Aix-en-Provence in southern France is known as the City of A Thousand Fountains. There really are a lot, and they are beautiful. Here is a sampling of the ones we saw in our brief visit.
I’ve really missed doing photo challenges, so I’m happy to join some fellow Weekly Photo Challenge alums in their Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. I probably won’t be able to participate every week, but I’m glad to be sharing new photos again. This time, I’m focusing on photos that I’ve taken on various trips to Europe.
Reading the wonderful and wild Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore a few months ago got me thinking about alternate dimensions–specifically, about their use in stories. The concept appears across a range of speculative fiction, including both sci-fi and fantasy stories, and across a variety of media. It can be an interesting way to explore the age-old question “What if?” as well as the idea that even the smallest events or decisions can change the course of lives.
So here’s my list of some favorite parallel universes in fiction. I wanted to tend more towards the idea of multiverses, so I haven’t included any stories where there are only two dimensions, such as Star Trek’s mirror universe, the world of Fauxlivia and Walternate in Fringe, and the Light/Dark worlds of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
The Flash (CW)
After scientist Barry Allen was gifted with super speed during an accident with Central City’s particle accelerator, he became the superhero known as the Flash. Barry can do some pretty crazy stuff with his speed powers, including traveling through time and opening portals into other dimensions. The breaches between dimensions weren’t originally intentional, more of a side effect of Barry trying to fix something else he’d done unintentionally. (This kind of stuff happens to Barry a lot.)
The Flash probably comes the closest on my list to a true multiverse idea. Barry Allen’s world is Earth One, the centerpoint or juncture of the multiverse. There are theoretically an infinite number of worlds comprising every possible existence (though about 50 are known in the show), each vibrating at a different frequency so they don’t normally interact.
Accordingly, some worlds have “doppelgangers” of our main characters; the Barry Allen of Earth Two, for example, is also a scientist but is not a meta-human and has no powers. There are also worlds where there is no Barry Allen.
This TV show was originally a spin-off of Arrow, and later crossed over with Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow as well. Together, the Arrowverse has been able to do some really fun stuff with dimensional travel, including an obligatory visit to a dimension where the Nazis won WWII.
A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
I wrote in praise of this series a little while back, and one of the things I liked about it is the world building. The main character, Kell, is a magician who can travel between worlds: there are four total, and each has a version of London (Black, White, Red, and Grey). In fact, each has a specific tavern in a specific spot in the city, which serves as a kind centerpoint, but that’s about where the similarity between the worlds ends. Our world is ostensibly that of “Grey” London, the home of Lila Bard, which is ruled by the Prince Regent (later George IV) and has no magic. Black London, however, was basically destroyed by magic, and White London still feels the effects of this, struggling to hold onto what power they can, which manifests in major societal and political upheavals.
Red London, Kell’s London, does still have magic, and Kell is their ambassador to White and Grey, being one of the ancient line of Antari, who can do blood magic to cross worlds. Antari are few and far between, and are distinguished by a single black-filled eye (the color black is closely associated with magic in general in this series). They draw magic seals with their blood, speak a phrase in the language of magic, and use a token from the other world to cross over (leaving us to wonder how the first Antari got their tokens, but that’s really not important to the story). They can also travel between two points in the same world, but when crossing worlds always travel to the same geographic point they left in the last world.
These four worlds are parallel in time, but not civilizations or events. Because so few people are able to travel between worlds, and transporting objects is forbidden, even the cultural exchange is extremely limited. There are no doppelgangers here, and while a world may die like Black London, there is no evidence that new ones are ever created.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
This series, sometimes thought of as the “anti-Narnia,” begins with hints of alternate dimensions in The Golden Compass, but it’s not until the second book, The Subtle Knife, that the idea begins to really be explored. This cosmos is also theoretically a multiverse, which concept the characters refer to as the Barnard-Stokes Theorem. Just as in ADSoM, the two main characters, Lyra and Will, come from two different universes.
There are several ways of crossing between universes, the most prominent being the titular Subtle Knife. Will becomes the owner of this double-edged blade, one side of which can cut a window between worlds. However, this power is not without price: the children eventually discover that each piece of inter-dimensional fabric that is cut off becomes a Spectre that menaces adults (kids are safe).
