare as well. ‘What if’ is an interesting question for stories. Taking one aspect of a world and changing it will lead to alternate versions of that world. “Star Trek” did it in the series itself, created an ‘evil’ and much more aggressive variety of the universe. “Buffy” also had an episode with a different reality. Quite some series have done Christmas specials and suchlike in which a main character wonders what the world would be like, if they had never been born (off-handed I can say “Married … with Children” and “Fairy Odd-Parents” had such an episode). “Futurama” did a great episode with an alternate world in a cardboard box. And for every ‘official’ alternate world, fans have been doing a hundred or more.

A Black Comedy” is a fan fiction that incorporates both. From the story told of the ‘normal’ timeline, it’s obvious that the author has read novels 1 to 6 of the Harry Potter series. Everything that happens after the end of book six differs from the novels, so it’s pretty safe to say the story was plotted and possibly written before book 7 came out. But then, at the age of 25, Harry more or less accidentally also falls through the Veil at the Ministry (as Sirius Black has done at the end of book five) and finds himself in an alternate timeline. Sirius arrived there, too, but only days before Harry, after being trapped between realities for ten years. Stories with alternate realities in connection with the Veil are not uncommon, because there is never any explanation for what happens to people who fall through it. Do they really die? Do they stay behind it, waiting for a chance to go back? Or could it be a gateway to another dimension?
In the story, that is well written, rather long, and an interesting read, both Harry and Sirius land in the same timeline, in which their counterparts have been dead for 25 years. On the fateful night of Halloween 1981, when Harry’s parents died in the novels, Harry was alone with his godfather, who fought valiantly, but was killed. As was baby Harry. So Sirius and Harry pose as members of the Black family and start wreaking havoc with things (making money by robbing Death Eaters, for example). The alternate reality has no Chosen One; Harry died at the age of one, Neville disappeared (and died) at the age of six. A mysterious wizard in black is the main opposition for Voldemort, who has turned the Death Eaters into some sort of terrorists instead of an army. There is quite a host of new characters, too. And old characters with a new background. James and Lily Potter lived and have two more children, Sarah and James Jr. Tonks’ parents died when she was little and Remus Lupin raised her. Ginny, never pining for a saviour, has become a tough bartender who won the Hog’s Head off Aberfourth Dumbledore (who also exists in the novels) in a drinking contest. The Ginny of Harry’s old world died in her sixth year and has been following Harry ever since, even into the new timeline. There’s a lot of ‘what if’ in the story and it works out quite nicely.

Thinking up and writing alternate realities is quite fun and a basic essence of fan fiction, anyway.

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