View Full Version : Most expansive fictional universe

2006-05-09, 10:10 PM
I was wondering what people thought was the most expansive fictional universe ever imagined, and by expansive I mean has the most material about it, and by fictional I mean it has as little to do with our universe as possible.

Just about every fantasy or science-fiction book is a one-shot (i.e., not part of any series), meaning that it involves just that one book and nothing else. Everything you need to know about that world you would find in that one book, unless you had access to the author's hidden stash of notes. The Power of Three by Diane Wynne Jones, Rift by Kay Kenyon, and Knights of Dark Renown all qualify, but I'm willing to bet most of you have never heard of these books, possibly even the authors.

Fantasy worlds that are depicted in movies are both more and less expansive than those in books, as the movies tend to be less than two hours to watch, but they involved dozens upon dozens of people. Labyrinth, Blade Runner, and The Dark Crystal all give fictional worlds, although Labyrinth starts and ends in our universe and Blade Runner is just supposed to be a possible future.

Then you get series, like David Eddings Belgariad and Larry Niven's Ringworld, and the lines between mediums start to blur. J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series started as novels, but has four of her six now in silver screen, just as C.S. Lewis's Narnia series now has one of his seven in the silver screen.

But many of these series are still too small or they borrow too much from our universe.

Let's look at the greats, and toss aside the paradigm of the medium, because you can portray the same thing in many different forms and not get that much out of it.

Star Wars - A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... is home to many fans. It is populated with races, worlds, ships, bizarre lifeforms, and even a quasi-religion, all of which are well supported and documented.

Middle-Earth - Considered one of the greatest creations of fantasy literature, if not the greatest, Middle-Earth not only had a geography, multiple races and cultures, many languages, but it may well have spearheaded the foundation for the popularity of fantasy today and formed the backbone of the generic fantasy role-playing game.

Star Trek - Even more so than Star Wars or Middle-Earth, Gene Roddenberry's creation spawned something like five TV series and fourteen movies. It has one of the most complete fantasy languages ever created (and one that is extraordinarily popular), is the basis of entire conventions, and is quite possibly the most wide-spread fictional universe ever shared. It is, however, heavily based on our own universe and, shamefully, riddled with technical glitches and continuity holes.

Can anyone think of any other expansive fictional universe?

Jack Squat
2006-05-09, 10:15 PM
Stargate Based off of earth (but then again, what isn't? we have to relate it to something). I'd say thousands of possible planets in this galaxy alone is pretty expansive (remember, they also went to Pegasus). I don't mean to hijack the thread, but O'Neill is coming back to SG-1, atleast for the 200th, but most likely more.

The Vorpal Tribble
2006-05-09, 10:24 PM
Well, the Commonwealth series by Alan Dean Foster has dozens of books, each one devoted soley to a single planet. Prism the crystal planet, Cachalot the water world, Mindworld the ultimate forest planet, another for a world with the most extensive cavern system yet found, one thats basically a solid ball of ice, another world thats a hawaiin paradise, being all water and island chains, all the Thranx worlds, Samstead... yadda yadda yadda.

Roland St. Jude
2006-05-09, 11:31 PM
Amber Universe by Zelazny (and later others). Only the original 10 books, plus a few recent add-ons by others, plus a killer diceless RPG, but this is always my first answer to any "expansive universe" or "what fictional universe would you like to live in" questions. Amber's universe is, essentially, limitless, and if you were an Amberite you could recreate, for most purposes any other milieu you wanted to.

Dune Universe by Herbert (and later others): only 15-20 books or so, plus a few video games and such, but it's a very large universe with stories spanning a long, long time.

Greyhawk and DragonLance. I'm no expert on either of these, but there's a lot of material out there on both of these. I mean, minutia like you wouldn't believe. Less so for Ravenloft, Spelljammer, and others, but as a whole the AD&D 2E universe is pretty expansively written in.

Likewise, there's a fair bit in the (old) White Wolf, World of Darkness Universe. (Several RPGs, plus gobs of supplements, a couple video games, numerous novelizations, and so forth.)

I guess there are others from RPGs like Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, etc. But I'll refrain from listing them all in case I'm dragging this thread off the original poster's topic.

