Photo by Felix Mittermeier
In Stories From The Hidden World by Brian Jay Nelson, the author takes up expanded universes, exploring more of his vibrant fictional universe through supplemental materials.
Stories From The Hidden World by Brian Jay Nelson is a wonderful addition to the Branchview universe. In this anthology of three short stories, the author delightfully explores more of his fictional world and expands on the themes of eternal and infinite love, the one that exists only between soulmates and persists in every possibility beyond their lives.
Stories From The Hidden World is a great example of supplemental material. What is this supplemental material, you might be asking?
Broadening the World: Expanded Universes
Expanded universes, sometimes called an extended universe, is quite literally the term used for extensions of a media franchise. Imagine the Star Wars Expanded Universe before Disney decided to actually make more movies to be added to the official canon. Installments for expanded universes usually come in the form of supplemental material that is not necessarily a requirement to enjoy the “main” line or the primary continuity. These are usually new stories that involve minor characters, explorations of concepts, or expanding upon already finished storylines and revealing a tiny peek of what has been happening since then.
Some works also cover more esoteric parts of the franchise, such as bits and pieces of history, folklore, legends, and mythical tales. Imagine George R. R. Martin’s The World of a Song of Ice and Fire, which neatly explores the world inside and outside of the main story’s setting of Westeros, touching upon the other continents and factions of the world–and is written as if it is a travelogue similar to Marco Polo’s Travels.
Other examples of expanded universes involve retelling previous installments, either reconfiguring the story entirely or rewriting the narrative from another character’s point of view. Some installments also like to imagine “what-if” scenarios, envisioning other ways the story might have gone had an event happened differently.
It is safe to say that virtually every media franchise that has a consistent and committed fan base, a la Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, etc., has some variation of expanded universes.
How Expanded Universes Affect Fans
Expanded universes, while almost certainly a result of a media company’s pursuit of more profits, can be quite compelling for much of the dedicated fanbase. Some expanded universes might even have a more committed fanbase than the original continuity. While this may be the case, the presence of expanded universes can also lead to fan schisms–whether or not the extended material is on par, quality-wise, with the originals, some fans will inevitably see the works as somewhat “heretical” to the main line, rejecting it as part of the canon. This is why some expanded universes are quite cagey with asserting their canonicity, for fear of upsetting the more hardcore fans of the original work. This is also why extended materials are written in a way that does not acutely affect the narrative of the main line so that it can be discarded at the reader’s behest without affecting the overall enjoyment of the franchise. This is especially so for material that attempts to answer a question posed by the main continuity.
The Importance of Extended Material
Questions of canonicity aside, the main role of expanded universes is that they often become the only vector for new materials related to the franchise. This is undoubtedly the case for series that have already ended or were canceled, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly.
Although this inevitably creates conflict between fans when the main continuity is “revived,” and the extended materials are negated as either “alternate universe stories” or deliberately ignored.