A fictional universe is a self-consistent setting with events, and often other elements, that differ from the real world. It may also be called an imagined, constructed or fictional realm (or world). Fictional universes may appear in novels, comics, films, television shows, video games, and other creative works.
A fictional universe can be almost indistinguishable from the real world, except for the presence of the invented characters and events that characterize a work of fiction; at the other extreme, it can bear little or no resemblance to the real world, with invented fundamental principles of time and space.
The subject is most commonly addressed in reference to fictional universes that differ markedly from the real world, such as those that introduce entire fictional cities, countries, or even planets, or those that contradict commonly known facts about the world and its history, or those that feature fantasy or science fiction concepts such as magic or faster than light travel—and especially those in which the deliberate development of the setting is a substantial focus of the work.
What distinguishes a fictional universe from a simple setting is the level of detail and internal consistency. A fictional universe has an established continuity and internal logic that must be adhered to throughout the work and even across separate works. So, for instance, many books may be set in conflicting fictional versions of Victorian London, but all the stories of Sherlock Holmes are set in the same Victorian London. However, the various film series based on Sherlock Holmes follow their own separate continuities, thus not taking place in the same fictional universe.
The history and geography of a fictional universe are well defined, and maps and timelines are often included in works set within them. Even new languages may be constructed. When subsequent works are written within the same universe, care is usually taken to ensure that established facts of the canon are not violated. Even if the fictional universe involves concepts such as elements of magic that don't exist in the real world, these must adhere to a set of rules established by the author.
A famous example of a detailed fictional universe is Arda (more popularly known as Middle-earth), of J. R. R. Tolkien's books The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. He created first its languages and then the world itself, which he states was "primarily linguistic in inspiration and was begun in order to provide the necessary 'history' for the Elvish tongues."
A modern example of a fictional universe is that of the Avatar film series, as James Cameron has invented an entire ecosystem, with a team of scientists to test whether it was viable. Additionally, he commissioned a linguistics expert to invent the Na'vi language.
Virtually every successful fictional TV series or comic book develops its own "universe" to keep track of the various episodes or issues. Writers for that series must follow the story bible, which often becomes the series canon.
Frequently, when a series is perceived by its creators as too complicated or too self-inconsistent (because of, for example, too many writers), the producers or publishers may introduce retroactive continuity (retcon) to make future editions easier to write and more consistent. This creates an alternate universe that future authors can write about. These stories about the universe or universes that existed before the retcon are usually not canonical, unless the franchise-holder gives permission. Crisis on Infinite Earths was an especially sweeping example.
Some writers choose to introduce elements or characters from one work into another, to present the idea that both works are set in the same universe. For example, the character of Ursula Buffay from American sitcom Mad About You was also a recurring guest star in Friends, despite the two series having little else in common. Fellow NBC series Seinfeld also contained crossover references to Mad About You. L. Frank Baum introduced the characters of Cap'n Bill and Trot (from The Sea Fairies) into the Oz series in The Scarecrow of Oz, and they made a number of appearances in later Oz books. In science fiction, A. Bertram Chandler introduced into his future Galactic civilization the character Dominic Flandry from Poul Anderson's quite different Galactic future (he had Anderson's consent) – on the assumption that these were two alternate history timelines and that people could on some occasions cross from one to the other.
Sir Thomas More's Utopia is one of the earliest examples of a cohesive fictional world with its own rules and functional concepts, but it comprises only one small island. Later fictional universes, like Robert E. Howard's Conan the Cimmerian stories or Lev Grossman's Fillory, are global in scope and some, like Star Wars, Honorverse, BattleTech, or the Lensman series, are galactic or even intergalactic.
A fictional universe may even concern itself with more than one interconnected universe through fictional devices such as dreams, "time travel" or "parallel worlds". Such a series of interconnected universes is often called a multiverse. Such multiverses have been featured prominently in science fiction since at least the mid-20th century.
The classic Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror" introduced the Mirror Universe, in which the crew members of the Starship Enterprise were brutal rather than compassionate. The 2009 movie Star Trek created an "alternate reality" and freed the Star Trek franchise from continuity issues. In the mid-1980s, DC Comics Crisis on Infinite Earths streamlined its fictional continuity by destroying most of its alternate universes.
A fictional universe can be contained in a single work, as in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four or Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, or in serialized, series-based, open-ended or round robin-style fiction.
In most small-scale fictional universes, general properties and timeline events fit into a consistently organized continuity. However, in the case of universes that are rewritten or revised by different writers, editors, or producers, this continuity may be violated, by accident or by design.
