Shadowlands - The Concept
The idea that there are an infinite number of alternate universes certainly
isn't a new one, and neither is the concept of having all those infinite
variants collapsing in on one another. It's well-traveled ground, particularly
in speculative fiction. If I had to trace the inspiration for my own use
of the idea in the original Shadowlands story, Aspect,
I'd probably look first to the 'Adventures of Luther Arkwright' graphic
novel by Bryan Talbot, which I read only a few weeks before beginning
'Aspect', and then, farther back, to Michaela Roessner's excellent novel,
'Vanishing Point', a dog-eared copy of which is sitting on my bookshelf
staring me in the face as I write this. It's not a new idea, but it's
certainly a fascinating one, as I think can be demonstrated by how quickly
one small story on my part turned into a shared universe. The archive
has been growing steadily, and I hope it continues to do so; this is a
situation where there truly are infinite possibilities.
The beginning point for Shadowlands is what could
be termed a second 'gathering of the Twelve', set not long after the
canonical Twelve Saga in the X-Men books. At that battle, as at the first,
Apocalypse steals the powers of the Twelve - now eleven, with Apocalypse
possessing the body of Scott Summers - but this time, something even more
catastrophic happens, something that even manages to overshadow that first
Somehow, perhaps by a misuse of the chrono-variant
component of the Twelve's merged powers, perhaps by something else
entirely (the why of the situation, even though secondary to the situation
itself, is one of the biggest mysteries of all), reality is torn apart at
the seams, and every alternate universe in the multiverse begins to
collapse into one another. The distortion manifests as reality shifts,
where the fabric of space-time rips open to reveal different dimensions,
some indiscernible from one another, others so different that even the
laws of physics no longer hold true. At first, the shifts come slowly, in
discernable patterns, but eventually the patterns begin to break down, and
the change becomes constant--and often, deadly. As the distortion worsens,
time as a linear concept ceases to exist.
In the Shadowlands, a shifting world composed of
an infinite number of alternate realities, there is an equally infinite
number of any one person. Characters from the countless timelines where
that second battle with Apocalypse never happened can coexist right beside
their counterparts from timelines where it did. The battle itself was
echoed again and again across the multiverse, sometimes so similiar that
the variations are invisible, sometimes wildly different.
The Twelve themselves, centers of the disturbance,
are slowly falling victim to a gradual, but inexorable psychic 'merging'
with their alternate selves. As the shifts continue, even those members of
the Twelve from timelines where the battle never happened slowly become
aware that the chaos is somehow their doing--and slip, inch by painful
inch, into irretrievable madness.
But they are, of course, the key to repairing
These guidelines have been revised more times than
I care to recall, and I certainly can't rule out the possibility of future
revisions - one of these days, I am going to have to make up a rough sort
of timeline for the series, after all - but this is how they stand at the
- Shadowlands may not involve any original
characters (save for those written into the stories by their authors),
or even any particularly original ideas (see the Concept section above),
but this setting, its backstory, its rules and its name are my
invention. Please do not post a Shadowlands story without first asking
my permission. Now, what does this involve... ?
- Not much. Basically, contact me before you
post. Feel free to contact me before or during the process of writing,
as well; I'd be delighted to help you with your fic and answer any
questions you have about the concept or the 'rules'.
- Stories set in or around the Oasis, or
involving Oasis characters, especially need to be run by me first. The
Oasis is the central plotline of the Shadowlands series, and although
there is room for wider participation, there are a lot of
pre-established events and characters that you'll need to know about if
you want to write an Oasis fic. Yes, folks, this is the one part of the
Shadowlands that does have a continuity. ;)
- To answer a question I'm often asked,
non-X, non-Marvel, and even non-comics characters are more than fair
game. It's part of the beauty of the concept. There have been a number of
superb fics involving characters from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, for example. I'd be
intrigued to see other 'worlds' and other fandoms brought into the
- Shared universe or not, the Shadowlands has
rules that have to be followed if you're writing fic you want to see
archived here. If you send me a fic that conflicts with ongoing plot
threads within the wider series or breaks any of the rules of the
Shadowlands universe, and refuse to make the changes I suggest to repair
these problems, I'll ask you not to post it under the Shadowlands name.
