Alt Control


Here are my ideas for a serial novel, with probably a large emphasis on the serialness and open-endedness, but also hopefully with a strong arc.

The idea is similar to the TV show Sliders, with a number of complications thrown in that wouldn’t have fit in a TV show.

The central premise is that there are alternate universes (possibly called “Alts”), but we have no way of getting to them. Yet. Then, one day, someone manages to figure out how to open a tunnel to an Alt. The very moment they do so, a second tunnel appears, because someone has, at the same time, figured out how to link to their world. Turns out that on every Alt, at the same time, a singularity occurred, when people figured out how to link to another world. All of a sudden we have gone from having the one Earth to having multiple Earths, all linked by a series of tunnels created in the same instant.

Here are a few possible ideas:

1. Some tunnels are one-way, some of them are two-ways. This creates a complicated map of the Alts. And possibly each Alt has only two tunnels, one they opened to another Alt, one where another Alt opened it to them, creating a chain of Alts, a chain that may circle back on itself eventually, or several times, or somehow never, given the possibility of infinite Alts.

2. Sometimes a private group of scientists opened the tunnel on an Alt, sometimes it was the military, or government-funded scientists, or maybe a genius kid on his own. Each Alt could have its own specific reasons for opening the tunnels… and specific and different ideas in mind for the other Alts. Some may come through the tunnel as explorers, some as conquerors, some as corporations looking to open up new business or exploit untapped resources. Some Alts could be opened by religious fundamentalists looking to convert a new world. Some may view the new Alts as a site for scientific experiments, not treating the new Alt as if they’re real. Perhaps some view another Alt as being a sort of virtual reality where anything goes. Possibly some believe they even created the Alts when they opened the tunnel. (Perhaps they’re even right.)

3. One possible plot: a small group of scientists, our main characters, open the tunnel to another Alt, and see alluva sudden a second tunnel open next to it. Soldiers with guns and sharp orders come running through, and, in a panic, the scientists go through the tunnel they opened. They’re in the new Alt for a while, amazed at slight (or perhaps severe) differences, only to find that eventually soldiers come through the tunnel they went through, hellbent on sending a team to conquer every alt. Possibly with way advanced weaponry. They spend a lot of the rest of the story running from the soldiers, and possibly eventually organizing a resistence among the governments across the many Alts.

4. Another possible plot point is the exploration and mapping of the Alts. This could be for purely exploration reasons, or it could be (similar to Sliders) an attempt to map their journey home. They’re trying to escape from the soldiers while also hoping to come full circle in their chain of tunnels, getting back to their original Alt. As they travel, they catalogue what the differences are on each Alt, and which Alt connects to which. I figure that they number the worlds: Alt 1, Alt 2, Alt 3, etc., calling their own Alt “Home” (or some such, possibly more scientific). Presumably each Alt would welcome this map of the other Alts and make copies, though I’m sure that each Alt would bristle at being known as “Alt 14” or whatever, since to each Alt their own world would be “Home”.

5. Possibly they are mapping the worlds not just on their own, but for a company that sponsored their research. Or another company… Maybe they’re going Alt by Alt and setting up the infrastructure to connect all the internets into an Altnet. Or maybe this is a terrible idea. But maybe they’re being paid to explore just to see if every Alt is safe… Which of course they all would not be.

6. It’s possible that all the Alts that are connected are in a chain (or ring). This may not actually involve every single Alt in existence (which could theoretically be infinite). Perhaps some Alt groupings are inherently unstable, due to including a world with a toxic atmosphere, or a deadly pathogen, or a particularly militaristic world (Which this one may contain). Perhaps the Alt tunnels seem preset to link to the “next” world, though they can’t figure out why. (Because I can’t figure out why.) Maybe because, again, any world where you could link to any other world would probably destroy itself. Maybe they eventually figure out how to open passages to random Alts, and maybe that’s a big deal because now everyone’s aware of the Alts and public pressure would keep them from doing it. Or keep them from doing it without taking superextramechaprecautions, anyway. Be neat to have them open up a tunnel to a dying world, or a dead world, or a world that never “lived”.

