Block universes, hidden suits and secret rooms

Block universes, hidden suits and secret rooms

Sometimes I stumble across ideas that seem to fit together (at least in my brain) and inspire me to take a stab at writing my own take on them. Beneath the surface of these three ideas there’s a story just waiting to be told (and I’m working on it).

A Block Universe

In William Blake vs. The World by John Higgs, the author brings up the idea of a Block Universe—it turns out it isn’t a new idea and the fiction book I’m reading right now even brings it up (isn’t it weird how once you notice a thing it shows up everywhere?)

In a Block Universe, everything, including what appears to us as the past, present and future exist as a single ‘block’ of four-dimensional space-time. Every event can be pinpointed within the block by its three spacial coordinates and its time duration. This means that all of time exists simultaneously and the passing of time is an illusion.

“Every first kiss and every last word is like an exhibit in a museum that only beings with a godlike perspective can explore”

From William Blake vs. The World by John Higgs

Now there’s a big problem with this theory—if it’s true, free will can’t exist. All your and my future actions were fixed from the beginning of the Block Universe, and we can’t step away from the script.

But… from a fiction writing perspective, there’s so much I could do with a Block Universe. If all events are perpetually happening at the same time forever—then a form of time travel could occur. Or a character could be plucked from the Block Universe and view events in a different way. Hijinks could ensue.

Occasional extra suits in a deck of cards

A short story in China Mieville’s Three Moments of an Explosion short story collection ‘The Dowager of Bees’ had a premise really struck a cord with me (a number of stories in the collection still have me thinking about them).

In ‘The Dowager of Bees’ on rare occasions a card from a hidden suit is dealt from a normal deck of card—cards like the Dowager of Bees, the Four of Chimneys, the Eight of Chains, the Nine of Teeth, or the Ace of Ivy. All cards that conjure up fantastic visuals.

If you shuffle the hidden suit back in to the deck then go through the cards, you won’t find it again.

The story itself centred on a gambler but the deck of cards intrigues me. Playing cards have a long and fascinating history that spans centuries and continents. They’ve been used to tell the future, gamble away one’s fortunes and even been the focus of magic tricks. ‘Playing the hand you are dealt’ is often used as life advice.

Add in some magical realism and you could be dealt the Nine of Teeth. Or, moving away from playing cards, what if the ticket dispenser at the subway provides a ticket to some where magical or secret? What if the card/ticket/pass opens doors you never realized existed? 

Which brings me to the third idea…

A secret place hidden in plain sight

Much of season 3 of The Umbrella Academy revolves around the Hotel Obsidian, a quirky hotel of bazaar decor and general quirkiness. But, the best part it that inside one of the rooms there’s a secret passageway to another hotel in another dimension called the Hotel Oblivion—it’s the same architecture, but the decor is slightly different (in a delightful and plot relevant kind of way).

I’ve stumbled across a number a variants of this idea recently — like secret rooms hidden in a museum as in The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd and Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. Even the wardrobe in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis fits with this idea (as does many others). This is hardly a new concept, but it’s fun to think about how I might use it.

Block universes, hidden suits and secret rooms — the could all work together in a time travelling caper. Now I need to sit down and write it.

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