Greetings and Salutations XII: Many Worlds Skyrim

Well, TES lore is a big wibbly-wobbly lorey-worey thing. ~Memai

A/N: This post contains spoilers for readers not caught up through the story.

I finished my next chapter and will probably post it some time tomorrow.  To the disappointment of several of you, it will not be a Trygve-centered post (although I can assure that plenty more Trygve information is forthcoming).  Rather, it’s a lore-based chapter, one of my many attempts to bend the Elder Scrolls universe to do my bidding. 

All of my chapters stress me out.  If my husband had a dollar for every time that I said, “This chapter sucks and all my readers are going to leave me,” he would have enough coin to fund my dream of quitting my job to write fan fiction full time.  But lore-chapters (basically any attempt I make to rewrite Elder Scrolls history or insert my characters into major events, create artifacts and expand the roles of the Divines or certain factions) create a special kind of stress, one that makes me reflect on why I am telling this story in the first place.

If I could go back and retell this story with a completely clean slate, it would look very different.  It would center on three very different characters, with different personalities and backgrounds.  It would probably combine more major quest lines and the lore aspects would be seamless.  But the story that lives in my head and is begging to be released is not that story.  The things that need to happen are not always completely compatible with the lore.  Sometimes I am okay with that, but sometimes I’m not.

There are a couple of things I do to rationalize some of the creative decisions that I make.  I subscribe to what I like to call the “many worlds theory of Skyrim.”  I have only a Wikipedia-based knowledge of quantum physics so please bear with me as I try to explain this.  Wikipedia states that the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics “implies that all possible alternative histories and futures are real, each representing an actual “world” (or “universe”).”  The Skyrim in which Elspeth and Co. exist is not Bethesda’s Skyrim, but it exists parallel to (or in conjunction with) it.  In that respect it is entirely possible that Martin Septim was schtupping one of the Blades who later had his baby.  It’s entirely possible that an Altmer named Fainde whose parents who fought in the Nights of the Green Fire would go on to mentor a woman named Evangeline.  And that Evangeline would become Archmage of Arcane University and marry a Blade who happened to be the last descendant of the Septim line and bear him a child named Elspeth.

Sure, why not?

The alternative universes in many-worlds theory, however, are still bound by certain laws that exist in the universe we consider our own.   While there could be, for example, a universe in which I am married to Tamoh Penikett, it is very unlikely that, within that universe, our children are alien life forms adopted from Keppler 22B (or maybe there would be, I don’t actually understand theoretical physics).  As is the case with any fantasy-based narrative, there are certain rules around which the fantasy universe is built.  And this is where I get uneasy.  Because there are certain things I want to see happen in my story that are, if not impossible, then highly unlikely within the current canon.  And I want to respect the lore, but I also want to make the world my own.

I’ve read quite a lot on UESP and the Imperial Library, but I have a limited amount of time that I can spend on research for this Disaster.  I rely a lot on Michael Kirbride’s posts, which are known for being thoughtful but not always correct in the strictest interpretations of the lore.  His comments on Altmer and Talos fit right into my idea of fringe elements even within the Thalmor so I have unapologetically appropriated some of that stuff to my story.  Going forward I aim to be thorough, but there will be times I may need to go back and tweak things as I discover new and better connections or find things that outright contradict things I’ve said and made them completely stupid.  I’ll note when those things happen, but I won’t be making any plot changes.

My story is also very character and relationship driven and quite often lore takes a back seat to that.  Joss Whedon is perhaps one of my biggest influences and as any rabid and analytical Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fan can tell you, there are times when he and his writers broke the lore for the sake of taking a creative risk.

One could argue that the Elder Scrolls lore is not mine to break and they would be correct.  I accept that, but at the same time there are risks I want to take.  I can say this much, when I come to a plot point that seems to require bending lore and breaking canon, the first thing I do (or try to do) is be certain that there is no canon-friendly way to go about it.  If that doesn’t happen, I try to make sure that the plot point is compelling.  That is, it doesn’t exist to make the resolution of my story neater or more satisfactory.  The background I have set up in this Epic Disaster could easily lend itself to a Mary Sue retelling of certain major quest lines and I’m really not interested in that.  I can’t promise that everything about this story is good, only that nothing will come easy.


