Well… as a lot of you have probably noticed my systematic series of educational world building articles have been somewhat co-opted by me talking about issues that arise in the new world that I’m currently building. Which, if you know me at all, really isn’t surprising. I would promise to get back to the system eventually, but I have no idea if that will ever happen. At this point, I’m not sure I even remember what my system looked like. However, I do hope that you enjoy/learn from my discussion of various issues that I’m currently encountering. So… multiverse.
If you’re not familiar with the concept a multiverse is the idea of multiple universes (sometimes called plains, realities, or dimensions – fiction writers are not generally know for using technical jargon correctly) that are parallel with one another, and between which a certain amount of crossover can be obtained. To my understanding the concept originates from a philosophical notion (I don’t know whose) that every choice creates two or more possible consequences, both of which could and therefore must exist. However, more than one direct consequence of the choice cannot exist in any given universe, so another universe must be created for the other choice to exist (for instance, I had the choice to either wear socks or not wear socks, only one option is possible in this universe, but in some other universe I chose to wear socks). There is a lot of variety when it comes to multiple universe theories, and this is only one (the most prevalent with which I am familiar). The concept of parallel realities has been supported by a good amount of scientific work (here’s an article from Scientific American that explains it much better than I can).
However, it is a concept that has existed in the realm of fantasy and science fiction for a long time, and in many ways. If you want to look at some great examples of the science side of multiverse in fiction read Stephen Ames Berry’s Biofab Series (Biofab War, The Battle for Terra Two, The AI War, and Final Assault), or watch Sliders or the anime Noein. However, if you want to look at the less sciency side of fictional multiverses, the world of the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game (and the thousands of associated novels) has one of the best developed multiverses in fiction. I certainly wouldn’t argue that it is the best writing in fiction, but the background writing behind D&D’s (especially editions 2.0-3.5) multiverse is excellent.
So, how does one go about creating a multiverse? Well, the first question to ask is why you want a multiverse in the first place. For example, Noein centers around the science and philosophy of parallel universes, as does Sliders. Both shows exist to explore the concept of the multiverse (though I think Noein does this more effectively than Sliders). Berry’s Biofab series appears to include a multiverse because it’s a cool notion to play with, but his story doesn’t strictly require a multiverse (in that a very, very similar story could effectively be told in a single universe). D&D, on the other hand, avoids the science behind the multiverse entirely and creates its multiverse based around religious and ethical conceptions of existence. Thus, in the former (science fiction) series the multiverse is essentially infinite (a universe exists for every choice ever made… you try doing the math), while the D&D multiverse (while there is some notion of potential infinity) has a finite number of realities (though some of those realities are self-contained infinities). Some of Glen Cook’s writing (I’m avoiding spoilers here) contains a multiverse concept that bridges the gap between these two. While Cook’s multiverse is certainly not a scientifically accurate multiverse, it is not based on strict religious or ethical considerations either. It is simply a group of realities that intersect one another.
So, ask yourself: why do I want to include multiple realities? Do you just want to have fun with the idea? Do you want to explore the science behind it? Is there a specific point for your multiverse, or a specific need that it has to fill? These basic questions will help you decide if you should create a multiverse (seriously… your probably starting to get an idea of how much work goes into making one world… do you really want to make a dozen?), and if you do, what kind of multiverse you want to create. For instance, in the world of Kalagrosh I am including a limited multiverse (it’s not intended to be infinite, and perhaps not even potentially infinite). I have a specific reason for doing so (I’m not sharing yet… spoilers), and that reason requires at least two realities. At the moment I’m not sure how many worlds will be in my multiverse (three or four I think… maybe more), but that will come in time. I’m also not going to try to create all of the different worlds in advance. I know of three worlds that I have to have at the moment, others will come as they are needed until the multiverse is complete. And of course, this begs the question: how do I know when it’s complete? That… is something I will talk about in another blog post.