back to list

Quackcast 660 - The Multiverse

Ozoneocean at 12:00AM, Nov. 7, 2023

LISTEN on our player!
Or TuneinRadio -–Literature/Drunkduck-Quackcast-p1150194/

Multiverses are really popular in fiction right now, eg. Dr Strange into the mouth of Madness, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Flash, Everything Everywhere All at Once, Rick and Morty, and The Loki TV series (which I love). So what is a multiverse and why is it used? Basically when multiple universes coexist at the same time, either there are a few and they're widely different or they are infinite and every possibility exists. In the real world the idea of multiple universes is purely theoretical and a relatively minor part of various quantum physics theories, while in fiction it's an important tool for mashing together separate IPs that wouldn't normally fit together and also telling interesting stories with parallel elements and “what-if” scenarios.

There are some obvious logical issues with the way a lot of multiverse ideas are presented in fiction, though the concept is clearly magical rather that scientific in the way it's used it should STILL have logical consistency in order to be plausibly believable. One of the biggest issues is that the multiverse is too anthropomorphic and deterministic: humans are far too important, different worlds are “created” when people do different things, and in most of the different world the same people, places, and events exist and even when they don't the same characters exist, ie. no matter which world or who it is there will always be a Spiderman. This idea wouldn't be supported be any multiverse theory.

The easiest multiverse idea to use in fiction is the one where any random change produces a split and a new world. These random changes would NOT be whether you decide to go down a a different path because that is a very complex change an not in any way random, it'd be about simple particles in the quantum realm doing different things because those are the only truly random events. The trouble is this would happen incalculable times every femtosecond in every part of every new universe, but it WOULD produce infinite world worlds where many different possibilities exist.

There would be many, many, many almost identical versions of the same world with no visible change at all, there would be many worlds with all sorts of small changes and big changes but still having the same events and people in them and there would be just as many worlds where everything is different and no people in them at all. The trouble is that the kind of changes would be more limited than we think despite the infinite nature of the world because “initial conditions” play a huge part. The thing about initial conditions is that if they're different the end result will never be the same no matter how many times the scenario runs, and you also can't accurately predict what the result will be at any point unless you know the initial conditions that generated it.

What this means that time will play a huge part: the point a which the universes diverge is significant to the amount of change and the kind of changes that will happen. But these changes could only involve things that are possible- there couldn't be a universe where there is a version of you that was born a different sex or ethnicity for example because those changes would have to have happened too far back for the conditions to have resulted in YOU. Every time they would result in someone else quite different from you living in a scenario that was also very different. Eg. the initial conditions were different so the result can't be the same and the further back the changes happen the more divergent the result, regardless of the infinite nature of the variations.

This also mean you can't have a version of New York where magic exists, or a version of earth where we have two suns or something huge like that. But a world where you have a beard, where you became an accountant instead, where you died in childbirth, where you won a Nobel prize at 21, or where you're evil and have a goatee etc are all possible.

Anyway, what are you fave depictions of a multiverse and do you use multiverses in your work?
At the moment mine are the Loki TV series, Run Lola Run and Rick and Morty. Sliders was pretty fun back in the day though.

This week Gunwallace has given us the theme to The New Butler - Portentous, epic, intriguing, glorious and really quite regal.The one proudly proclaims wealth and taste (a very rare combination in these crass days). It speaks of wide open rolling green grassed grounds and forests surrounding the lordly manor house, packed with partridge and pheasant for hunting…

Topics and shownotes


Featured comic:
Psychoborg -

Featured music:
The New Butler - - by TENSA1, rated T.

Special thanks to:
Gunwallace -
Ozoneocean -
Banes -
Kawaiidaigakusei -
Tantz Aerine -

VIDEO exclusive!
Become a subscriber on the $5 level and up to see our weekly Patreon video and get our advertising perks!
Even at $1 you get your name with a link on the front page and a mention in the weekend newsposts!

