Expanded Universe: Definition and How to Create One

Posted on May 16, 2023

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The literary landscape is so vast it can at times to be difficult to stand out, but certain stories do captivate our imaginations to such an extent that we yearn for more.

Enter the concept of the “Expanded Universe.” Originating in the realm of science fiction and fantasy, expanded universes have taken storytelling to new heights, offering readers a boundless cosmos of interconnected narratives, characters, and worlds. 

In this article, we will delve deep through the expansive realms of literature, exploring the origins, intricacies, and enduring appeal of expanded universes from a literary perspective.

This guide to expanded universes covers:

  1. What is an expanded universe?
  2. What is the origin of the ‘expanded universe concept?
  3. What is the appeal of an expanded universe?
  4. Tips for crafting an expanded universe
  5. Examples of expanded universes
  6. What is the future of the expanded universe concept?
  7. Are you ready to create and explore your own expanded universe?

Let’s start by understanding how we define the idea of an expanded universe within the field of fiction.

What is an expanded universe?

An expanded universe can be defined in one of two ways:

1. A narrative tapestry

An expanded universe refers to a vast collection of narratives set within the same fictional universe.

These narratives are often interconnected, sharing characters, settings, and overarching storylines. The concept of an expanded universe allows authors to delve deeper into their fictional worlds, expanding upon the original story and weaving intricate tapestries of interconnected narratives.

2. A multiverse of possibilities 

Expanded universes provide authors with the opportunity to explore different time periods, cultures, and perspectives within a shared fictional cosmos.

By expanding the narrative scope, authors can delve into untold stories, develop secondary characters, and unearth new dimensions of their literary creations. This expansion enriches the reading experience, offering readers a more comprehensive understanding of the fictional universe.

What is the origin of the ‘expanded universe’ concept?

So what’s the origin of the idea of an expanded universe, and how is the concept developing?

1. The origin of expanded universes

The concept of the expanded universe emerged primarily within the realms of science fiction and fantasy franchises.

In the 1960s, science fiction author Isaac Asimov pioneered this concept with his “Foundation” series, which extended into a vast universe comprising novels, short stories, and tie-in works. The seminal work of J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Lord of the Rings,” also laid the foundation for an expansive universe, inspiring future authors to develop rich mythologies and interconnected narratives.

2. Expanding beyond the page

With the advent of new media platforms, expanded universes have transcended the confines of traditional books.

The rise of films, television series, video games, and graphic novels has allowed authors and creators to further expand their narratives across multiple mediums. This transmedia approach immerses readers and audiences in a more comprehensive and interactive storytelling experience, deepening their connection with the expanded universe.

What is the appeal of an expanded universe?

Let’s take a look at the main reasons why readers enjoy expanded universes in fiction.

1. Immersive World-Building

Expanded universes offer readers a chance to dive deeply into the intricacies of a fictional world. The meticulous world-building, rich with detail, history, and mythology, creates a sense of immersion that sparks readers’ imaginations. Whether exploring far-off galaxies, magical realms, or hidden dimensions, readers are captivated by the sheer depth and complexity of these expansive literary cosmos.

2. Character Connections

One of the most appealing aspects of expanded universes is the opportunity to follow beloved characters across multiple narratives. Characters become familiar companions, and readers develop emotional connections with their journeys and growth. As characters traverse different storylines and interact with various individuals within the expanded universe, readers are rewarded with a sense of continuity and a deeper understanding of their favorite literary figures.

3. Endless Exploration

Expanded universes present readers with a sense of limitless exploration. The vast array of narratives, spin-offs, and tie-in works invites readers to venture into uncharted territories, uncover hidden secrets, and stumble upon unexpected connections. Readers revel in the thrill of discovery, as they uncover new dimensions, untold stories, and hidden Easter eggs within the expansive universe. Each new piece of the puzzle deepens their understanding and appreciation of the intricately woven narrative web.

Tips for crafting an expanded universe

So what are three practical tips for authors looking to try their hand at the concept of an expanded universe?

  1. Aim for a cohesive universe

Crafting an expanded universe requires meticulous attention to detail and consistency.

Authors must ensure that each new narrative aligns seamlessly with the existing canon, maintaining the integrity of the fictional cosmos. Consistent world-building, established rules, and continuity of characters and events are essential to preserve the coherence of the expanded universe.

2. Consider collaborating and iterating

Expanded universes often extend beyond the creative efforts of a single author.

Collaborative storytelling allows multiple authors to contribute to the same universe, adding their unique perspectives and expanding the narrative tapestry. Such collaborations necessitate communication, coordination, and an iterative approach to maintain cohesion and continuity.

3. Don’t overlook the potential for fan engagement

Expanded universes foster vibrant and passionate communities of fans who eagerly explore, discuss, and speculate about the intricacies of the fictional cosmos.

Fan theories, online forums, and fan-generated content contribute to the collective experience, enriching the reading journey. The shared enthusiasm and engagement of fans further fuel the longevity and success of the expanded universe.

Examples of expanded universes

So what about some real-world examples of the expanded universe concept?

Here are three of the most prominent expanded universes:

1. The Marvel Cinematic Universe

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) stands as a towering example of an expanded universe.

Spanning films, television series, and tie-in comics, the MCU weaves together the stories of iconic superheroes, creating a cohesive narrative tapestry that has captivated audiences worldwide. The interconnectedness, character development, and intricate plotting have made the MCU a cultural phenomenon.

2. The Discworld Series

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series offers a humorous and satirical exploration of a sprawling fantasy universe.

With over 40 novels, the series combines witty storytelling, unforgettable characters, and a complex web of interconnected narratives. Pratchett’s Discworld invites readers into a universe where magic, satire, and social commentary intertwine.

3. The Star Wars Expanded Universe

The Star Wars Expanded Universe encompasses an extensive collection of novels, comics, and multimedia tie-ins that expand upon the beloved space opera saga.

These narratives explore untold stories, delve into the histories of minor characters, and expand the vast galactic tapestry beyond the confines of the original films. Though the Expanded Universe is no longer considered canon, its impact on the franchise and its dedicated fanbase is undeniable.

What is the future of the expanded universe concept?

As literature continues to evolve, expanded universes will undoubtedly evolve with it.

Advancements in technology, changing reader expectations, and new storytelling mediums will shape the future of these vast literary cosmos.

Authors will continue to push the boundaries, exploring innovative ways to expand their narratives and engage readers in immersive, interconnected experiences.

Are you ready to create and explore your own expanded universe?

In the ever-expanding cosmos of fiction, expanded universes offer readers a ticket to explore the uncharted territories of storytelling.

From immersive world-building and interconnected narratives to fan engagement and the thrill of discovery, the appeal of expanded universes lies in their ability to transport readers to limitless realms of imagination. 

As authors continue to craft intricate tapestries of interconnected narratives, readers embark on epic journeys, exploring expansive literary cosmos that capture their hearts and ignite their imaginations.

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