5 Weird Details Of Fictional Universes Nobody Told You
How well do you know your make-believe worlds? Do you study their history and geography? Do you obsessively classify their flora and fauna? Do you have all their records? Because if you do, you might notice certain stuff that usually doesn't make it to the best-selling novels and blockbuster movies -- stuff like, for example ...
Conan and Cthulhu Exist In The Same Fictional Universe
What was the best thing in the life of Connan of Cimmeria? Something something and the wind in your hair, you mumble? Wrong! The most amazing thing by far was being magically transported to the 20th century and dressing like a pimp, as Cracked told you about some time ago. Notice that we said "to the 20th century" and not "to Earth" -- unlike his bleached knock-off He-Man, Conan doesn't live in a world different from ours. He lives (well, lived) thousands of years in the past. Robert E. Howard, Conan's creator, outlined a fictional history where Cimmerians are supposed to be the ancestors of the Irish and the Scottish.
This pimpifying of Conan we just brought up happened in the '80s, when Howard was long dead and Marvel Comics owned the license to the character -- but stories involving time travel were already being written in the '30s. The protagonist of "The Shadow out of Time" is snatched from the present day to a past geological era, and meets many people who were similarly time-napped -- sadly, Conan isn't among those, but a Cimmerian chieftain named Crom-Ya is. Just one tiny deet: "The Shadow out of Time" was written by a different Howard -- Howard Philips Lovecraft, Cthulhu's daddy himself. The two Howards never met in person, but exchanged tons of letters, and kept working shout-outs to each other in their stories. R'lyeh, the Big Seafoodface's overly humid hometown, gets a mention in Howard's "Worms of the Earth" -- not a Conan story, but set in the same universe:
Robert Howard was very much into barbarian heroes. He also came up with Kull of Atlantis, a kind of second-rate Conan (eventually played by second-rate Arnold, Kevin Sorbo). Millennia before Conan wore the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow, Kull was already in the king business in the land of Valusia, where he fought fearsome serpent-men. Hey, do you know who else mentions these scary scaly guys? Exactly! Lovecraft does, in "The Haunter of the Dark," part of the Cthulhu Mythos.
Such tiny crossovers pepper the work of both writers. It's just too bad the two big Cs never met face to face, though -- we were forever denied the biggest showdown (or one-on-one soccer match) of all time. But still, the fact remains: In the land of Cthulhu, Conan is canon.
The Enterprise Has Dolphin Crewmembers
The future society of Star Trek is a progressive utopia (as shown by the fact that everyone is cool with the green sex slaves). Accordingly, the crew of the Enterprise is truly diverse, reflecting the variety of not just Earth, but the entire galaxy -- you have the regular people, and the blue people, and the people with ridges on their foreheads, and the people with different ridges on their foreheads. Indeed, you have all the amazing medley of alien lifeforms that can be played by underemployed actors in the Los Angeles area.
Of course, this doesn't mean there aren't more exotic, non-humanoid creatures on board -- only that you never see them. You don't see any toilets either, but you know they have to be somewhere -- crew members don't just teleport their poop to space straight from their pants, like a grosser, high-tech Harry Potter. (Or do they? Um, how do you go about pitching an episode for Picard?) Ultimately, though, any octopus scientists, crab engineers, chef spidercorpions, or sentient pieces of cake we could imagine strolling around the Enterprise are only a supposition -- except, that is, for dolphins. We know for a fact that there are dolphins aboard Jean-Luc Picard's ship. According to The Next Generation Technical Manual, a slice of Deck 13 is taken up by Cetacean Ops, where twelve bottlenose dolphins perform navigation research, supervised by two orcas. (There's no info on what this "navigation research" is -- do they keep the GPS up to date? Whatever it is, sounds like a difficult task for a species that has their fingers permanently stuffed into fleshy mittens.)
No, don't run to re-watch the series. Or do, if you want to (we won't tell you what to do), but you won't get to see any dolphins. The section was only mentioned in passing in a couple episodes and never shown on screen, as it would have been too expensive. (The rates of the dolphins union are crazy.) Sadly, this means that our questions will forever go unanswered: Do the dolphins wear uniforms? Can you have a conversation with Ensign Flipper through the universal translator? Are they so precious about fish meals as Captain Picard is about tea? Has Will Riker ever tried to chat up any of them?
