Does all fiction exist in one alternate reality? #fiction #writing #reading

I was reading the latest issue of The New Yorker when I came upon an intriguing point. The writer of one article referred to fiction as a sort of parallel reality. Those of us who create fiction develop a world that’s alternate to the one we perceive as real. It’s difficult to process two pieces of fiction at the same time, so at any given moment I can only subject myself to one form of this alternate reality. The length of time that I spend in the imagined world of this fiction (in other words, the length of time it takes to read a book or watch a movie) is not only a measure of time in that world but the length of time I’m taking myself from my own.

If I was to take the stance that reality is only what I am able to perceive through my senses, where does that leave fiction, then? Even if we all agree to this definition of reality, we still have a concept of “reality” in a more general sense; that which is the real world all around us. If fiction is another such reality, then all of the different stories could also be grouped together in such a general concept of “reality.” Does this suggest, then, that all fiction is one reality? Does this mean that all fiction takes place in the same parallel universe?

Okay, I’m just playing around and writing nonsense by this point. I also don’t restrict the definition to “reality” by what I alone perceive. I refer not to spiritual or religious matters. I simply mean that there’s a world outside the office in which I write this blog post that I know to be real, even if I can’t perceive it right now. I know there’s a house to my left outside, even though I can’t see it with the window shade down. I don’t have to hear cars passing by to know that there’s a road several yards in front of me.

I will say, though, that the idea of all fiction happening in the same reality is a fun idea to explore. It couldn’t possibly work without a lot of explaining to do. Even then, at some point I would have to recognize that there are already multiverses within science fiction, not to mention all of the ones that I would have to create.

But continuity within fictitious works has always fascinated me. I tried starting a “continuity corner” section of this blog but I only got as far as one post before I abandoned the idea. It wasn’t a conscious decision; I just haven’t thought of anything else to write about. I know I toyed around with other franchises but I never really worked on any issue in its own blog post.

If I come up with anything, I’ll be sure to throw it on here. I also welcome any suggestions, with the condition that I might reject anything that has to do with a work that I’m not familiar with. I’m sure I’ll think of something, though. I need something to distract me from getting real work done, damn it.

Continuity Corner: Who is the real Kochanski? #reddwarf

I’ve written a lot lately about progress with the creative projects I’m working on with the occasional post about either current events or things that can force me into a rant for five hundred words. All of that is fine, and I would like to write more posts along those latter categories. However, I noticed that this blog has a serious lack of me dorking out about something. Sure, I’ve written the occasional post about Transformers sex or Batman. Still, I don’t feel like I’ve expressed my inner fan-boy to the fullest. I wanted to write a blog post on a lighter topic this time anyway (especially as I’m behind a post for this weekend). So today I’m going to not worry about how “cool” I look (as if I ever do) and take a queue from one of my favorite channels on—alright, I’ll link to it just this once—YouTube, Game Theory.

For those unfamiliar with Game Theory, it’s a show dedicated to exploring various theories within the video game universe ranging from the scientific to conspiratorial. It’s a fun show as long as you know not to take it too seriously. I’ve over-saturated myself with Game Theory videos this past weekend and got inspired to write a blog post sort of along those lines. I don’t know a lot about games so I’ll stick to something I do know and can dork out about, the British sitcom Red Dwarf.

I’m not going to present a synopsis of the show; instead, I’ll go ahead and assume that if you’re reading this you have at least some passing interest and therefore knowledge about it. To be honest, I can’t see too many people outside of the Red Dwarf fan base interested that much in the hypothesis that I present. Then again, I can’t speak for my readers. I will say, however, that for anybody interested in checking this show out I will tack up the obligatory “spoilers ahead” warning and move on.

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that there were two women who played the character of Kristine Kochanski who didn’t look alike, sound alike or even portrayed the character the same way yet we’re supposed to believe that they’re identical. They don’t even use the same accent—the first Kochanski, Clare Grogan, is Scottish while English actor Chloë Annett kept her own when she took on the role. Of course, this follows under the category of “same character, different actor” which tends to excuse even drastic recasting in television shows. We take the attitude that while a new actor may present a new interpretation of a character, that character is still the same. The writing of the piece outweighs the visuals.

But come on, that’s too easy. This is Red Dwarf, after all. This science-fiction show has not shied away from complex plots before. Surely, something within the fiction must explain why there are essentially two different Kochanskis, right? Before you start, I know that when they cast Annett it technically wasn’t the same Kochanski to begin with, that she came from an alternate reality. But as we have seen with the other characters from that universe they look identical to those that we know from the “main” universe and we’re supposed to assume the same with Kochanski. Besides, Lister clearly recognizes her as the same woman (an important point which I’ll get to later).

Before we get into my main hypothesis I want to throw out an idea which could work and is also much simpler. I have a tendency to regard the first two series, which featured Grogan, as from a different reality of the rest of the show. I don’t do this so much to explain away continuity errors as to compensate for the clear style shift in the show from Series Two to Series Three, and even more so as the show progresses. But there’s nothing within the fiction to properly indicate this idea. Besides, there’s one major snag that would not make the two-Kochanski problem any more easier to solve. Hardcore fans of the show should know what I’m talking about, but I’ll get to it later as it still makes my main hypothesis difficult.

So I’ll throw that idea and instead focus on a theory revolving around The Inquisitor. For those unfamiliar with the specifics of the character he featured in one episode in Series Five and was one of the more unsettling villains the “Boys from the Dwarf” had to face. He was an android that lived forever and eventually went insane. He took it upon himself to cleanse the universe via a nifty glove that could transport him through time and space, and then erase those he deemed unworthy from existence. I don’t mean that he killed them. He literally wiped them out of history, to be replaced by somebody composed of either the sperm or egg that formed the original but with a different corresponding egg or sperm that originally didn’t make it. Presumably, this half-version of the person was more successful in life.

