Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Worlds Within Worlds

I discussed this in "Getting Superman Right" but it is worth repeating here. I understand that a "metafiction"is a fictional text that somehow acknowledges its own fictional status.

There is a simple example of metafiction in the concluding James Bond novel. By the end of that series, Bond has gained some notoriety through newspaper reports and popular novels. After disappearing for a year, he returns and recontacts the Ministry of Defense where the telephone receptionist initially dismisses him as just another nut who thinks he is James Bond. That phrase, "...thinks he is James Bond...," used in the fictional world where Bond is a real person, could equally have been used in the real world where he is a fictitious person. Both worlds have in common nuts who think they are James Bond.

There is a powerful use of metafiction in Alan Moore's Marvelman. Michael Moran assures his wife, Elizabeth, that, even if his newly recalled adventures as Marvelman sound like a joke, what happened in 1963 certainly was not. In 1963, the original Marvelman ceased publication... In 1963, the Marvelman family was hit by an A-bomb... Thus, even the cancellation of a comic book can be reinterpreted to dramatic effect in a revived version.

The attached image is panel 1 of p. 62 of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: The Wake (New York, 1997). I trust that the dialogue is legible on screen. The first speaker is the Clark Kent of Earth DC. We know that he has two other identities but, when he is dressed like that, we call him Clark Kent. This Kent does not dream that he is the Superman either of the original The Adventures Of Superman TV series or of the later Lois And Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman TV series. Instead, he dreams that he is a non-super powered inhabitant of Earth Real, specifically either George Reeves or Dean Cain. The Batman (we call him this because he is in costume) dreams of being Adam West. The Martian Manhunter, of course, never dreams about being a human inhabitant of any Earth.

Thus, Earth Real is a dream on Earth DC which is a fiction on Earth Real. Here we have not only a world within a world but also a world within itself.

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