Fusion AU

Posted on Sun May 15 2016 -- fusion-au

I've got three different documents that describe "fusion AUs": alternate universes built from combinations of existing franchises. I want to talk about how I went about creating them, why I do it, and how I'm starting another one.

First was Force Effect. This could be considered a simple prototype, built only from four different franchises: Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Mass Effect, and Mobile Suit Gundam.

Next I wrote Falken's Matrix. This was a comprehensive look at artificial intelligence and robots gone rogue, running from 1947 to the future of the Matrix.

Most recently I completed Attack From the Stars. This is a look at alien invasion: not just alien science fiction, but specifically where aliens come with hostile intent.

The 'why' is simple: it's fun to play around with fictional universes. What about the how?

I start by deciding on a theme. This should be a specific rule for what is in and what is out. "Aliens" is broad. "Alien invasion" is specific.

With the theme in mind, I go looking for franchises. TV Tropes has a list of general tropes such as  AI Is a crapshoot or Alien Invasion. These tropes will suggest other tropes.

Next, I look for a timeline for each franchise. Major franchises often have timelines published on the Web. More self-contained shows don't have a timeline. If they are contemporary, I try to place them on the year they were released. If they aren't, they'll either specify or suggest a date. I organize this stuff using Google Docs, using a spreadsheet to arrange dates and a document to store links and take notes.

The franchises will have points of overlap. They can develop synergies with each other, or plug holes in each other. For example, the Bablyon 5 era features an invasion of Earth to free it from a militaristic and extremist regime. That's the same era as "Starship Troopers", a story that has been accused of having militaristic and extreme overtones. I wound up combining the two — the Bug invasion sparked a highly authoritarian response on Earth, and became harsh enough for the Babylon 5 crew to intervene.

I try to break the timeline into eras, or blocks of time that follow a shared theme. For example, Attack from the Stars separated logically into eras prior to a big invasion, followed by another war, an expansion through the solar system, a series of alliances with superior races, and finally a dark period of war.

Once I've worked these details out, I finish up by converting the eras into narratives. Each era has a story and I try to make that story have a definite beginning and end that supports the feeling of the era. Some elements can carry over from one era to another, or be rewritten from their source franchise to be the product of a previous era. For example, the invasion of Kaiju on Earth ("Pacific Rim") follows from an earlier invasion ("Independence Day"), and is instigated by extradimensional aliens who already have a grudge with humanity ("Half-Life").

Ideally, the end result will be a history where stories and role-play could plug in at multiple points. None of it is suitable for publication — this is built on other peoples' IP - but it's an entertaining in the same way as solving a jigsaw puzzle: finding pieces that fit together to create an interesting whole.