Poll "Small Universe Syndrome" - Yay Or Nay?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by wayoung, Sep 9, 2021.

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Do you enjoy fiction that has Small Universe Syndrome?

  1. Yes! I love when my favourite characters all end up connected!

    27 vote(s)
    67.5%
  2. No, it breaks my suspension of disbelief

    13 vote(s)
    32.5%
  1. Kor

    Kor Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    In real life if you work in the same field long enough, you do tend to encounter certain people repeatedly throughout your career. So I think it's realistic and reasonable for that sort of thing to occur in fiction, to a certain degree. Of course, it's possible to go overboard with that.

    Kor
     
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  2. UssGlenn

    UssGlenn Commodore Commodore

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    My best guess based on the current information, which SNW might later contradict, is:

    Chapel and Korby meet while she is his student.
    After she graduates they get engaged
    Chapel decides she wants to join Starfleet and gives up her research career. They stay engaged.
    Kirby leaves for the Exo III expedition, and is lost.
    Chapel, being on assignment, doesn't go on either of the 2 previous trips to find him.
    She gets lucky that the Enterprise is assigned to check again.

    This actually gives Chapel more agency as a character, as her career decisions are not now dictated by her searching for her man. It also explains why she wouldn't accompany her fiance on the Exo III mission in the first place.
     
  3. BK613

    BK613 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I voted no. While it can be done well, most of the time it ends up being a mess. Besides, I'm a person who wants good world-building in the stories I read/watch and everyone connected to everyone isn't that.
     
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  4. Reverend

    Reverend Vice Admiral Admiral

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    IMO, so called "small universe syndrome" is like any storytelling tool in that it is neither good nor bad; it entirely depends on how it's used.

    Also: the term itself is so nebulous and so often misused as to loose all meaning. I mean how small is small? By who's standards?
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2021
  5. wayoung

    wayoung Commodore Commodore

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    In your field, are there 2 billion other workers from all over the galaxy, and the one you keep running into is your nemesis who is shokingly revealed to be your long thought dead brother?
     
  6. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    It should perhaps be noted that "Small World Syndrome" is as old as fiction. Oedipus's wife turns out to be his mother. Quasimodo and Esmerelda turn out to have been switched at birth (in the original novel). Milady DeWinter turns out to be Athos's long-lost wife in The Three Musketeers. Oliver Twist is taken in by a kindly old man who turns out to be his long-lost great-uncle. And don't get me started on Edgar Rice Burroughs . . . :)

    Nothing new here.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2021
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  7. Noname Given

    Noname Given Admiral Admiral

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    Um, Capel 'arrived' in TOS S1 - "What Are little Girls Made Of", and signed on because the 1701n was being sent to find what happened to her fiancée - Dr. Roger Corby. of all the legacy characters, hers is the most problematic continuity wise from the original Star Trek:

     
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  8. The Santalorian

    The Santalorian Admiral Admiral

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    Small works syndrome is fine in small doses but shouldn’t be overused.
     
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  9. BK613

    BK613 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    @Greg Cox Plot twists within a single work isn't really 'small universe syndrome' especially if the intertwining is within a small group, like the French nobility. The Count of Monte Cristo being a direct descendant of d'Artagnan would be though, if that were the case.
     
  10. Owain Taggart

    Owain Taggart Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It depends on how it's used and how significant, and there are times where it makes sense. But the concept reminds me of a small town where everyone knows everybody, and where news travels fast. That's not going to work for everything, and therein lies the problem when some properties are forced to have links with pretty much everything.

    For Superheroes, it kind of makes sense in that it's an exclusive club, and they'll vaguely be aware of each other or cross paths at some point, and the X-Men has them train together under a single roof.

    But then, you have those that that throw everything and the kitchen sink.

    Yes, exactly. 20+ movies just to understand much of the characters and their context. That's a major peeve of mine with the MCU. I kind of hate the MCU for what it's done to movies, in the sense that nothing of theirs is ever standalone now. It's a lot of baggage.

    I was watching Spiderman Far From Home recently, and for the better part of the movie, I was so confused because there had been so many direct callbacks to other movies, that I was so lost. So, what should have been a fun experience wasn't really. And this opinion is likely going to be unpopular, but I feel the MCU has made the Spiderman movies objectively worse. Yeah, Tom Holland is great, and yeah, there are some fun interactions, but IMHO there wasn't all that much gained from it being part of the MCU. I much prefer Tobey Maguire and the interpretation of the character and the richness he brought to the role, and even while there were sequels, they were still pretty much self-contained and able to be understood on their own without an encyclopedia of movies.

    I honestly miss the days when superhero movies could just be standalone experiences.
     