Stephen King's Dark Tower Universe, which includes many of his works besides the literal Dark Tower series (maybe 30 or so books are ostensibly set in this universe or intersect with it in some way).

2006-05-09, 11:33 PM
Forgotten Realms. There is a lot of details and many books, a campaing setting, computer games. I'd say that is up there in the rankss of expansive fictional universes.

2006-05-09, 11:34 PM
Dune saga, really, 'nuff said.

And, not to nitpick, but The Cronichles of Narnia were all made into movies a long time ago, so these new ones are techincally remakes.

2006-05-09, 11:38 PM
Raymond Fiests Midkemia is quite expansive as well.

2006-05-09, 11:48 PM
I would have to second the DnD 2nd edition universe as a whole: the idea of planescape as a setting that linked all the toher games together did a really good job of networking many completely-different worlds together. And you get all the fantasy gameworlds attached to one another, which was how many bookshelves in stores back in the day?!
basically a big way of doing crossovers, but hey.

I'd go for Star Wars or Star Trek being the MOST expansive. Middle Earth was by one guy. Star Wars is HUGE!

OOooh, I've got some:

1) Marvel Universe: pretty big, especially considering the sardine-like new york.

2) DC universe: Even bigger. sure, marvel has silver surfer and Quasar; but DC has an entire Green Lantern Corp, plus Superman, Plus Rann, Thanagar, New Genesis and Apokalypse (spelling?), and MULTIPLE EARTHS (well, before. Now, thanks to Grant Morrison, at the very least they have 2 (earth and anti-earth; maybe some of the Vertigo story worlds as alternate dimensions; oooh, Mxyzptlk's 5th dimension!!!)).
On top of that Add the Sandman series and a bunch of the other titles like the Spectre (and even Swamp Thing, I guess) going to places like the afterlife, and you've got geographically more than most other fictional universes.

2006-05-10, 12:43 AM
The Discworld. Over 30 novels and numerous maps, travel guides, pictures (and a recipe book) now available.

2006-05-10, 01:44 AM
Discword? - best characters maybe.

But I vote for the Forgotten Realms.

(or Middle Earth, if it's about Flavor, not size).

2006-05-10, 09:58 AM
Another vote for Amber here

Also the Sandman books portray a pretty expansive variety of worlds intersecting our own.

2006-05-10, 10:06 AM
If we include all the West End Games material as cannon (as it was many moons ago) coupled with the books, films, and games, Star Wars would be a major contender.

2006-05-10, 11:20 AM
Come on people, let's not forget BattleTech, which now has two 'separate' universes... the one in the 'Classic' 31st century one, and the 'Dark Age' from a few hundred years later, created for the WizKids miniature game. *One of the better, and more intriguing Science Fiction settings, IMO.

And if you want to include anime, the Gundam universe is one of the most expansive Science Fiction universes I know of, aside from a few already mentioned gems. *The series is going on 30 years old, and has had 8 canon universe (Universal Century) series (both TV, OVA, and theatrical release), as well as 8 alternate universe series, not including the manga series, video game series, and other side series stuff...

My 2 yen,

Game on!


2006-05-10, 11:26 AM
Although not as expansive as, say, Star Wars or Trek, I would like to throw Iain M Banks "Culture" universe into the mix.

Several novels and at lease 1 book of short stories, it spans a big range of time as well as space.

2006-05-10, 11:29 AM
The first one I think of is Ann McCaffrey's Pern series, Acorna series, and Pegasus Series which evolved into a series about Rowan and her family, also honorable mention to the short Crystal singer series and Ship series because those are obviously connected. All of these series could be tied together to be the same universe in her mind, just at different times of development. The economic system she describes is credit since it can be used universally with out making paper currency.

The Acorna series being very expansive to include aliens of several types finally being discovered and discovering the Human colony worlds. The other series show meeting aliens or travel to alien planets but they seem to already belong to FSP. Pern however is so isolated a human colony where it developed it is unlikely she will ever give them contact with the FSP (Federated Sentient Planets) since the colonists wanted the simple agrarian society.

