History is full of theological ancestry for the multiverse trope in fantasy and science fiction. As we look around the world’s mythologies and legends, we find innumerable examples. Some of the most well-known include:
Buddhism—The tradition of the Dhatus realms introduces multiple worlds.
European, General—The Celtic Tir na Nog; Arthurian Avalon; Faerie.
Greek/Roman—The mix of Asphodel, Elysium Erebus, Hades, Olympus, Tartarus, and Earth.
Hinduism—The Puranic literature includes potentially innumerable universes.
Mesopotamian—The mix of Abyss, Godhome, Irkalla, and Earth.
Norse—The nine worlds cosmology, perhaps one of the most direct and developed examples.
Why should a writer or worldbuild consider the multiverse concept?
There are a variety of reasons. As noted, it is an elements of various theologies, mythologies, and cosmologies in our own history and can add depth to a fictional belief system. Multiverses also open up access to myriad settings, for example Roger Zelazny’s Amber series, Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion series, and Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase (using Norse cosmology). The concept can also create possibilities for species origins, especially for non-humans on Earth. It can also be used to explain the plethora of tales about lost lands, such as Atlantis and Shangri-la; perhaps they exist but do so on other planes of existence rather than on Earth.
How do we use the multiverse?
The whys of using a multiverse really determine the hows. If the multiverse exists as Earth and a variety of afterlives, then it becomes a theological concept. As theology, the multiverse should appear in religious texts, myths, and related stories. Perhaps it could be the source of good and evil entities in the core world as well or the location of a quest to return a deceased spirit or acquire information.
The ease and methods of travel between the multiversal worlds is also important in terms of how we use the multiverse. Rick Riordan makes travel between the worlds relatively easy for supernatural beings, which allows him to include quests that span multiple worlds and cultures. In most of Neil Gaiman’s work, crossing the boundaries between Earth and other lands is as easy as crossing a low stone wall (Stardust) or falling through the cracks (Neverwhere). Jaye Wells (Sabina Kane) makes travel between the worlds—Earth, Liminal, and Irkalla—rare and difficult, unless the individual is a demon, is dead, or is a Chthonic mage.
In every case, the multiverse is employed to add depth and variety to the world in question.
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