I’m melting my brain right now – I’m working on a very long term project, a comic book series I intend to write and draw some time late this year and into the next. It involves superheroes and hyperdimensionality. No, it’s not Final Crisis 2, although it is an idea that’s definitely been influenced not only by my reading Grant Morrison for many years, but also by being influenced by some similar things including, but not limited to, pharmaceuticals and magic.
In researching the basis for the story, I’ve slipped down the rabbit hole of physics. And not just common-or-garden physics, but the big (or small, depending on perspective) stuff, quantum physics, hypertime, ultradimensionality and other such minor subjects. In reality, a lot of the stuff I’m reading won’t directly make it into the book, but in order for my cosmology to be internally consistent, I need an advanced enough background on it to then be able to fictionalise properly.
It’s very interesting stuff, playing around with constant mental experiments, like, what would a 4-dimensional being see with? What visual apparatus would they have?
One of the hardest things so far has been the thought experiment of how upper dimensional beings relate to their own dimension, and to ours. As this is fiction, I’m playing fast and loose with the “real” physics of it, and have made certain choices in doing so. For instance, I’m using the Minkowsi non-euclidean model of spacetime as a starting point, where I posit time as the fourth dimension. This is a problematic theory in its relation to general relativity, but this is fiction, so I can choose which theory I prefer. And I actually think that there’s something in it.
Have you seen those moving gifs of tesseracts?
Now you have! This is a theoretical 4-dimensional object. It involves following the vectors of a 3-dimensional cube (with x,y and z coordinates) into the ‘w’ dimension, also known as ‘ana’ and ‘kata’, taken from Greek words meaning “up, toward” and “down, away”. As you rotate the hypercube in these dimensions, the only way we can represent that properly in “3-dimensions” is by using a 2-dimensional animation showing a 3-dimensional object moving. Movement involves time, the necessary change from one state to another. So in my humble opinion, even if we envisage the fourth dimension as being a spatial one and not “time”, the two things are intrinsically linked. That’s a hard concept to explain, especially when I’m still grappling with it myself.
But to go back to Morrison for a second, his Invisibles comic popularised the notion of 4-space being a hyperdimensional solid which contains the 3-dimensions we know, plus the effects of time. A being looking at Earth from a higher (read fifth) dimension would see all the matter of the planet at once, along with all the time, so that each human would be like a time snake, with its tail being its conception, and its head the death. More than that, all of humanity would appear as one undulating creature, as one human begets another in this endless process. This 4-dimensional being would also see cities in the state of planning, building and destruction, all “at once”.
This 4-dimensional supersolid contains all growth and entropy inside 3-space, all the various decisions made and actions taken. In effect, the 4-d being looking ‘down’ on Earth would have the privilege of seeing all time, past, present and future, as one.
Why a 5-dimensional being and not 4? Well, this is where my research and thought experiments have become kind of philosophical and argumentative. I started by looking at humans. We are beings that are 3-dimensional and exist in a 3-dimensional world, but we are bound by the effects of time – in my cosmology, the forward-dimension of time. So effectively, we live in a world of 4-dimensions.
That being the case, if 3d beings exist in 4-space, 4d beings exist in 5-space and so on.
So, 4-d beings are able to interact with time in the way we do with space i.e. they can move backward and forwards in it. In Morrison’s Invisibles story, the invention of the timesuit transforms the wearer into a 4-dimensional being, capable of jumping “up” off the 3-d plane, out of the fourth dimension of time and effectively into 5-space.
In my cosmology, 4-d beings in 5-space can interact with time, able to see the 4-dimensional supersolid and choose any re-entry point they like, but effectively still bound to the surface of the 4-d supersolid. Remembering that “We are beings that are 3-dimensional and exist in a 3-dimensional world, but we are bound by the effects of time”. 4-dimensional beings are still subject to the laws of the 5th dimension, which I see as also pertaining to time, but in a different way. They are bound to the laws of that universe.
