Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Shared Worlds

Tales written by various hands but sharing a common setting (in fantasy, often a Fantasyland) are shared-world stories. They are distinguished from Sequels by Other Hands because individual stories in an SW venue often do not sequel one another and because there is not normally an original text from which later stories develop. In place of this original text, SW enterprises normally make use of a "bible", essentially an annotated set of rules laying down – on behalf of the owners and/or operators of the SW – the conditions governing the roles, actors, venues, storylines and potential implications of any story set in the SW.

The first modern SW enterprises were the Christmas annuals produced in the UK from circa 1860, and the first of fantasy interest was almost certainly Mugby Junction * (anth 1866 chap) ed Charles Dickens, a self-contained Christmas issue of All the Year Round, in which several tales, including Dickens's own "No. l Branch Line. The Signalman" (> Trains), are told within the context of a complex Frame Story (>>> Annuals).

The most famous genre SWs are almost certainly those generated by the owners of Star Trek and Dr Who. The most famous Horror example is probably H P Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. Fantasy SWs include ventures connected with Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover, Philip José Farmer's Riverworld, Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius, Andre Norton's Witch World, Thieves' World ed Lynn Abbey and Robert L Asprin, Borderland ed Mark Alan Arnold and Terri Windling, Shanadu (anth 1953) ed Robert E Briney (1933-    ), Emma Bull's and Will Shetterly's Liavek, Heroes in Hell ed C J Cherryh and Janet E Morris, Bill Fawcett's Guardians of the Three, Temps, The Weerde and Villains – ed variously Neil Gaiman, Mary Gentle, Roz Kaveney and Alex Stewart – George R R Martin's Wild Cards, Richard Pini's Winds of Change, Witches Three (anth 1952) ed anon Fletcher Pratt, including Pratt's own The Blue Star (exp 1969), – and Crafters ed Christopher Stasheff and Bill Fawcett.

There are also SW enterprises like DragonLance, which are owned by corporations and whose contents are tied to fantasy Games. [JC]


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.