Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

DCnU: Another Day, Another (Real?) Multiverse

All images in this post are from: Before It's News. Image from Another Earth (2011) © Fox Searchlight Pictures.

There have been a lot of loud complaints and a hell of a lot of kicking and screaming in the fanbase about DC Comics' September 2011 reboot, in which the famous pulp company tossed 75 years' worth of history out the window in an effort to catapult itself into the 21st century.  The open wound that is DC's handling of the Titans aside, I have written a post on how DC's shifts to new entertainment genres and new media (such as digital publishing) correspond with the transformation of the comic publisher's fictional universe.  I have asked whether those Fourth Wall and metafictional turns may lead to the discovery of new standards for heroic values in pop culture.  I've also talked about how comics stories, especially at DC, are the only forum in pop culture where quantum physicists' ideas of a multiverse have been consistently and constantly considered over several decades. 

"There may be inifinite Earths being infinitely created."

DC's characters, stories and tumultuous reboots actually contend with the problem of what it would mean to live in a mulitverse, assuming it existed. What would happen to reality?  Well, DC speculates, some of us would become superhuman, but at a terrifying price.  What would happen to people in that reality?  What would happen to values of right and wrong?  Good and evil?  No one else, not even the quantum physicists who are looking at the multiverse as a possible scientific fact, are pondering would it would mean for all of us if their wild theories aren't just theories.

"Reality may be more tenuous than imagined."

Now, some weird online stories about 'real' cases of people have surfaced (here) who claim they have shifted from one parallel universe to our world; these accounts are exactly mimicked in the storyline of an upcoming May 2012 DC title, World's Finest (with the great George Perez serving as co-artist): "Stranded on our world from a parallel reality, Huntress and Power Girl struggle to find their way back to Earth 2."  The oldest team of comic superheroes, the Justice Society of America, finds itself on the alternate Earth 2 in another new series, simply called Earth 2.

In addition, DC's Scots visionary, Grant Morrison, is rumoured to be writing a big miniseries, Multiversity, which opens up DC's Multiverse.  His descriptions of the Multiverse consign different eras of pop culture genres and parts of the publisher's real world history to various fictional realities.  DC's World War II heroes are in one verse; there's a verse in which the Nazis won World War II and Superman is that world's conflicted hero;  Cold War Watchmen are in another verse; 1990s' heroes have yet another verse; and, in a Millennial Ringu twist: "There’s actually a comic book in it that’s haunted and it kills everyone who comes into contact with it [including, supposedly, the readers], so we actually publish that comic. That’s Ultraa the Unknown, the sixth issue." You can even see the temporal progression of metafiction over the past half century as Morrison hops from Multiverse concept to Multiverse concept.

Now, from fiction to our seeming reality; here's an excerpt from the post on the so-called 'actual' case at Before It's News:
What started as an ordinary day—waking in bed one morning—evolved into a series of fearful shocks and haunting horror for a desperate woman lost in an alien world: our world.

As Lerina García left her bed she noticed the sheets and bedclothes were strange. She didn't recognize them. Still shaking off the last vestiges of sleep, however, she simply shrugged away the eerie discovery and began her morning routine.

But García would soon learn that once she'd left that slightly alien bed she entered another reality. Her life, her past—everything most precious to her—was gone.

As she went through the routines of her first day in another universe she noticed small incongruities: things out of place, items missing or items she hadn't purchased.

... Lerina's writings on the Internet relating her story are recounted in the Spanish language site revistadigitalavalon. The English translation is here.

Not everything was small. Although her car seemed the same and she still worked at the same company she had for 20 years, in the same building, she was shocked to learn her department no longer listed her. Her office was now in another department in a completely different part of the building.

... "I’ve been separated from my partner of seven years for some six months. We broke up and I started a relationship with a fellow from my neighborhood. I know him perfectly well, having been with him for four months. I know his name, surname, address, where he works, his son from another relationship, and where he studies.

Well, that fellow no longer exists. He appeared to have existed before my 'jump' but there is no trace of him now.

I’ve hired a detective to find him and he does not exist.

I’ve visited a psychiatrist and its all been put down to stress. He thinks they’re hallucinations, but I know this isn’t the case. My former boyfriend is with me as though nothing had happened—apparently we never broke it off [in this world]—and Agustín (my current boyfriend) appears to have never existed. He doesn’t live in the apartment he used to live at and I cannot find his son.

... What upsets me is that that I’m in the same year, not in a different time, and I’m exactly the same. Let me explain: it’s as though I had lost my memory five months ago and woke up having dreamed those five months, with the exception that everyone remembers me during that time, and I’ve done things that I’m not aware of having done."

