Saturday, June 28, 2014

Alternate Universes for Writers

Alternate Universes are popular concepts in science fiction. Generally they are used to create settings in which some pivotal historical event turned out differently, such as the US not entering WWII and Hitler winning, or Europe intervening in the Civil War so that it’s still going on in a more modern world.

I was thinking of an alternate world in which fictional novels were never invented. The population would be generally literate but the material available for reading would be nonfiction primarily, with some mythological material. There’d be no tradition of printed fiction. And science would be just starting to get underway.

Say I got transported to that world. I started thinking about what I’d do if I wanted to establish a tradition of fiction writing in this universe.  Most of what I have written is clearly later in our Earth’s tradition. But there are many great earlier stories in our own tradition that I’ve often wondered how I might rewrite them if I’d come up with those ideas first. In this alternate universe none of those ideas would be done, so I’d have my chance. Here’s what I was imagining last night that I’d write in this alternate world. What do you think? Which books would you write?

1. War of the Worlds
2.  Dracula
3.  Frankenstein
4.  Wolfman
5.  The Invisible Man
6.  Journey to the Center of the Earth
7.  Lord of the Flies
8.  The Mummy Returns
9.  The Living Dead
10. From Earth to the Moon



Randy Johnson said...

1: Dune
2: Stranger In A Strange Land
3: A Boy and His Dog
4: The Fountains of Paradise
5: I, Robot

and probably for the boys, the Tom Swift books.

Not hard to see the early influences on my reading, eh?

Ty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ty said...

That would be a great idea for a novel, a writer from our world somehow transported into this other universe, then he or she has plans to make.

As for what I, personally, would write? A lot would depend upon the time period in which I arrived? Modern day, 19th Century, some period in the 20th? And I would have to spend a little time getting used to the society at large. For instance, does a lack of fictional novels also mean there are no movies other than documentaries? Does this mean all video games are educational? What about music, as telling stories within music has been around a long while (though it's not so common nowadays, at least within popular music)?

Trying to take all those things into account, and depending upon variables, I might try to introduce a variety of different story types. I'd try to write at least one novel in the vein of Dickens, probably Jane Austen as well, and Alexandre Dumas, maybe Le Fanu, in order to give a wider variety of fiction types to show what can be done. After that, I'd probably go a little more modern and focus on H.G. Wells, George Orwell, John Steinbeck, Louis L'Amour, Robert Howard, maybe Lovecraft or even Hemingway or Raymond Chandler. Again, to cover many different styles and genres.

Once all that was done, I'd turn to what we consider pretty modern novelists, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Tom Clancy, Ed McBain, maybe even Nicholas Sparks or Heinlein.

If I appeared in a time earlier than the 19th Century, I would probably focus upon John Milton's works, plus the various Arthurian legends, Shakespeare, and maybe some Icelandic sagas or something along the lines of Japan's "Forty-Seven Ronin."

And somewhere in the mix I would have to try and introduce the spaghetti western, George Romero, John Carpenter, Hitchcock, as well as something akin to Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, and maybe something like Star Trek and/or Star Wars.

Let me point out I'm not suggesting I could pull all this off with any degree of talent, just that these are various approaches I would try to take when introducing fiction to this other world. Also, I'm probably leaving out a lot of things, but those are the ones that jumped to mind.

Charles Gramlich said...

Randy, I was considering Dune too. I was remarking to Lana the other night that I wished I could write a masterpiece like Dune.

Ty, I was thinking of the Spaghetti westerns, and Star trek particularly. These would be in my second ten. I figure I'd have a long career. I don't think I could do a Dickens tale justice.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I would write THE LOTTERY.

Ron Scheer said...

I have been intending to bring up a subject like this when I write a post about the radio Gunsmoke series. Storytelling itself would have to exist in some way for introduction of any of the titles you mention. Otherwise they would not make much sense to readers.