7. Another idea is to have the tunnels (or maybe some or just one of them) themselves turn out to already support life. Who knows what creatures would live between worlds?

8. If infinite worlds exist, might one contain God? Or be so perfect as to be Heaven? (Or so horrific as to be Hell?) Religious stories could certainly be explored here, though obviously I’d have to be careful to do that well. Nothing is worse than a bad religion story in sci-fi.

Okay, that’s it for now. Obviously what I’ve got is some preliminary world-building, and no characters. I now need to sit down and actually write and see where the writing takes me.


6 Responses to “Alt Control”

  1. gryfft Says:


    write until it hurts

  2. deathbychiasmus Says:

    I like that you’re both A) not afraid to approach religious themes through your writing, and also B) cognizant of the dangers inherent in adopting such themes where writing craft is concerned.

    On a similar note, one time I dreamed that my mom and brother and I walked over a hill and found heaven. It was a suburban subdivision, except that the streets were paved with gold. An angel drove by who looked like an ordinary person wearing sunglasses in a convertible, and you went to school in heaven, but at school all you did was read totally awesome books all day.

  3. aricollins Says:

    So basically Heaven school is Montessori. Man I miss Montessori school.

  4. annoying Says:

    Even if there are infinite universes, there could be a smaller chain of worlds involved. I’ve been involved with several things where one person was randomly assigned to another person; sometimes there would be smaller chains then the number of people in the group. You address this in #6, I’m just saying that I have real life experience that supports that not all the worlds (in your case; people, in mine) need to be involved in the chain.

    How would they find out that some are one-way and some are two-way? Would it be from personal experience or do they meet another group who knows this? And, if some are one-way, it might be hard to form an effective network – either against the militia or for the Altnet.

    Maybe they can alter what worlds are involved in the chain(s), and eventually short circuit all the militant worlds into each other. There’s a kind of justice in that.

    If they are trying to get home, how would they know it was “home”? This is one of those problems I’ve wondered about because of Sliders. Things will happen while they are trying to get home. Their world may not be our world by the time they get back to it. This would, admittedly, be easier with a one-in/one-out situation. If they run into a militant world and then one that looks like their own, they’re probably home.

    If a military is following them, then some of the tunnels could effectively be one-way until they can find a way to defeat them. Of coarse, if the military that is following them spreads out too fast that could be used against them and they could be defeated that way. And if they don’t, it will take them more time to defeat each world and the scientists could gather people a few worlds away together to defeat the military. This would be a way to get around the “how do they know they are back on their home world?” question. If they know how many worlds they have traveled through, they know how many they have to travel back through to get home.

    I understand your concern in #8. One of my brothers complains about poorly written religions. I think his biggest complaint is that the people writing don’t understand the religion(s) they are basing their’s off of. DBX seems to think that won’t be a problem for you.

    I may post other ideas later. My mind kinda went into overload with ideas and I’m not sure if I remembered them all (and I may come up with others).

    Ditto gryfft: write; write ’til it hurts.

    @DBX – cool dream.

  5. aricollins Says:

    Thanks for the input! Any other ideas you have are very much welcome. Gryfft has had a couple suggestions also that I might implement. You’ve both given me a lot to think about.

    I always thought the Sliders attempt to get home was a little off, too. So I’m not sure what I’m gonna do. I think part of it in Sliders was that they couldn’t just settle down in any one alternate Earth, since their “doubles” were there already. I’ve been thinking about what to do with the Doubles Issue. I think a lot of it depends on the level of differences between worlds. If the Alts aren’t too different from each other, then you’d have doubles, but if the worlds are even a bit seriously different from each other than there would be plenty of worlds where you were never born. If the worlds are close to each other, then your person might be vastly different from you, while if the worlds are very similar, then our explorers may be meet themselves in similar or different exploration groups. And different characters could have differing reactions to meeting themselves. Another idea would be that groups of people might try to escape their world by going to a neighboring world, killing their double off, and taking over, Invasion of the Body Snatchers style.

    One of the problems / opportunities with the world-building I’ve got here is that every idea could be a serious fucking novel on its own.

  6. annoying Says:

    You could always write more than one story. Either about different groups in the same universe, or about completely different universes that have different rules from each other.

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