In the 21st century, Cetacean Ops was due to finally have their big break in Star Trek Online -- until the developers changed their mind. Sorry, the closest you can get to seeing dolphins on Star Trek is SeaQuest DSV.
Jabba's Palace Is Inhabited By Creepy Brain-Monks
Return of the Jedi came out almost 40 years ago, so naturally we don't expect you to remember much of it. We'll quickly summarize the beginning for you: The Rebel Alliance, a violent faction known for defacing the Galactic Empire's planet-busting heritage, hatch a convoluted plan to rescue their friend Han from Jabba, a large nudist invertebrate. Oh, you've seen the movie recently? Great! Then you'll remember when the droids (that's nerd for "robots") shuffle into Jabba's unhygienic home / unlicensed PG strip joint.
See that spider-like thing carrying a fishbowl? That thing has a backstory, because of course it does. There was a lot of money to be made from tie-in books and comics -- probably even the rag used by the bartender to rub his glasses slightly less dirty got a backstory. That fishbowl, you see, contains a brain. A living brain. Before Jabba moved in with his entourage and his retroactive fickleness concerning live musical numbers, the place was home to the B'omarr Order, founded 700 years earlier (that's last April in Star Wars years). The B'omarr monks are real hardcore -- they believe that physical sensation is a handicap to enlightenment, so they have their brains removed and placed in jars (while the rest of the monk is left to rant on social media against the politicization of Star Wars, we imagine). They're such overzealous navel-gazers that the only navels they deem worthy of being gazed upon are those purely imaginary.
Jabba being the huge creep that he is, he likes having the brainmonks around, so he lets them crash rent-free at his place. (Well, it's technically their place, but just try to evict a 3,000-pound murderous mollusk and his armed pig-thugs -- in a lawless place such as Tatooine, criminal deeds trump property deeds every time.)
A 2019 comic goes deeper into this cerebral corner of the franchise's lore. The episode is more Tales From The Crypt than Star Wars, complete with a vault of living brains.
Hey! Did you know that according to Wookieepedia, Halloween is a thing in a galaxy far far away? We just found out! Awesome! (But also: What?) Well, certainly nowhere is this truer than at chez Jabba, where every day is Halloween with these spooky houseguests setting the mood. Here on Earth, the Star Wars site has instructions on how to craft your own B'omarr paper lantern for cheap, to thoughtfully greet trick-or-treaters come October. (Sorry, you'll have to make a much bigger investment if you want Han Solo in carbonite.)
Superman Doesn't Exist In The Marvel Universe -- But Clark Kent Does
You know Clark Kent, right? Square-jawed, fond of old-timey phone booths, wears glasses that don't fix his sight as much as ruin everybody else's when they look at him? Always wears tight, colorful pajamas under his street clothes (which must lead to awkward explanations when he takes someone home from the bar)? Yeah, that guy. You could easily pick him out in a crowd, could you? Of course you could. Marvel writers and artists, in fact, fully expect you to.
For the last forty-odd years, Clark Kent has shown up occasionally in Marvel's comic books. It started off in 1976, when Clark and Lois Lane were included as an Easter egg in an X-Men comic -- according to writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne, they just thought it'd be funny. Since then, the joke has grown legs and broke into a run -- the rugged reporter has been sighted over 20 times between the '70s and the 2000s, sometimes in crowd scenes, and sometimes as a face on TV news broadcasts.
This Clark Kent, however, can't stop bullets or bend steel bars with his bare hands -- or in any case, no one has seen him do that. He's just some dude -- Marvel's fandom wiki simply lists his powers and abilities as "journalism." His main power, however, is to avoid copyright-infringement lawsuits. You see, Marvel can't just straight-up say that he's Clark Kent -- DC's lawyers would fall on them like Sentinels on a barbecue at Charles Xavier's backyard. That's why he only appears in fleeting cameos, and his full name is never ever printed. No Your Honor, this is a completely different bespectacled reporter for a Metropolis newspaper, also named Clark. (Hey, it wouldn't be the most ridiculous thing that's ever happened in a copyright case.)
The Matrix Fought Aliens
1999 brought us The Matrix, a game-changing movie about Keanu Reeves learning all the cheat codes to The Sims Online. In that movie... Wait, what? 21 damn years already? Really?