Consider our own oral traditions and how they eventually became the ancestor of written fiction to be read. You'd probably want to approximate the way Homer tells the Odyssey to reach an audience that had never read fiction before.

Brian Miller said...

hmmm...the books i would invent first would most likely be sci fi and fantasy...easy escapism from being stuck in nonfiction....

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Fascinating idea for a novel itself. I'd rewrite The Sword of Shannara followed by LOTR. (Would have to build to the latter.)

Charles Gramlich said...

Patti, good one.

Ron, as long as there is mythology there is something akin to story telling. You're right, though, there would have to be a lot of thought put into this.

Brian, those are the books that immediately occurred to me.

Alex, yes, I agree. It would take some serious thought.

Cloudia said...

Cool choices

ALOHA from Honolulu
=^..^= <3

Rick Robinson said...

Charles, I think the fiction in your proposed world would come out of children's stories, made up and told to them to teach morals, think of Aesop's fables. That leads to talking animal stories, then novels and you wind up with Animal Farm, Watership Down, and so on. Once humans enter the tales, fiction takes off.

Fiction novels about migration, both animal and human (Little House books) would be written.

War is non-fiction, but there would be fiction novels written about the combatants and those left behind. There would be novels about love, as always. Love distorts the way people see the world, and so it is fictionalized.

And there would be novels dealing with issues embedded in any religions in your world, fictionalized for emphasis or insight.

If I'm in this sideworld you suggest, I'd want to write books about the dreams I had when I looked at the night sky. The kind of fiction created by Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Arthur C. Clarke, as well as the fantasy worlds created by Fritz Leiber, specifically Lankmar.

Snowbrush said...

The Yearling, The Octopus, Babbitt, Main Street, The Little Prince, The Velveteen Rabbit, Sister Carrie, The Bulwark, and The Silver Fleece, are the first ten that come to mind.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, thankee.

Richard, I'd definitely want to include Sword and planet worlds down the line. Watership down is another great choice.

Some good ones there. Particularly the Velveteen rabbit.

BernardL said...

The only problem with such a notion is why this alternate universe would not have fiction. The only answer would be a lack of imagination. Without a population with some percentage with imagination, that would be a very tough market. :)

Ty said...

I just remembered, a few years back Ricky Gervais did a movie called "The Invention of Lying" with a similar topic. It was about a man who lived in a world in which everything everyone said was not a lie (even brutally so), then one day he had an epiphany of sorts and realized he could tell a non-truth. The focus wasn't upon literature, but got around to religion, and romance to a lesser extent, but I seem to recall not hating the film. Also, I seem to recall the Gervais character being a screenwriter, and the film industry was all about educational materials.

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernard, you said it. I have to postulate a world that is just on the brink of discovering the wonders of imagination. :)

Ty, I haven't seen that movie. I can see it as a thought experiment, kind of like mine. Definitely interesting food for thought.

Rachel V. Olivier said...

I think you should write a story based in that alternate universe, that's what I think.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, I've always been fascinated by MOBY DICK since I read it in school. I recall picturing myself as the great whale rather than as Captain Ahab and the things I could do out at sea. It'd be fun writing that one.

Charles Gramlich said...

Rachel, I need more writing time. :)

Prashant, that one could use some reworking in a modern context!

Riot Kitty said...

I think I'd still want to come up with something different. Maybe the first erotica ;)

Charles Gramlich said...

Riot kitty, that would be pushing the envelope! But would probably be popular. If you weren't burned at the stake.

Erik Donald France said...

So many variables ~ mind blown ~ Iggy Pop's face appears over the hill, and his holograph murmurs in flat-thwacked Michigan accent: 'I stumble into town / just like a scared cow / visions of swastikas in my head / and plans for every one . . .'

Victorian Barbarian said...

My list would start with "Tarzan of the Apes" and "The Return of Tarzan" (in my opinion one long story). Then something along the lines of Homer, Vergil, or "Gone With The Wind," except about whatever was that world/society's equivalent war.