Several worlds are visited in the course of the story. Will’s world appears to be our world, and Lyra’s is relatively similar (they both even have an Oxford University). Some are completely different, such as the world of the mulefa, animals that have evolved to use wheels, or the land of the dead. The story does not present any doppelgangers, either because they don’t exist or because the chances of actually meeting one in the multiverse would be slim.
The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny
Nine Princes in Amber has one of my favorite openings of any novel ever: our protagonist wakes in a medical facility (presumably in our world) with no memory of who he is or how he came to be there, only the vague sense that he was injured and is now being kept incapacitated. He eventually remembers that he is Corwin, Prince of Amber, the one true world; all other worlds are simply shadows of Amber.
The royal family of Amber can manipulate the Shadows, essentially creating whole worlds where they can live like kings, or disappear into obscurity. They speak of “adding” and “subtracting” things as they travel through various realities on the way to Amber. With such mathematical language, it make sense that Amber turns out to be only one anchoring pole of reality, that of order; the world of Chaos is its opposite pole, with the Shadows existing between them. The royals also have a special set of cards, trumps with their own portraits, that allow them to communicate across worlds.
The parallel universes are the backdrop for a grand political struggle among the royal family, taking place over generations. Corwin in particular has spent a lot of time in the Shadows, but eventually makes his way back to Amber to fight for the crown. One interesting detail is that different universes can apparently have different laws of physics; some have different color skies, for example. Also, gunpowder does not ignite in Amber, which results in a lot of sword fighting in the books.
My favorite authors of Japanese manga are a group of 4 women collectively known as CLAMP. Over their prolific career they have produced dozens of stories, most of which crossover to form a loose universe. Nowhere is that so evident than in the two series XXXholic and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle (which directly crossover, but can be read separately). In the CLAMPverse, crossing between dimensions requires such great magical power that only few can do such a thing; one of these is Yuuko the Dimensional Witch, who runs a magical store where wishes can be granted for a price. A group of travelers comes to her asking to be given the power to journey between dimensions, not just once but many times (they all have their own reasons for this quest), and she gives them white Mokona.
What is Mokona exactly? “Mokona is Mokona!” the creature helpfully cries. Mokona (a version of character originally created for Magic Knight Rayearth) has the power to take the group between dimensions by kind of sucking them into a giant whirlwind in its mouth. It’s catchphrase when traveling is “Mokona Modoki mo doki doki!” which loosely means “Mokona is getting excited, too!”
The number of dimensions in the CLAMPverse is unknown, but it seems to be many, if not infinite. We see several dozen of the throughout the course of the story. We also meet versions of many, many characters found in CLAMP’s other works, most importantly Cardcaptor Sakura (my all-time favorite manga). Each version of the character we meet is different, living in under different circumstances, but they each have the same soul and therefore have many things in common, often having similar personalities, characteristics, preferences, and mannerisms. For example, Tomoyo (first seen as a schoolgirl in CCS), is a princess in one world and the president of a toy company in another, but is always polite and caring.
Honorable Mention: Sliders
I would include this 1990s TV show on my list, except that I haven’t seen enough of it to really count myself a fan. It follows the adventures of a group of travelers “sliding” between universes to try to get to back to their home dimension. The show also has a multiverse concept; because some universes are more technologically advanced than others, it also lets the show occasionally explore time travel-type scenarios as well.
If it’s November, that means it’s NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. I love participating in NaNo even though I rarely “win” by writing 50,000 words; it’s just a good excuse to make writing a priority for a month.
This month I’m working toward finishing two drafts I have started, one a YA folklore retelling Ash and Team(read some excerpts here) and one a fantasy adventure The Gladiator and the Goddess that was my first NaNo win.
This is my 6th year. I started in 2013, when I wrote not even 6,000 words. I finally won in 2016! I’ve also participated in Camp NaNo during April and July over the years (which I prefer because you have “cabins” and can set your own goals).
2. Are you a planner, pantser, or plantser?
A planner! I outline nearly everything I write, even blog posts. Of course, I don’t know everything ahead of time (there are always twists and surprises in the process), but I usually know what will happen in all the key scenes before I write. For me, the story comes first in my head, and then I interpret it onto the page in writing.