The occasional publishing use of retroactive continuity (retcon) often occurs due to this kind of revision or oversight. Members of fandom often create a kind of fan-made canon (fanon) to patch up such errors; "fanon" that becomes generally accepted sometimes becomes actual canon. Other fan-made additions to a universe (fan fiction, alternate universe, pastiche, parody) are usually not considered canonical unless they get authorized.
Shared universes often come about when a fictional universe achieves great commercial success and attracts other media. For example, a successful movie may catch the attention of various book authors, who wish to write stories based on that movie. Under U.S. law, the copyright-holder retains control of all other derivative works, including those written by other authors, but they might not feel comfortable in those other mediums or may feel that other individuals will do a better job; therefore, they may open up the copyright on a shared-universe basis. The degree to which the copyright-holder or franchise retains control is often one of the points in the license agreement.
For example, the comic book Superman was so popular that it spawned over 30 different radio, television, and movie series and a similar number of video games, as well as theme park rides, books, and songs. In the other direction, both Star Trek and Star Wars are responsible for hundreds of books and games of varying levels of canonicity.
Fictional universes are sometimes shared by multiple prose authors, with each author's works in that universe being granted approximately equal canonical status. For example, Larry Niven's fictional universe Known Space has an approximately 135-year period in which Niven allows other authors to write stories about the Man-Kzin Wars. Other fictional universes, like the Ring of Fire series, actively court canonical stimulus from fans, but gate and control the changes through a formalized process and the final say of the editor and universe creator.
Other universes are created by one or several authors but are intended to be used non-canonically by others, such as the fictional settings for games, particularly role-playing games and video games. Settings for the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons are called campaign settings; other games have also incorporated this term on occasion. Virtual worlds are fictional worlds in which online computer games, notably MMORPGs and MUDs, take place. A fictional crossover occurs when two or more fictional characters, series or universes cross over with one another, usually in the context of a character created by one author or owned by one company meeting a character created or owned by another. In the case where two fictional universes covering entire actual universes cross over, physical travel from one universe to another may actually occur in the course of the story. Such crossovers are usually, but not always, considered non-canonical by their creators or by those in charge of the properties involved.
For lists of fictional universes see:
The print published and e-published Grantville Gazettes all contain a post book afterword detailing where and how to submit a manuscript to the fictional canon oversight process for the 1632 series.
In Agatha Christie's mystery novels, several characters cross over different sagas, creating a fictional universe in which most of her stories are set. This article has one table to summarize the novels with characters who occur in other Christie novels; the table is titled Crossovers by Christie. There is brief mention of characters crossing over in adaptations of the novels. Her publications, both novels and short stories, are then listed by main detective, in order of publication. Some stories or novels authorised by the estate of Agatha Christie, using the characters she created, and written long after Agatha Christie died, are included in the lists.
Her novels under the pen name Mary Westmacott and her nonfiction books are not covered in this article.
One notable example of characters from one novel appearing in another is the novel The Pale Horse, which features Ariadne Oliver, Major Despard and his wife Rhoda (all had previously appeared on Cards on the Table) and Mrs Dane Calthrop (from The Moving Finger).Buffyverse
The Buffyverse or Slayerverse is the shared fictional universe in which the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are set. This term, originally coined by fans of the TV series, has since been used in the titles of published works, and adopted by Joss Whedon, the creator of the fictional universe. The Buffyverse is a place in which supernatural phenomena exist, and supernatural evil can be challenged by people willing to fight against such forces.Cair Paravel
Cair Paravel is the fictional castle where the Kings and Queens of Narnia rule in The Chronicles of Narnia. It is the location of the four thrones of High King Peter the Magnificent, High Queen Susan the Gentle, King Edmund the Just, and Queen Lucy the Valiant.Canon (fiction)
In fiction, canon is the material accepted as officially part of the story in the fictional universe of that story. It is often contrasted with, or used as the basis for, works of fan fiction. The alternative terms mythology, timeline, universe and continuity are often used, with the first of these being used especially to refer to a richly detailed fictional canon requiring a large degree of suspension of disbelief (e.g. an entire imaginary world and history), while the latter two typically refer to a single arc where all events are directly connected chronologically. Other times, the word can mean "to be acknowledged by the creator(s)".
Influential or widely accepted fan theories may be referred as "fanon", a portmanteau of fan and canon. Alternatively, the term "headcanon" is used to describe a fan's own interpretation of a fictional universe.Claymore (manga)
Claymore (Japanese: クレイモア, Hepburn: Kureimoa) is a dark fantasy manga series written and illustrated by Norihiro Yagi. The series initially premiered in the now defunct Monthly Shōnen Jump in the May 2001 issue, but was moved to one of their sister magazines as the content was deemed too adult for Shōnen Jump's target demographic. When the magazine was canceled in June 2007, the series was temporarily moved to Weekly Shōnen Jump where it was published monthly. When Jump Square was introduced in November 2007, the series was moved to it. The individual chapters were published in tankōbon volumes by Shueisha, with 27 volumes released between January 2002 and December 2014.