Join us on Discord -



Ozoneocean at 9:30PM, Nov. 10, 2023

@2TENSA1 - glad you like it :D

TENSA1 at 7:04AM, Nov. 10, 2023


Ozoneocean at 6:06AM, Nov. 10, 2023

@plymayer - ah, thought so!

plymayer at 11:20PM, Nov. 8, 2023

I remember Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce. We were shown that as a short film in school. Don't remember a Dream of Armageddon by H.G. Wells. I'll look it up.

plymayer at 11:04PM, Nov. 8, 2023

@ Ozoneocean, that is exactly why they did it. To explain why there were two different Flashes. And it created the whole earth-1 and 2 thing. The rest would be history except I'm not sure about the current time line we are in. My thinking is I'm in the late 60s-through early 80s reality.

Ozoneocean at 5:52PM, Nov. 7, 2023

@plymayer - I had no idea that The Flash was the initiating factor in using multiverses in comics! I suppose that was to justify the change from the old very different Flash modelled after Hermes/mercury to the read leotard version? The oldest parallel universe version I can think of was a story by HG wells in a Dream of Armageddon, where a character in the present day (late 1800s) dreams that he's in a beautiful world that's on the brink of destruction from war- but it's not just a dream, he realises that he actually exists there. There's also An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce from 1890 which isn't quite about another world but almost is and you could genuinely think of it as a multiverse story if you wanted: a man about to be hanged to death miraculously escapes and goes home to his wife... I won't say more.

Ozoneocean at 5:42PM, Nov. 7, 2023

@marcorossi - That could very well be the initiating factor, it sounds very reasonable! But then if they use the "multiverse" as a way of justifying it, it still gets shaky and crappy if it doesn't fit with the logic of that idea- unless they obscure that aspect and don't draw attention to it too much... but unfortunately they DO tend to do that. That said, with things like the Dr Strange movie where there's a female Captain Britain instead of Captain America, THAT is pretty plausible because it's not a silly sex-change thought experiment, it's a realistic scenario where a different (but likely) character got the super serum.

Ozoneocean at 5:35PM, Nov. 7, 2023

@Paul - No worries! Glad you liked it ^_^ Ah, "anthropocentric" is the word I SHOULD have used! Stephen Baxter is a great writer and Pratchett WAS a great one, I didn't know they worked together.

Ozoneocean at 5:28PM, Nov. 7, 2023

@Kam- yup it's genuinely popular. DC and Marvel have been doing the multiverse sincerely for decades and now has come time for them to use it in their movies. If there's a bandwagon effect at all you could say that DC is doing a bit of it but choosing this time to transfer it to their movies- but Rick and Morty and Everything Everywhere All at Once have nothing to do with that, as well as older stuff like Sliders, The Matrix, the 13th floor, Run Lola Run etc.

KAM at 1:57PM, Nov. 7, 2023

Are multiverses REALLY popular, or is it just a trend that's being jumped on?

PaulEberhardt at 9:39AM, Nov. 7, 2023

Multiverses are a nice tool if they're not overused. Thanks, as always, for these in-depth insights. Btw. The Long Earth series by Stepen Baxter and Terry Pratchett is a really interesting variety in that it's not anthropocentric, presenting mankind rather as a specific quirk of one of many parallel worlds, and of course I gotta love the premise that all you need to escape to a world you want to make your own is a potato and a box with a switch and counter. It's a pity the plot tends to be a far cry from the most exciting thing these authors were capable of (or rather one was and one is).

marcorossi at 4:15AM, Nov. 7, 2023

The "multiverse" as is used in fiction is closer to the way we think (we think in terms of counterfacuals so stuff like "what if Superman was a girls") than to the actual quantic theory. So it is more like an expanded universe where more different counterfactuals can be true contemporaneously. Even the idea that there are the same characters comes from from counterfactual reasoning: if I say "what if Superman was a girl" then in the real world I would not be speaking of the same person, but of a different person who is a girl and who has many similarities with the male Superman. But since "Superman" is a concept in my mind, I can give it many different attribute (being a woman, being blonde, being a burrito lover) without changing the "subject" of these attributes: because I'm working with concepts, not with real things. So the multiverse thing represents a projection of the way we usually think (through counterfactuals).

plymayer at 12:47AM, Nov. 7, 2023

The alternate universe in the Star Trek series came after the Flash comic....

plymayer at 12:46AM, Nov. 7, 2023

Thank you Gardner Fox and Julius Schwartz for Flash #123 (Sept. 1961) and the multiverse. But, there had to be scifi stories /perhaps time travel stories / before that creating multiple realities.

Forgot Password
©2011 WOWIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved Mastodon