17 thoughts on “Greetings and Salutations XII: Many Worlds Skyrim

  1. Pyrelle

    I think this is something that all Fan fiction writers have to deal with so you are in good company. I think whatever you have to do you did with a reason so I never really question your motives for anything after all it is you world we just read about it and love it =)

      1. Elspeth Aurilie Post author

        As evidence of how disappointed I was in Dollhouse, I couldn’t be arsed to try it again for either Tamoh Penickett or Alan Tudyk’s characters.

  2. Wendy Schardein

    Oh, wow, you didn’t like Dollhouse? I loved it! So far I’ve liked everything Joss has done, although we haven’t worked up the courage to see Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long yet. And I always love me some Alan Tudyk. He speaks, and I laugh. I’m actually wearing a t-shirt at the moment with two dinosaurs and a bubble that says, “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal.” Sorry. Got off the subject there.

    1. Elspeth Aurilie Post author

      I love Firefly, LOVE LOVE LOVE. Dollhouse had a lot of potential but I think what really killed it for me is that Eliza Dushku just didn’t have the chops to pull off the acting needed to sustain basically a new character every week.

      It took me about three tries watching Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long before it clicked with me and even then I didn’t love it. But I think I’m the only Joss Whedon fan in the world who didn’t like it that much.

      And never apologize for getting off the subject, ever.

  3. springinkerl

    Honestly, I always find it funny when people who are not called Stephen Hawking (or at least Neal Stephenson) use quantum mechanics (or something equally incomprehensible for a *normal* mind) as explanations for their writings. I hope I’m correct assuming that you’re neither 🙂
    Lore isn’t written in stone, and TES lore even less than others. It has developed and changed considerately from Arena up to Skyrim, and as something that is invented to make money from it, it will change even further with ongoing development.
    As fanfiction authors, IMHO it’s our job to make this world and its lore our own and change it the way we think appropriate… everything else would be terribly boring. I think we have a right to do with it whatever we want. If you choose to stay true to it (in its current state), that’s your decision alone, and you have to justify it solely to yourself. Personally, I’m not interested in alien lifeforms from Kepler xy in Skyrim either, but that’s my personal preference and not something inherently bad. If an author comes up with a credible, plausible scenario that makes the Dwemer into spacetraveling shapeshifters, all power to him/her.
    Someone who argues the TES lore is not yours to break isn’t correct. He/She’s a moron 🙂

    1. Elspeth Aurilie Post author

      No, I am neither Stephen Hawking nor Neal Stephenson. I do copyedit string theory articles for a living, but my knowledge of such things is limited to where the AIP likes to put commas.

      Thankfully, no one has ever said that the lore isn’t mine to break. And I think that having a preference for more logical/seamless interpretations of the lore is perfectly reasonable. It’s not like there aren’t literally thousands and thousands of Elder Scrolls fictions out there.

      I think the tension between working within the lore and getting the story you need to tell out is part of the fun, honestly. But it is a specific sort of stress.

    2. Elspeth Aurilie Post author

      Oh and Memai (the artists who did my last commission said this about the lore and I think truer words were never spoken:

      “Well, TES lore is a big wibbly-wobbly lorey-worey thing”

  4. Lulzy

    Break it baby! Shatter it into teensy tiny pieces, put it back together and make it YOURS!

    …sorry, I have a bit too much enthusiasm for things I can’t/don’t do myself. I have enough trouble with the basic Skyrim questline, let alone all the lore-y stuff. Hahahaha *sobs*

    1. Elspeth Aurilie Post author

      I appreciate it though. When I was living someplace where I did not have access to an Xbox, I used to spend a lot of time on UESP, just reading lore and shit. It’s how I got my TES fix until I was back at my boyfriend’s house.

  5. adantur

    I never really thought about this issue with regards to Elspeth before, I suppose I was always simply comfortable with the fact that you will have to tweak the lore somewhat to fit in and around your rather large story. In my mind it’s gone a little beyond simple fan fiction, the story itself is highly original, not to mention enjoyable and could, in my opinion, be transplanted into another fantasy universe (with a lil tweaking of course) and still be all of those things.

    I myself like to stick almost religiously to the lore but that’s because I’m going for a different effect altogether i.e. plonking a random guy into Skyrim and seeing how he get’s on.


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