Madhouse adapted the first eleven volumes of the series into a twenty-six episode anime series. Directed by Hiroyuki Tanaka, the series premiered in Japan on NTV in April 2007 and ran until September 2007. A CD soundtrack for the anime series and a CD of character songs using the anime voice actresses were released on July 25, 2007 and September 27, 2007, respectively.
The Claymore manga is licensed for an English language release in North America by Viz Media. It released the first volume of the series on April 4, 2006 and the last volume on October 6, 2015. The anime adaptation is licensed for release in North America by Funimation, which has released the first DVD for the series in Fall 2008 and released the entire series on Blu-ray in Spring 2010. Madman Entertainment has licensed the anime for release in Australia and New Zealand and the anime is sub-licensed by Manga Entertainment for UK distribution.Fictional universe of Avatar
In the 2009 science fiction film Avatar, director James Cameron conceived a fictional universe in which humans seek to mine unobtanium on the fictional exoplanetary moon, Pandora. The Earth-like moon is inhabited by a sapient indigenous humanoid species called the Na'vi, and varied fauna and flora. Resources Development Administration (RDA) scientists, administrators, recruits, support, and security personnel travel to Pandora in the 22nd century to discover this lush world, which is inhabited by many lifeforms including the human-like Na'vi. The clan with which the humans have contact in the film "[lives] in a giant tree that sits on a vast store of a mineral called unobtanium, which humans want as an energy supply."The Pandoran biosphere teems with a biodiversity of bioluminescent species ranging from six-legged animals to other types of exotic fauna and flora. The Pandoran ecology forms a vast neural network spanning the entire lunar surface into which the Na'vi and other creatures can connect. The strength of this collective consciousness is powerfully illustrated when the human invaders are defeated in battle by the Pandoran ecology, after the resolute Na'vi were nearly defeated. Cameron used a team of expert advisors in order to make the various examples of fauna and flora as scientifically feasible as possible.Film series
A film series, film franchise, movie series, or movie franchise is a collection of related films in succession that share the same fictional universe, or are marketed as a series.Frank Herbert's Dune (video game)
Frank Herbert's Dune is a 2001 3D video game based on the 2000 Sci Fi Channel miniseries of the same name. The game was not a commercial or critical success, and was one of the last games by Cryo Interactive, which went bankrupt shortly after the game's failure.Hoth
Hoth is an ice planet in the Star Wars fictional universe. It first appeared in the 1980 film The Empire Strikes Back and has also been a setting in Star Wars books and video games.Hyborian Age
The Hyborian Age is the fictional period within the artificial mythology created by Robert E. Howard in which the sword and sorcery tales of Conan the Barbarian are set.
The word "Hyborian" is derived from the legendary northern land of the ancient Greeks, Hyperborea, and is rendered as such in the earliest draft of Howard's essay "The Hyborian Age." Howard described the Hyborian Age taking place sometime after the sinking of Atlantis and before the beginning of recorded ancient history. Most later editors and adaptors such as L. Sprague de Camp and Roy Thomas placed the Hyborian Age around 10,000 BC. More recently, Dale Rippke proposed that the Hyborian Age should be placed further in the past, around 32,500 BC, prior to the beginning of the last glacial period. Rippke's date, however, has since been disputed by Jeffrey Shanks who argues for the more traditional placement at the end of the ice age.Howard had an intense love for history and historical dramas; however, at the same time, he recognized the difficulties and the time-consuming research needed in maintaining historical accuracy. By conceiving a timeless setting – a vanished age – and by carefully choosing names that resembled our history, Howard avoided the problem of historical anachronisms and the need for lengthy exposition.Larami
Larami Corp. was founded in 1947 and was a toy company whose products usually ranged from the cost of $0.39 to $0.99. Larami Corp. was eventually acquired by Hasbro Inc., becoming Larami Inc. in 1995. The Larami company name was finally retired in 2002.Miraz's Castle
The Castle of Caspian, also known as Miraz's Castle, was home to the early Telmarine Dynasty (the "Caspians") of the country of Narnia. The castle was built by Caspian VI and was home to him and his successors, including Caspian VII and Caspian VIII. The last permanent ruler of the palace by the name of "Caspian" was Caspian IX, who was murdered and succeeded by his brother Miraz. After Miraz was murdered at the Second Battle of Beruna, Caspian X may have lived in it briefly as king before rebuilding Cair Paravel and making it his new palace.It is never mentioned what happened to Queen Prunaprismia or her baby son after Miraz's death.
