8FOLD/FAQ: Your Guide to the Eightfold Universe

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Wed May 10 12:00:59 PDT 2006

Dave Van Domelen wrote:
> In article <20060509213119.77425.qmail at web31307.mail.mud.yahoo.com>,
> Tom Russell  <milos_parker at yahoo.com> wrote:
> >   A lot of the closed universes are closed to
> >preserve the big idea, setting, or tone of the
> >universe from unwanted Bendisians.  For example, Dave
> >Van Domelen's ASH takes place in a far-flung future
> >full of geopolitics and Machiavellian gods.  Though I
> >can't be sure, I think the adventures of Docrates, the
> >Mighty Supragato would be a bit out of place in Dave's
> >milieu.
>      Not necessarily.  Oh, he wouldn't be the most powerful being in the
> universe...one of the precepts of the ASH setting is that no matter how
> powerful you are, there's always someone stronger, so you need to watch your
> step.  But a super-powerful cat would be no more odd than, say, a robotic
> wolf (LU-61, from the early 90s ASH team) or a bunch of haxx0r satyrs (Peter,
> Willie, etc).

Duly noted.  I think I'd be correct in saying he's out of place in
OMEGA, though, and I'll make that comparission come the next update.

>      It's worth noting that a universe really has two boundaries for
> insanity.  The first is that of custom...most ASH stories are serious with
> perhaps a little comic relief, so there's a certain resistance to going nuts
> in the setting.  The second is that of the actual limit, the amount of
> weirdness the setting can tolerate before things break.  LNH202X tends to run
> up against some of those boundaries, due to its ties with the LNH.
>      It's been said by someone or other that a sane world is one in which
> it's possible to be insane, but an insane world is one in which it's
> impossible to be sane.  But that's not really correct for shared universes.
> A sane shared universe breaks if you get too insane,

I'd actually disagree with you there, if only semantically.  I'd say
that a sane _story_ breaks if you get too insane.  A particular story
or storyline, with a beginning, middle, and end, should be somewhat
cohesive on a structural and tonal level.  Randomness (not to be
confused with casuality) upsets that structure, and that tonal
cohesion.  Example: Brian Michael Bendis's Daredevil-gets-outted
storyline would not have benefited, I think, from a guest appearance by
Slapstick.  (is Slapstick still around, or have they killed him off?...
I miss him.)

It's important to be tonally cohesive within a story, but not
necessarily a universe.  Now, for some people, a shared universe is the
story: the continuity is tight between the titles that while they might
be stories in their own right, they're also chapters of a really,
really big story.  This is part of the appeal of a shared universe for
some: the collaborative form of it, and the way that one story
intersects with another.

But, for me, they're separate stories.  The story of the Batman is not
the same as the story of Superman.  Now, their stories intersect and
overlap, but they're not the _same_ stories, and tonally they can and
should be different.

Again, I agree that within a particular _story_ there is a breaking
point for insanity, and once you've reached that point, you've probably
dipped pretty far into bad storytelling.  But a universe itself-- a
shared setting-- doesn't have that threshold in my estimation.

Look at our own universe, for example: the story of FDR's New Deal is
different from the story of Mike the Headless Chicken.  If this was a
fictional universe, and The Adventures of Mike the Headless Chicken was
to intrude on FDR: The Man, The Dream in a major way, it would upset
the tone of both stories.  These stories can and do co-exist, just not
as part of the same single story.

The thing about Eightfold that helps in this regard is that, at least
at the moment, it's a more casual universe.  We haven't had any teamups
(yet) or any crossovers (yet), and so the ties between our characters
are more casual ones.  This helps, I think, reinforce the idea in the
reader's mind that they're not the same story-- just the same strange

Otherwise, something like House of Fiction would totally ruin something
like the Green Knight.

--Tom, who hopes all that made sense (he's tired)

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