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Author Topic: The Greatest Imaginary Story Plot Device Ever  (Read 1934 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: April 12, 2006, 07:38:08 AM »

...is Superman's "Electronic Oracle." When programmed, it would display a possible future. FUTURAMA has a similar device, the What-If Machine, which shows in several minutes how things would be different if, say, Bender was 500 feet tall. The Electronic Oracle was the original "frame story" behind the first Imaginary Stories, and later ones tended to just be straightforward and present the possible future. Arguably, it is also the best for several reasons.  

1) It accounts for why Imaginary Stories set in the future don't take into account things that pop up in the interim. This is the best reason of all; Imaginary Stories and "possible future" Elseworlds get dated real fast. KINGDOM COME, the last big Elseworlds, doesn't take into account the return of Hal Jordan and Supergirl, for example, or the new black guy that became the Spectre. All the way back in BATMAN #131 (1960), there was an Imaginary Story that showed Dick Grayson as a grownup in love with Bette Kane and Batman married to Kathy Kane. If this story is supposedly set "in the future," why didn't it take into account for instance, other women that Bruce Wayne loved, like Ra's al-Ghul's daughter Talia or Silver St. Cloud, or take into account Dick Grayson's future love, Starfire? The answer in the "real" world is that obviously Starfire, Talia and Silver St. Cloud were years and years away from their first appearances, and unless the script was punched up by Nostrodamus, they could not have played a role in the story. If the means by which we know about a story is a computer that can only extrapolate based on existing data, it can account for why it WOULD predict a Kathy Kane/Bruce marriage, at least from that point in time.

2) It provides a frame story. This was the original function of the devices that Superman uses to view possible futures, and provides justification for what it is we are seeing. It can actually tie into a main story - for instance, Superman asks the machine

3) It accounts for why this possible future would never happen. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle states that the very act of observing something alters it, and this most assuredly is especially true of viewing possible futures.

4) It does credit to Superman's ability to build things. If Superman builds a computer that predicts the future - and also is apparently able to show the thoughts of people, and take the most dramatic possible angles to show action...well, they don't call him SUPERMAN for nothing!
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« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2006, 03:39:32 PM »

I agree --I need a framing device for those stories!  I want a dream, a knock on the head, a gypsy fortune-teller, computer prediction ...something!

Plus, it makes the Imaginary Stories easier to write up in Encyclopedia articles (ie, "in June 1964, Lois Lane has a dream that Superman transforms into an effeminate panty-waist named Super-Milquetoast...").

Speaking of Futurama, the "Lisa as President" episode of the Simpsons has a great framing device as well --they see the future while gazing into the smoke signals of an Indian Casino boss, or something like that.
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