  11. Reverend

    Reverend Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It's almost as if these stories were somehow "made up", or something!? ;)

    Mind you, this kinda crap happens in real life too. I won't go into the full story, but in short: when my grandmother was about 12, she had to leave the country she grew up in and be evacuated to England. On the docks helping said evacuees board the departing ships was a contingent of British soldiers, one of whom was my grandfather (who'd lied about his age to join up)...and before anyone thinks this is some BS love at first sight story; they wouldn't actually meet for at least another decade, and thousands of miles away, and it was years before they even realised they'd crossed paths already.

    If someone wrote that kind of "near miss" encounter into a story it'd be decried as "small universe syndrome". Sometimes, it really is a small world.
     
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  12. SantaEddie74

    SantaEddie74 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Take the Kennedy Assassination. Lee Harvey Oswald was friends with a man named George de Mohrenschildt who was also a wealthy petroleum geologist with CIA contacts who happened to also know George Herbert Walker Bush and Jackie Kennedy's family. History and circumstance make a lot of weird things line up.
     
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  13. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I don't know. I think the same objections about plausibility and probability apply. Of all the upper-class households in London, Oliver Twist just happens to break into the house of his long-lost great-uncle? Quasimodo and Esmerelda are switched at birth, yet just happen to cross paths later on in the most dramatic of ways, completely unaware of the secret connection between them? Unlikely connections and coincidences are the stuff of classic myth and melodrama, and seem to be what people are objecting to when they complain about "small universe syndrome."

    "Wait. The villain just happens to be the hero's long-lost brother? What are the odds?" :)

    This reminds me of a famous debate between Stan Lee and Steve Ditko regarding the secret identity of the Green Goblin. As I understand it, when it was finally time to unmask the Green Goblin, Ditko wanted it to be a random stranger since that would be more realistic (and less cliche) than having it be somebody in Peter Parker's immediate circle of friends and associates, but Lee feared that revealing that the Goblin was just some guy we'd never heard of would be terribly anti-climatic, so he insisted that the Goblin turn out to be Norman Osborne, the father of Peter's best friend.

    Obviously, Lee got his way -- and Ditko quit in protest.

    You can make a case for both arguments, but I can definitely see Lee's point here. Fiction is not reality, and sometimes what works dramatically matters more than "realism" or "believability."
     
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  14. The Santalorian

    The Santalorian Admiral Admiral

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    You could also argue there’s a literary version of survivor bias. Of all the trillions of people in this universe, 99.9999% of them had nothing that interesting happen to them between 2364 and 2370. And people only wrote stories about the other .0001%.
     
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  15. UssGlenn

    UssGlenn Commodore Commodore

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    Everything you just said is based off the writers guide, we have no information on screen about when she quit her research career and joined Starfleet. Whatever the original intent, her being a former researcher can be read as context on how she came to know Korby.

    I direct you to my proposed timeline up-thread. The change is a positive one for Chapel's character.
     
  16. SantaEddie74

    SantaEddie74 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The writers' guides have a lot of things in them that clash with a lot of filmed canon. I'll go with what's onscreen in TOS Season 1 and not what a booklet designed to help the original writers said.
     
  17. DarrenTR1970

    DarrenTR1970 Captain Captain

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    I worked in an office environment where one of my co-workers husband went to high school with my father. I live and work in the greater Seattle area, my father went to high school in Montana, then moved here after 'Nam. What are the odds that I would work with someone who's husband went to school with my father?
     
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  18. wayoung

    wayoung Commodore Commodore

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    Very low, which is why it only happened to you, why it was notable enough you remember it, only happened once, and occured through multiple degrees of separation (you to your co worker to her husband to your dad).

    Coincidental encounters over a lifetime happen, especially when you start bringing in 2-6 degrees of separation like yourself and the other anecdotes posted here. But they are rare & that's why we remember them. They're also still distant connections and not your long lost brother/father/sister who, in a shocking twist, turns out is your present day nemesis.

    We're also working through a much smaller pool than in sci-fi. Star Wars occurs over most of a galaxy. The Federation over 350 world's and 985 billion people.
     
  19. The Santalorian

    The Santalorian Admiral Admiral

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    The first time I was pulled over by a cop it was a guy I went to elementary school with. Coincidences happen. But, they don’t happen once a week as the primary driver of your life.
     
  20. BK613

    BK613 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I would be with Ditko on that one; it was cliched-and a bit of a cheat, since it required less effort than establishing a new character.
    Still don't think of that as small universe syndrome though. To me it is Anakin building droids as a kid so of course he builds C3PO or Yoda fighting with the Wookies so of course he fights with Chewbacca or the Enterprise-B having a helm officer named Sulu or Tuvok serving on the Excelsior under that helm officer's father. It's introducing a previously known character for 'reasons'.
     
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