So, 5-d beings are those who are able to see the past, present and future of the supersolid, and recognise its existence as one of many supersolids. This would be 6-space. They would not be bound to the surface of the supersolid, but able to move freely between these structures. If we imagine for a moment that these supersolids are alternatives to our original supersolid, then these beings exist in the multiverse, and can freely move between a variety of parallel worlds.
6-dimensional beings move in 7-space, which is a metaverse, a sea of branes, almost infinite, solid planes onto which the entirety of the probabilities of each universe is ‘painted’. These branes interact with one another, striking each other at intervals and forming new universes from the debris. In my cosmology, this metaverse is made up of fictional universes, all the possibilities that one might create. Using Morrison’s comic-book-as-dimensional-analogy as a basis, the branes in 7-space would be like comics themselves, each one containing an infinite amount of pages of a different universe. So, one brane would be akin to DC, another to Marvel, and another still to underground comix. Each would have the possibility of referencing the other by “colliding”, one fictional universe imprinting on another and creating an entirely new ‘brane’, or fictional universe.
This last one seems like a diversion, but it’s meant to reference the fact that by the time we reach 7-space, we’re in such a rarefied and conceptual space that further attempts to continue the model break down. At this point, it’s worth folding in the actual context of the model i.e. the fact that it is designed as an analogue to the real world. It is from the start a fiction, and a recognition of this in 7-space is represented by the existence of other fictional models and cosmologies. In my model, 3-d space is actually the 2-d plane on which the comic takes place, but which is designed to emulate the 3-dimensional world we live in. All of the models of higher dimensions from there are in fact fictitious constructs which act as anaolgues designed to help me (and the reader) theorise about higher dimensions in our own universe.
6-dimensional beings in this cosmology would be characters that can traverse the fiction of the story, and likely the internal consistency and rules. It would be like Bugs Bunny appearing legitimately in Batman.
7-dimensional beings in 8-space…
Well, that’s where the model would start to uncomfortably intrude into the real world. This is where ‘God’ appears, if you like, the creator, who would be revealed as merely one of a pantheon of creatures, actual human beings, writers and comic creators. So let’s not call this 8-space, but in my cosmology, let’s call this Ω-space. And it’s the point where characters and creators meet.
Okay, so far so Grant Morrison…
So far few comic writers have explored this concept, which I think is a valid and interesting magical method of engaging with ones creations. In my comic creation I have no intention of pulling an Animal Man and entering the comic myself (although I reserve the right to do that at any point if I wish 😀 ) but I do intend to influence the cosmology of the comic in ways beyond just writing it and trying to ape reality through it.
I’ve always had issues with the “narrator” voice in comics, the omniscient presence of the writer through captions etc. Well, let me clarify that. I actually think I preferred it when it was the Stan Lee wink and a nod – the voice that said, we both know you’re reading a comic, let’s enjoy it. It’s the po-faced descriptive narrative voice that reached it’s nadir in the 90s, when Chris Claremont, among others, flexed his novel-writing skills by liberally dousing pages of X-Men with his verbiage. Even then, but far more so reading it as an adult, I felt this insistent voice was telling me how to experience the comic, driving the story forward instead of relying on the character and situations to do so.
So I have some ideas as to how I want to involve that “editorial” voice in a way that’s folded into the story.
Basically what all of this does is give me a model that allows for the creation of my characters, the cosmology of the comic around them, the ability to bring in all kinds of other entities, and to allow a ‘backdoor’ through which I can access the story itself. In a sense, it’s an attempt to do what Morrison couldn’t do with Final Crisis – he was bound by the rules of the DC universe to restore order back to that universe by the end of his masterpiece. This is Final Crisis backwards, an exploration of how you can invent an entirely new comic universe that is aware of it’s place in a multi- and meta-versity, and see what happens.
And do you know what? None of this is the main thrust of the comic itself, which is instead about the birth of the superhero ushering in a post-scarcity, resource-based world.
Fuck’s sake. I’m revising my expectations. Expect to see the first issue in 2015.