The first season of Stranger Things has been released on Netflix, and most viewers have devoured all eight episodes in less time than it takes to travel to the Upside Down. While a second season has been announced, those anxious for more supernatural tales set amid a believable and detailed setting need look no further than one of the primary inspirations for the show – the master of horror himself, Stephen King.
The third volume in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, The Waste Land, is built on duality. From its structure to its characters, the novel is fixated upon binaries, the spaces created between two extremes, and the often-flawed methods used to bridge that divide. Spoilers for The Waste Land begin after the jump.
From the outset, The Dark Tower series is a story about stories. Drawing on a tradition that includes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, King folds the narrative of the first book in The Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger, back over itself. This layers tension on the plot while simultaneously providing an introduction to a self-reflexive theme that will prove essential to the series as a whole. Spoilers for the majority of The Dark Tower series follow the jump.
Although an overabundance of postmodern conventions can alienate a reader from the story, adding a touch of metafiction can go a long way towards defining the relationship between several distinct works tied together across an extended universe. As mentioned in a previous entry in this series, using a touch of metafiction to obviate reader confusion has a history that extends all the way back to Don Quixote, a work often credited with being the first Western novel. While Cervantes judiciously applied pressure on the fourth wall, this article examines an extended universe that delights in constructing an entire room of fourth walls before gleefully knocking down the building: Jasper Fforde’s Nextian universe.
Medium almost certainly qualifies as one of the more overlooked aspects of storytelling. When it comes to pop culture, stories are regularly told once on paper and, should they prove popular enough through that medium, they are told again on screen; those that prove exceptionally profitable on screen might even be retold again. When it comes to extended universes, however, different chapters of the same story might be told through several different mediums. In some cases, this may lead to one branch of the story controlling the rest; in other instances, the variety of mediums only serves to strengthen the story as a whole. We’ll look into the many mediums of Star Wars and Harry Potter to see how their multiple methods of storytelling affect their respective extended universes.
When attempting to create a cohesive extended universe, what qualifies as part of the story is often just as important as what is excluded. Enter the notion of canon: the portion of the narrative that is considered official and definitive. By properly employing canon, a storyteller can provide parameters for what will be included within the narrative – an essential element of extended universe building. Let’s look at Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote and George Lucas’ Star Wars to see how delineating what qualifies as canon creates the boundaries of an extended universe. Continue reading “Other Worlds Than These: Extended Universes 201”
Few things are hotter these days than the extended universe model of storytelling. With the advent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and the wild box office success of movies like the Avengers – it seems like every studio in Hollywood is scrambling to establish their own “extended universe.” But what, exactly, defines an extended universe? Is it just a fancy name for a series of movies, or are there additional qualifications? Where did Marvel get the idea, and what aspects are worth being stolen by the competition? This brand new multi-installment column, Other Worlds Than These, will provide the answer to all these questions and more. First, let’s take a look at some of the literary antecedents that helped build the foundation for the extended universes of today.