‘Oh?’ asked the dog, sounding rather withering. ‘Listen, Fitz. Learn to think of all these things as stories. And stories can’t contradict each other because, in the end, they’re all made up. Nothing can take precedence then. All right?’
‘I’m not sure I know what you’re on about.’
‘Well, you reckon the world you live in takes precedence over the world you’re reading about. So you’ve established a hierarchy, yeah?’
‘Of course! I’d be out of my tree not to!’
The dog was looking sceptical again. He gave a kind of shrug and started nibbling the herbs once more. ‘Maybe. But think how happy you might be if you didn’t have to make those choices about what you should invest belief in. Here in the Obverse you can think of it all as a kind of fugue.’
‘Hmm,’ said the dog, chewing. ‘No contradictions anymore. Every story holding equal sway. It means there are always alternatives. And it means no natural ending.’
Fitz took his last drag on his cigarette and ground it out on the window sill.
‘I don’t believe it.’
‘No?’ asked the dog.
‘No. One reality has to be more valid than the other. It has to be realer.’
The little dog laughed and said, ‘Well… what if you found out that the one you’re in was the less real one? What if you found out that you yourself are less than real?’
Fitz laughed and looked at the moon.
‘You’re one hell of a dog. Do you know that?’
‘Oh, yes,’ said Canine primly.
Doctor Who: The Blue Angel by Paul Magrs and Jeremy Hoad
So we’ve finally come pretty much to the end of the hyperposts. I’ve created a page, which is linked from the sidebar as well as here, where I’ve linked all these posts, plus a bibliography of sorts and links to the responses I’ve had. If anyone wants to do a response post to these, as a couple of people have said they will, I’ll link it from there. There are quite a few bits I’ve not got to and won’t now – the plot of my fanfic novel (which I think I’ve managed to turn into a non-fanfic novel in my head), where The Flash fits into all of this, and I wanted to do more about Doctor Who, as well as wanting to bring in the Beach Boys’ Smile into the discussion.
Basically, I wanted to do a book. But it’d be a book *nobody* would read, so these posts were self-defeating from the start.
Maybe I’ll write those posts at some point in the future, but there was the severe danger that if I didn’t keep to some sort of structure this would go on forever, so for now I’m declaring this series closed.
So what was the point?
Well, there were many, as the responses I’ve had show – not having a single point was, among other things, one of the points. But I suppose the point that started this is the idea of ‘canon’ and ‘continuity’.
A lack of agreement among creators about what stories ‘count’ can, as Millennium pointed out, lead to the kind of confusion that happened with Doctor Who in the late 90s/early 2000s, where even attempts to deal with it like the ‘fugue’ quoted above (very much the Doctor Who equivalent of Hypertime, and possibly a better name, being a pun on ‘canon’ in case you hadn’t noticed) immediately became ‘canon’ and had ‘rules’ placed around them – just another way for one group to assert dominance over another.
Because the need for a single, linear, tidy continuity for your fiction to take place in is not only unrealistic and unscientific – the world doesn’t work like that – and not only *no fun at all* – why tie yourself down to one story when you can have more – it also seems to me to come from a profoundly illiberal viewpoint.
The craving for order, for simplicity, to get everything in little boxes, is a very, very, very dangerous one, because sometimes – often – the things you want to put in those little boxes are people, and then you have to cut parts off them to fit, and saying sorry afterward doesn’t really help…
I’m not saying that retconning away Superman’s time as Superboy, or not counting both versions of Shada, are motivated by fascism – that would be a reductio ad absurdem of my argument. What I *AM* saying is that the world itself is a miraculous, complex, multiplex place, and none of us little monkeys really have a clue how it really works. We should expect nothing less from the stories we tell each other – be they stories about Superman, or stories about how the economy responds to an increase in lending to the banks.
Unless one of you has a working model of the entire universe in your head that you’ve not told me about (if you do, can I have a look?) then the chances are you’re as confused, bemused and befuddled by the world around you as I am. Stories are one of the tools we have for making sense of the universe, and I at least want as many of those tools as I can have. Throwing away stories – for any other reason than ‘it’s not a good story’ – seems a real waste to me.
The universe, as far as I can tell from quantum physics, keeps its options open – there doesn’t appear to be one singular solid universe with only one option. Species that diversify survive better than those that don’t. And in politics, keeping your options open works better than closing them off. Being able to respond to new possibilities is, as far as I can tell, as good a definition of ‘intelligence’ as there is.
So don’t let the bullies who want to say a story is ‘non-canonical’ and less ‘real’ influence your thinking, any more than you should let the bullies who want you to have an ID card and be assumed to be a child molester unless proven guilty influence you. And if you do start wondering if the story you’re reading is canon, just say to yourself:
This is an imaginary story… AREN’T THEY ALL?