3. If you are a planner/plantser, what are the first story elements that you flesh out?
Whatever plot points happen to have come into my head. I guess I don’t really do it intentionally at first, I just kind of daydream about the story until I see some scenes and conversations taking shape.
4. NaNo Forums? Do you use them?
Nope. Time spent on the forums is time not spent writing.
5. Writing Buddies? Do you prefer to write socially or alone?
I generally like to be alone but around people; I write in Panera and libraries a lot. But I find being with other writers does help my productivity.
6. Do you diligently write 1,667 words a day, or do you write in spurts?
Definitely spurts. I don’t have time to dedicate every day, and I hate having to stop and start. Once I get going, I want to keep going.
7. Do you have a writing totem?
No, I didn’t know this was a thing. Maybe I’ll get one now!
8. Do you go to kick-off, write-in, or wrap-up parties?
Not typically. I did make an effort two years ago to break out of my comfort zone and attend some write-ins. It was really great for my productivity and word count, so hopefully I can find some near me again this year.
9. When writing, are you an analog (handwritten) or digital writer? Does the same apply to when you’re taking notes or brainstorming?
Almost all digital. Even my notes are in Google Docs files. I just like the ease of editing so much.
10. Share your NaNo username (if you feel comfortable doing so) so that others can connect with you on the NaNo site!
Meimei21 (feel free to add me as a writing buddy)
Anybody else writing this month? How’s it going so far? Feel free to participate in this tag!
Kiri and I will be back soon with our Star Wars coloring book. In the meantime, have a picture of the most famous dark elf ever.
In college I went through a summer where I read every Forgotten Realms book by R.A. Salvatore featuring his most famous creation, the drow Drizzt Do’Urden. I blame my husband for getting me hooked (he lent me all of them). You can clearly tell this is Drizzt because he is dual-wielding scimitars.
I haven’t kept up with the Drizzt books from the past 10 years or so, though Salvatore is still writing about him. I kind of lost interest after a dozen plus novels. But Drizzt still has a special place in my heart.
If you guys are looking for something spooky to watch this Halloween, check out The Frankenstein Chronicles on Netflix.
Sean Bean stars as John Marlott, a London investigator tracking down the origin of a disturbing creation: a corpse that is actually an amalgamation of multiple children. Does it have something to do with the Anatomy Act that the Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel, is trying to pass? Or with Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein and theories of galvanism? The show has wonderful atmosphere and suspense. I really liked the twists in the first season, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in the second season, which is now available.
The science of the show is pretty hand-wavey, but that’s forgivable given the show’s strengths. It does incorporate several real historical figures and events, including Peel, Shelley, and William Blake. It is set about ten years after the publication of Frankenstein, which was a great choice because not only can we see the impact of the novel on society, but it also gives the show a more steampunk vibes, being closer to the Victorian era than the Regency.
The show is clearly inspired by Frankenstein itself, and I think this interpretation is preferable to another straight adaptation of the novel. It gives a great perspective on the monster! When Marlott reads the novel in the show, it inspired me to finally read the classic story, which is very different than the popular conception of it.
Here are some Frankenstein Facts:
This year is the 200th anniversary of its publication.
Mary Shelley was only 18 when she conceived of the idea for the novel, after a suggestion by the poet Byron that he, Mary, and her future husband poet Percy Bysshe Shelley each write a ghost story as a kind of party game.
It is an epistolary novel, written as a series of letters and journal entries.
Its subtitle is “The Modern Prometheus,” after the Titan that helped create man, then gave them fire in defiance of Zeus (only to be sentenced to an eternity of solitary torment).
It was ranked #43 on the Great American Read list.
Popular conception of the story comes from the Universal Pictures 1930s series of movies starring Boris Karloff as the monster, as well as the later Hammer Films series of movies starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
It is considered one of the progenitors of the science fiction genre.
As a novel, I found Frankenstein mildly underwhelming. I’m not sold on the framing narrative involving an Arctic explorer writing letters home to his sister, and the prose lacks the wit of my Regency favorite Jane Austen. However, as a forerunner to modern sci-fi, its importance cannot be overstated. At its heart, science fiction is not about spaceships and plagues, but about society. Frankenstein deals with scientific inquiry, or more specifically how far it should go. Just because we are capable of doing something, should it be done? Is it ever okay to “play God?”