The castle is featured in Prince Caspian.Reboot (fiction)
In serial fiction, a reboot is a new start to an established fictional universe, work, or series that discards all continuity to re-create its characters, plotlines and backstory from the beginning. It has been described as a way to "rebrand" or "restart an entertainment universe that has already been established". Another definition of a reboot is a remake which is part of an established film series or other media franchise. The term has been criticised for being a vague and "confusing" "buzzword", and a neologism for remake, a concept which has been losing popularity in the 2010s.Shared universe
A shared universe or shared world is a set of creative works where more than one writer (or other artist) independently contributes a work that can stand alone but fits into the joint development of the storyline, characters, or world of the overall project. It is common in genres like science fiction.It differs from collaborative writing where multiple artists are working together on the same work and from crossovers where the works and characters are independent except for a single meeting.
The term shared universe is also used within comics to reflect the overall milieu created by the comic book publisher in which characters, events, and premises from one product line appear in other product lines in a media franchise.
A specific kind of shared universe that is published across a variety of media (e.g. novels, films, role-playing games, etc.), each of them contributing to the growth, history, and status of the setting is called an "imaginary entertainment environment."The term has also been used in a wider, non-literary sense to convey interdisciplinary or social commonality, often in the context of a "shared universe of discourse".Shields (Star Trek)
In the Star Trek fictional universe, shields refer to a 23rd and 24th century technology that provides starships, space stations, and entire planets with limited protection against damage. They are sometimes referred to as deflectors, deflector shields, and screens (the latter during Star Trek: The Original Series).The Matrix (franchise)
The Matrix is a science fiction action media franchise created by The Wachowskis, about a group of heroes who fight a desperate war against machine overlords that have enslaved humanity in an extremely sophisticated virtual reality system. The series is most notable for its use of slow motion, which revolutionized action films to come. The series began with the feature film The Matrix (1999), and continued with two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions (both 2003), all written and directed by The Wachowskis and produced by Joel Silver. The franchise is owned by Warner Bros., which distributed the films along with Village Roadshow Pictures. The latter, along with Silver Pictures are the two production companies that worked on all three films.
The first film was an important critical and commercial success, winning four Academy Awards, introducing popular culture symbols such as the red pill and blue pill, and influencing action filmmaking. For those reasons it has been added to the National Film Registry for preservation. Its first sequel was an even bigger commercial success, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film in history, a title which it held for 13 years, until it was surpassed by the film Deadpool.The series features a cyberpunk story of the technological fall of man, in which a self-aware artificial intelligence has wiped most of humanity from the Earth except for those it enslaves in a virtual reality system as a farmed power source, and the relatively few remaining humans who are free of that system. The A.I. agenda is to destroy all humans who are free, considering them a threat/disease. The story incorporates references to numerous philosophical and religious ideas. Influences include the principles of mythology, anime, and Hong Kong action films (particularly "heroic bloodshed" and martial arts movies). The movies deal with the dilemma of choice vs control, and the concepts of inter-dependency and love.
The characters and settings of the films are further explored in other media set in the same fictional universe, including animation, comics, and video games. The comic "Bits and Pieces of Information" and The Animatrix short film "The Second Renaissance" act as prequels to the films, explaining how the franchise's setting came to be. The video game Enter the Matrix connects the story of the Animatrix short "Final Flight of the Osiris" with the events of Reloaded, while the video game The Matrix Online is a direct sequel to Revolutions. As of February 2016, the franchise has generated $3 billion in revenue, making it one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time. In March 2017, it was reported that Warner Bros. was in early stages of developing a relaunch of the franchise with new films.The Winds of Dune
The Winds of Dune is a science fiction novel written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, set in the Dune universe created by Frank Herbert. Released on August 4, 2009, it is the second book in the Heroes of Dune series and chronicles events between Frank Herbert's Dune Messiah (1969) and Children of Dune (1976). Before publication, the novel's title was initially announced as Jessica of Dune.The novel rose to #15 on The New York Times Best Seller list in its second week of publication.Valeria (Conan the Barbarian)
Valeria is a pirate and adventuress (a member of The Red Brotherhood of pirates) in the fictional universe of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories. She appears in Robert E. Howard's Conan novella "Red Nails", serialized in Weird Tales 28 1-3 (July, August/September & October 1936). This was the last Conan story written by Howard, and published posthumously. The name was also used for Conan's love interest in the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian.
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