I’m in the middle of reading John Meaney’s latest novel: Resonance. It’s the third in his Ragnarok trilogy and so far I’m enjoying it. It follows on from the other two and I’m seeing all the familiar characters bouncing along on their story arcs. The sad thing is that when I get to the end of it, I’m wondering what John can come up with next, as he has combined all his science fiction stories into ‘one wrap’.
Certainly in terms of space opera ideas he has so far outdone the likes of Alastair Reynolds, Greg Egan, Ben Bova, Larry Niven and Kim Stanley Smith. Yes, I did say OUTDONE!
But talking of space opera, Isaac Asimov combined his Foundation series with his Robot series. Robert Heinlein combined his Lazarus Long series of stories with ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ and ‘Rolling Stones’ stories. So John Meaney certainly isn’t alone in this respect.
Is it a good thing to combine universe lines?
I have never felt comfortable with story lines that developed separately and then were merged. In John’s case, I’m pretty sure the stories all belonged to same universe, which is why his merge sits together so much better.
I’ve now built up two world-lines, what I call the Neptune-line and the Uranus-line. The former you’ve seen published via ‘Life Sentence’ and the C.A.T. series. The latter has yet to be published, though the recent podcast had an excerpt of the novel (the Greening scene and this is all I’m going to say in this post). Even though these are both planets in our own solar system, there is no way I could combine them, because the developmental assumptions are so different.
So the question has to be when can two different worlds be combined? The more similar the worlds, the easier it is to combine and the shorter time you would need to leap ahead (unless you’re of course doing a parallel worlds thing). If they are totally dissimilar, then you need to check out if there are any contradictions between the two world-lines. If there are, writing a story to get rid of those contradictions would be an interesting one to pursue, that is if you can write such a story. These contradictions can be blatant from the sky being black in one world-line to sky being white in the other.
But sometimes the underlying difference between the two worlds is so massive, that you can only put them together in the parallel universes.
So let’s come up with a new science fiction rule:
The similarity between science fiction worlds is measured by how soon after the latest story you can combine them, without using the parallel universes fix.