... Could Lerina—a highly educated woman—be simply hallucinating everything? Perhaps she is suffering from a form of rare spatial time-related mental illness?

Perhaps not, for she's not alone in her experience.

A curious incident took place in Tokyo, Japan during the early 1990s: a man arrived on a flight with a passport from a non-existent country.

The man expressed anger and shock when Japanese customs officials detained him. Although the officials checked their records carefully, the passport had been issued by a country that did not exist. No record showed the country had ever existed.

Although passports exist issued by non-existent countries (known as camouflage passports), this passport was real and had custom officials' stamps on various pages including stamps by Japanese customs officials from previous visits.

The man was well-traveled, caucasian, said the country was in Europe and had existed for almost 1,000 years. He carried legal currency from several European countries, an international drivers license and spoke several languages.

Finally, indignant, he demanded a meeting with higher government authorities. He was convinced some massive practical joke was being played on him.

... [In another case,] Inexplicata relates a story that is like Lerina's, except from the opposite point of view.

The original account was written by journalist Segundo Peña and published in one of Venezuela’s biggest newspapers, El Tiempo.

Peña relates a strange tale that smacks heavily of a multiverse shift. The incident occurred on the campus of ULA (the University of the Andes) and involved a well-known faculty member.

This is what happened in full daylight, according to dozens of witnesses: the professor left one of the university's buildings, crossed a parking lot to his parked car, and entered it. Many saw him as he walked to his car, some even called out to him and waved.

The professor opened his car door, climbed in, sat down, and closed the door. The car sat there unmoving. Eventually, a few curious students went to the car and found it empty.
Whatever you think of these Internet rumours or Urban Legends and quantum physicists' theories, these examples clearly say at the very least that DC Comics is accurately reflecting a phenomenon in the mass culture.  That phenomenon is a growing general anxiety around consciousness and reality in the face of rapid technological change.

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  1. The DC 90s Multiversity issue might be interesting to me personally....or it might be a screaming horror.

    I'm assuming that the man who landed in Japan is also an urban legend, or we'd get some kind of follow up on what has happened to him since, unless he one day just "shifted back."

    Waking up on an alternate Earth would only be a good thing if it was actually a *better* Earth. -J

  2. I think the plan is or was to have different comics series devoted to different earths, and/or one ongoing that will deal with the whole Multiverse, which would mean you would get your 90s Multiversity earth on a continual basis. Then again, DCnU is already kinda like going back in time to the 1990s 52 different ways every month. I'm waiting for the Tank Girl lookalike contest.

  3. In my experience so many people are oblivious to the world around them that there could be dozens or even hundreds exchanging universes with their alt-history counterparts and never noticing the difference. Nor would the people in their lives consider any differences in their behavior worth investigating. For every international traveler there are a thousand notably less eventful lives. It would take a difference on the scale of Nazis winning World War II for many peoples' lives to be impacted in a way that they would notice. I'm sure you've heard Jon Stewart's speculation that the main reason Americans go to war is that it's the only way we ever learn geography. That may be a joke, but he's not far off from the truth.

    If there really is a multiverse populated by universes with incremental differences ranging from the minute to the epochal it would makes sense that travel (especially accidental or incidental travel) from one to the other would be easiest between those of the closest similarity, with the most harmonic resonance. It isn't just Occam's Razor at work here; look at the quantum levels of an atom. There is more likely to be a transfer between adjacent levels than a great leap. The path of least resistance is a phenomenon with many precedents in physics.

  4. I want to talk to that man from Tokyo. 8) Nice piece -- you find the most interesting things.

  5. @Laroquod, thanks Paul. I don't know anything more about the Tokyo case but it seems like a Philip K. Dick incident, but rumoured to be real. It also sounds like a Twilight Zone plot. I'll poke around & see if I can find more & if I do, will do a post on it.

  6. @pblfsda, yes the idea that very closely analogous realities could just semi-transparently overlap at certain weak spots sounds convincing. The woman is either an ingenious Millenial blogger who knows/knew exactly what she was doing and was generating publicity by playing with blogging as a new medium and with people's credulity about it, sort of like Blair Witch when it first appeared. Or she really believes this has happened to her. In the latter case (to pick up on your analagous realities), the red flags are: the bed sheets, she was doing a diff kind of job at the same place, and the path not traveled with her original bf. It all sounds like wish fulfillment.

    It really does sound straight out of a novel, short story - or comic book. More disturbing is the possibility that it's all real. But, yes, what if the changes were so subtle one didn't realize? Lots of people lead unexamined lives, so it's not inconceivable in this hypothesis - they would just be left with that nagging feeling that things had changed and nothing was right.