What it boils down to is the philosophy that if you don’t live a worthwhile life, you’re erased from history—certainly one of the more unnerving morals of the show brought forth by one of the nastiest villains. On top of all of that, when he puts a person on trial it turns out that they become their own judge, having a conversation with a representation of themselves that appears under The Inquisitor’s mask. This is pretty deep smeg.

Ultimately Lister defeats The Inquisitor and time corrects itself. Anybody who has been erased from history returns while the replacements return to “never had a chance” status. I would like to put forth the idea that this applies to Kochanski. The Grogan Kochanski was the replacement placed there by The Inquisitor, while the Annett Kochanski was the alternate universe equivalent of the original. Whether or not The Inquisitor played a role in the alternate Kochanski’s life is irrelevant. She clearly portrays herself as intelligent and cultured. It’s possible that if The Inquisitor did exist in reality, she had deemed herself worthy of existence. Through her we get a look at what the original Kochanski in the main universe was like.

So, that ties it up pretty nicely, right? Unfortunately, the complications don’t stop there. I now get to that snag I referred to earlier: the episode Psirens. In this Series Six episode Grogan returns to play Kochanski, or rather Lister’s hallucination of Kochanski. That’s right, she appears in an episode between the events of The Inquisitor and the Series Seven debut of Annett. Well, that just throws my hypothesis out the airlock, doesn’t it?

Not quite. It’s established in Red Dwarf that even though certain chains of events can lead to their own erasure from history, characters are still somehow able to remember them. One of the most famous of these is when Lister references “playing pool with planets,” something he did in the episode White Hole—the result of which should have wiped the pool game from his memory. It’s possible that within the science-fiction parameters of the show he could have played pool with planets at some other point, but really, it seems hard to believe that he would face the white-hole scenario again without trying for the same results. Besides, that’s only one example of a character remembering something from their personal history that technically didn’t happen.

So when the eponymous creatures from the Series Six episode cause Lister to hallucinate Kochanski, he remembered the Kochanski from his personal memory—the Grogan Kochanski, despite the fact that if my hypothesis is correct she no longer existed in the “real” past. When he met Annett’s Kochanski for the first time in Series Seven, his brain “resets” to accommodate the appearance of this Kochanski that was technically new for him. He intellectually knew who she was while transposing the feelings he had for the sort of half-version of her in his personal past. Alright, I know that this is a bit of a stretch but it works so I’m going with it.

Okay, I’ve had my fun playing around with the idea of there being two different Kochanskis, but does this play a role in the greater context of the show? Maybe, as it relates to something that I’ve always wondered about Series Eight. Fans of the show might have noticed that it blissfully ignored the fact that the Kochanski on-screen came from a different universe (or that she was also Lister’s mother even though he still lusted after her—but seeing as he’s his own father I guess that’s alright). But with the premise that in Series Eight Kryten’s nanobots resurrected the Red Dwarf crew, did that include the main Kochanski? For that matter, which Kochanski would we see?

In Series Eight’s first episode Back in the Red, Captain Hollister and his crew also recognize Kochanski as the one they know, meaning that the “reset” that happened to Lister’s brain happened to them as well. Fine, but she’s still from an alternate universe. Where did the other Kochanski go? I can think of a variety of reasons.

First, in a later episode Hollister expresses delight at seeing another character, as well as surprise that the nanobots resurrected her as well. This implies that the nanobots may have not resurrected everybody, at least not yet. They have only started with the most important crew members and worked their way down the list. This would work with the Inquisitor hypothesis as the main universe version of the Annett Kochanski probably wouldn’t make it to such a high position in the ship as she was the less motivated version of the character. We do know that she made it to the ship’s crew as we still see her quarters with Annett clutching stuffed animals. We can only assume that those belong to Kochanski as they would be rather oddly placed in guest quarters.

A variation on this idea is that the main universe Kochanski didn’t make the crew after all, and Hollister played along with the idea that she was for the sake of the alternate Kochanski. He does accept their story for stealing Starbug at the end of the episode, however it’s possible that he already had earlier on but had to go through the investigation to be sure.

Another possibility was that the main Kochanski was in fact resurrected and it was her quarters, but Hollister advised her to hide for a while. He still gave the alternate Kochanski the quarters to make her comfortable. Once the main characters of the show went to the brig nobody had to worry about the two Kochanskis interacting with each other. It could potentially lead to big problems, especially if my idea is correct and they are in fact quite different from each other. Still, that could have made a decent plot for an episode.

What would have really thrown everybody for a loop would be the reappearance of Grogan as the main Kochanski. Perhaps Hollister only pretended to recognize Annett’s version. Then the main characters would have to figure out why they look so different and why Lister recognizes Annet’s version as the same woman. Kryten would give a long speech explaining the whole mess, followed by a quip from the Cat which the studio audience finds hilarious.

Maybe the Annett version was actually a Psiren from the alternate universe that may have not triggered the character physical characteristics in everybody’s minds, but she could still convince them that she was Kochanski through some weird psychic connection. She finds that she actually likes these characters so she doesn’t try to suck their brains out with a straw like she normally would.

Maybe I’m just staying up too late thinking about these things.

So, should I continue with Continuity Corner? I rather like this idea and I can obviously get a high word count out of it (although I wouldn’t bother with another two-paragraph introduction like I did this time). I’m toying with the idea of making it a regular or semi-regular feature of the blog. What do you think?