Surely it can't be that long -- barely yesterday we were freaking out that Y2K might eat our Tamagotchis. Has the Matrix been running on overdrive to fend off an alien attack, making time inside the fake world go by faster? Because that's exactly what happens in Neil Gaiman's "Goliath." Yes, that's right -- geek god Gaiman, writer of nerd culture touchstones such as Sandman, American Gods, and the cups at Chipotle, also penned a Matrix story. "Goliath" was published in The Matrix Comics, and also on the movie's website.
A little aside: Did you know that using people as batteries doesn't make sense thermodynamically? You might not be aware of that, as no one ever brings it up. Well, it appears that Morpheus was even more full of bullshit than he already looks, as "Goliath" tells a different story: According to the lead character's musings, humans are used as "cheap memory chips for some computer the size of the world."
The smooth operation of this planet-spanning fleshputer is seriously disrupted when a goddamn alien spaceship the size of goddamn Tasmania starts hurling goddamn asteroids at Earth. (Just one "goddamn" doesn't feel enough for such a screwed-up situation.) Has your IT department ever planned for this eventuality? Neither had the machines (they never expected to find aliens in a cyberpunk setting, we guess) -- so the enslaved humanity experiences several years in a few hours (we've all been there) as the Matrix fires on all cylinders to come up with a defense plan. The scheme they finally settle on involves training exactly one (1) particularly big guy as a pilot (the titular Goliath), then unplugging him from the Matrix and plugging him into a quickly put-together combat flying saucer. That's right -- only one teeny-tiny fighting ship against an alien behemoth 200 miles across. Just like David against Golia-- hey, that's clever! Nice! Now, we won't spoil the ending, but one thing is clear: We were definitely given the wrong sequels.
Elves Get Married By Bumping Uglies
Modern fantasy being so happy to get gritty and steamy for grit and steam's sake, it might seem weird that the dude who invented much of it was such a square. Unlike George "I have two middle Rs too" Martin, J.R.R. Tolkien never wrote about incest or morally dubious anti-heroes (well, except for that one story about a morally dubious anti-hero engaging in incest). Broadly speaking, and with few exceptions, his heroes are noble and idealistic, his villains are irredeemable and ugly (sexy spider-demons in video games notwithstanding), and no one is ever horny. Aragorn and Arwen were engaged for decades, and they never did anything as unseemly as sheathing the king's sword before the wedding night.
Now, how can we be so sure these lovebirds didn't pluck any cherries before they were ripe? Well, Arwen is an elf and Aragorn was raised by elves -- and among the pointy-eared, boinking and getting married are the same thing. This isn't in The Lord of the Rings, though, or any of its 200 appendices -- this particular tidbit comes from The History of Middle-earth, a twelve-volume collection of notes and rough drafts published by Tolkien's son Christopher out of, ahem, scholarly interest.
As it turns out, elves do have wedding ceremonies, but those are merely a formality -- it's "the act of bodily union" that seals the deal. If there's no time to gather the families and get drunk, the groom just needs to slip his secret finger into his fiancee's private One Ring, and bang! The knot is now tied forever, no takesy-backsies.
Ah, but once they're rightfully married, they surely make up for lost time with tons of sweaty sex that becomes increasingly kinky with every passing century, right? Sorry, but no. These supernatural people are also supernaturally prudish bores -- even though they do enjoy doing the deed, they "are by nature continent and steadfast," and after they've had children, "the desire soon ceases, and the mind turns to other things." Now, we love Tolkien and his sprawling made-up mythology, but we're gonna call bullshit on this. You have these perpetually young, healthy, and hot people frolicking around woods and meadows -- and you mean to tell us that they barely ever bone? We'll happily believe in elves, but celibate elves push our suspension of disbelief too far. Sorry, Jay-Ar-Ar, but thirsty fanfiction writers clearly know Legolas' business with his arrow better than you. In fact, we're positive that the first thing elves came up with, before any magical gizmos or belly-filling cookies, was quick, no-fault divorce.
Andres Diplotti is actually three eldritch abominations from beyond the void under a trench coat. His personal website is www.diplotti.com
Top image: Warner Bros., Unholy Vault Designs/Shutterstock