I also probably won't archive it. That said, here's the sort-of FAQ to
- I'm writing a
Shadowlands story, and I want my characters to be able to affect the
Shifts. Is this possible?
Only in certain circumstances.
Only the Twelve and a few other extremely powerful psis/reality
warpers/sorcerers can affect the shifts, and even they are limited to
doing it on a local level. In the series as it currently stands,
Franklin Richards has the ability to affect the shifts on the
highest level, stabilizing the local area around him to create the
Oasis, but to do so takes the bulk of his attention and energy.
He's unable to leave, or the whole thing will fall apart. Therefore,
look at it this way; if the character you're writing about is not a
member of the Twelve, and has power levels anywhere short of 'creating a
pocket universe in his little blue ball', the chances of them being able
to affect the shifts at all is low. The chances of them being able to
create any kind of sanctuary, like the Oasis, are virtually
nil. Any sort of technological fix is also not possible. You can't
create a mechanical shield against the shifts.
- Do the shifts
come in any sort of pattern? If so, has it changed over time? Is it just
'space' shifting, or time as well?
The shifts started out
slowly, coming intermittently, and took some time to build to the point
where the world was constantly shifting. At which point, there was no
pattern at all. Time doesn't start to break down until years into
the Shadowlands, and by then, pretty much everything is unpredictable.
You can set a fic at any point in time; most thus far have been set
during the period of constant shifting, but I'd like to see more
exploring the early days of the shifts and the period in which time
itself is shifting.
- How do people
move through the shifts?
You can walk across a shift
line/shift wall, but if you're caught in the path of one as it rips
open, getting out of the way before you wind up decapitated or
dismembered is generally a good idea. ;)
- How big are
the shifts? It varies. Again, this is something that's
- What do shift
lines look like?
You can see across a stationary shift line, but when they're in motion,
they're more like opaque curtains (this is somewhat tentative at this
point, but seems to be the practice that most authors follow).
- I've heard
that the members of the Twelve go mad. Why?
For a couple
of reasons. They go mad not just because of the psychic blurring with
their alternate selves, but because of the temporal residue they pick up
in traveling and manipulating the shifts.
- How do you
know what kind of shift is coming at you?
The Twelve are
sensitive to whether an approaching shift is hostile or not. A few other
characters do have good instincts for traveling in the shifts; for
example, Domino's probability powers translate into a sort of
instinctual knowledge of which way to jump. The same might be true
for precognitives, or people with enhanced senses, but it would be,
again, a very rough, instinctual sense of what was coming, and no
control, one way or the other.
communication across shifts possible? Telepathy is
sometimes effective across shift lines, sometimes not. Otherwise, no;
when you're in a different shift, you're in a different world.
Depending on whether or not the shift is stationary and the shift line
is transparent, you could be able to see someone on the other side,
but you wouldn't be able to speak to them.
- Is there
anything controlling the shifts?
There may or may not be an intelligence behind the shifts
(this is one of those mysteries that have
yet to be solved. Whether or not it's true is for me to know and you all to find
- What happens
if there's a shift where the Earth isn't there?
Basically, if you don't have some way of protecting yourself, you die.
- What crosses a
shiftline, and what stays on the same side?
A person can
walk across a shiftline. Anything else depends on what kind of a shift
it is. If there's some constancy, if it's the same place in one shift as
it is in the shift that rolls across that spot, certain features may
stay the same. For example, if there's a house there in both shifts, the
house will still be there, although it might be a little different in
one than in another. More often, though, the shift will change the
territory it crosses. There are also what you might call 'floating'
shifts, which are fragments of entirely different locations. These
become much more common as the shifts get worse and reality breaks down
- How far up and
down do shifts extend? The shifts stop somewhere around
lunar orbit. They extend downwards to the earth's core. Suffice to say,
this does sometimes cause earthquakes.
Well, that's all I can think of, for now. If you
have a question, let me know, and I'll almost certainly add it to this
FAQ, which is very definitely a work in progress. All submissions to the
archive must be made in HTML--just basic HTML, mind you. I'll do the
specific formatting quite happily. :) I reserve the right to reject
submissions that violate the terms of service of our webhost, as
well as any other submissions I might decide are inappropriate, for the
reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph or any others that
may arise. All stories can be sent to me at
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