beccaelizabeth (beccaelizabeth) wrote,


A lot of fic I'm reading about alternate universes or alternate timelines is actually actively creepy.
Because it treats people as interchangeable.

Like, I keep reading / where one of the partners dies in one universe but their alternate universe self turns up so it's somehow happily ever after.

And I mean, like, what? Really? Because these are the kind of alternates where their whole universe and history has changes so far back that precisely zero of their life experiences are the same. That's like ceasing to mourn because hey, the deceased has a twin, it's all okay now!


But then how much has to be different before they're a different person? That's the bit I'm interested in and why I even keep reading these things.

Like, the complex and interesting mess of identities that is Harrison Wells and Eobard Thawne. Thawne the murderer copies over Wells the victim somas to have a temporal native to hide as, and in so doing to my mind becomes a unique new being, like Jadzia Dax is neither Jadzia nor the Dax symbiont alone. Thawne's guiding intelligence now has Wells' biochemistry to deal with, and implies some access to his memories or emotions when he says he mourned the man's wife. Neither Wells alone or Wobard alone would have made the same decisions or reacted the same ways. He's a whole new person. But he's carrying the consequnces of two lives. It's fair to say he stole one set and shouldn't get credit for them, but it very much depends on details that are writer fiat whether he should really get blame for the actions of his previous brain.

But then Wells and Wells do and don't resemble each other in interesting ways, and Harry can be entirely ruthless, in ways he somehow gets forgiven for. The complex web of judgements there are just interesting.

Though logically, with no shared memories, they are at best siblings.

But even with shared memories and proximally divergent timelines it's also a question of how much do you have to change before you're treated differently than if you had only just then done the thing. Like, is it like prison sentences, or statutes of limitation, and x time after a thing is enough to hit reset and no longer carry the old consequences? Except even then you keep the old reputation. Not much like being judged for your alternate self, that's more unfair, twins sharing a face again, hardly ones fault if the other is drunk. But being judged based on things both timelines did, but reacted to differently... story.

I keep looping back though and getting really creeped out by Barry Allen. Like, every time he time travels, he kills the other version of himself. Travelling back and reliving a day doesn't precisely have that problem, all the memories are in him. But travelling *forwards* again any distance at all does. There's a timeline he doesn't remember, and the guy that lived it no longer exists. Aside from making no sense in physics, that's really very creepy. And it's not like alternate future him decided to sacrifice himself for the good of the timeline so it's not even suicide, it's murder, done casually, because both timelines have his face. I mean, if he replaces alternate universe him then he at least notices he does it. Zooming down another leg of the trousers of time and replacing the original occupant is the same though. A whole chunk of lifetime, gone, branching from the self they last both remembered.

When that self is an entire fifteen years different? When his whole adult life is a whole different person than the guy he looks like? That's like murdering his twin. And not really noticing.

Nut then every time he goes back he remakes all the decisions formseven billion people, flips every coin again, makes every set of sperm run their race from the start. There's got to be people born or not born different just because the timeline played out over again. Or if not then chance in that 'verse kind of isn't and everything is super deterministic. And even having alternate universes with different history and doppelgangers in them is mathematically somweird that yeah, something very odd has to be going on. Like Seanan McGuire had a paragraph on in her latest story, there's too many weird branching chances to have such a thing as a steampunk world with your steampunk twin in it, unless weirdness is happening.

Though if the multiverse is arranged around the traveller rather than the logical chronological branch points then that would make sense. The verse with no you would simply be further away, when you're the one travelling. That logic is more magic than physics though. But that story was using magic mirrors, so, steering by reflected selves makes fine enough sense.

Really it ought to be impossible to get far enough away to ever find a noticeable macro difference, if the jump of every subatomic particle makes a whole new verse, and such branches have some kind of supradimensional proximity. Or maybe to tune energy small enough to find that level of change isn't possible, and you have to jump whole energy states.

... and this is made up physics anyway.

... it just bothers me in Stargate when they leave the universe and then get back to their universe of origin, because logically as soon as you leave it branches, and one of the repeating branch points would be 'did they return in this second', and there'd always be a universe where 'no' all the way along. So universe of origin becomes a fuzzy concept, in that there's suddenly a sheaf of them, proliferating without you.

Getting distracted by made up multiversal physics aside... the kind of model of 'love' that allows same feelings for alternate selves just bothers me. It seems to be... well, sometimes it's absolutely the most shallow, and all they share is looks, which is like falling for different characters by the same actor and just rather weird to me. But the rest of the time it seems to be the model is that love is a recognition of certain attractive qualities, that lead to kissing and then happily ever after. Nut that bugs me because attraction can be that, sure, but *love* is built up of shared experiences, surely? You do things together and make a life together, like actively, and it works because of choices made minute by minute, and a different set of minutes of choice is exactly what's changed about an alternate self. Love for an alternate wouldn't, shouldn't, be a recognition of replacement, it would be a blank slate with some pleasant aesthetics.

Or, of course, my perenially single self has some weird ideas about love.

But a lot of this fic bugs me.
Because people are not swappable.
And 'partner in your life together' isn't some kind of... plug where a matching fitting will do.

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Tags: meta
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