The Pern series is incredible, and my favorite, because it covers 2,500 years plus and time travel is possible through the dragon's telepathic, teleportic and telekinetic abilities but dangerous. So many elements exist to create a story about that I never get bored with the series no matter how many times I read it.

With telepathy, telekinesis, black crystal, Brain and Brawn ships, and daring men who map worm holes she creates all kinds of advanced technological solutions to overcome the obstacles of space and develops interesting characters to read about who survive in the "hostile environment" of space.

2006-05-10, 12:15 PM
You already touched on one of the most well devloped future tech settings when you mentioned Ringworld. *Ringworld is only a tiny piece of Larry Niven's N Space. *It includes all of his short stories, his Arm stories, his Kzin wars stories and all the joint authored work and the invited authored collections.

Heinlein's future history sagas all tied together.

Asimov's robots series and his foundation series all eventually linked together.

Did someone say Darkover yet? *I would rank it about equal in substance with the Pern series.

And Vorpal Tribble failed to list one of my favorite parts of the Fosterverse - Flinx and Pip!

H. Beam Piper had a good run of galactic civilization in a shared history in his Federation and Empire series. *I would throw in the Little Fuzzy books as well, I think they can be made to fit into the Federation saga, or maybe pre-Federation future history. *If you link in his Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen you get the temporal string parallel history expansion as well.

Brian N. Ball wrote a great treatment of time travel in a multi dimensional universe in "The Fall of Chronopolis" which although it did not expend in terms of additional writings and so may not fit your question, it defined an entire multiverse in one short book. *If you link his Probability Man and Probability Planet into it (which is a tough fit but not impossible) you get a well developed blending of future and fantasy.

And my old time favorite - the series that brought me to the genre before I even read Tolkien - The Witch World series.

Julian May's Pleistocene Exile series is a fantastic trip through timetravel and multiple galaxies. *The characters did start to wear on me in the later books that link the story lines into a tight loop.

I am sure there are some more I just can't call to mind sitting here now. *:-/

EDIT: *why do I even try to spell? *My fingers are still going to drift over the wrong keys! *Just fixing some typos here, nothing to see, move along .... ::)

2006-05-10, 12:26 PM
The Wheel Of Time. It might not be one of the most expansive, but it has a lot of detail. And there are RPG books, Card games, and other non-novels about it.

2006-05-10, 12:37 PM
:o How could I forget:

The Uplift Saga by David Brin. Great setting for a future history campaign. LOTS of multi-species intrigue and plotting. A whole galaxy to explore.
Still it does start from Earth humans and their client uplifted races- Gorilla, chimp, and marine mammal mutans, so it may not be what you are looking for either.

2006-05-10, 02:01 PM
Has anyone mentioned Michael Moorcock's Multiverse yet?

50+ books written over 40+ years. A cosmology of a million alternate Earths and a timespan covering the life of multiple universes.

That's pretty expansive, and a seminal influence on everything from 70s rock to D&D to the whole alternative reality genre of sci-fi. Mr M has a big imagination. *:o

2006-05-10, 02:06 PM
Posted by: Boss Smiley

Has anyone mentioned Michael Moorcock's Multiverse yet?

:D Good one! I keep hoping I'll awaken one morning to find that I am in fact the incarnation of the Eternal Champion for this phase of the multiverse! 8)

My mind is slipping to have left that one out! :-[

2006-05-18, 08:17 AM
I know people have mentioned Dark Tower already, but how about Transformers, Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles, and Pokemon. Sure, they're all (for the most part) ostensibly based on Earth, but Transformers have been around in one form or another for over twenty years, Pokemon is pretty much a subculture, Ninja Turtles deserve a spot for their popularity if nothing else, and Power Rangers.....well, just look at how much stuff has been made for them.

2006-05-18, 08:41 AM
Isaac Azimov made almost every last one of his stories (http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/a/isaac-asimov/)tie up together. That's dozens and dozens of short stories, and dozens of novels...

2006-05-18, 09:17 AM
Did someone say Darkover yet? I would rank it about equal in substance with the Pern series.

Zimmer Bradley woo! A personal favorite.

2006-05-18, 06:20 PM
The D&D universe would probably be the hugerest.
So many DMs....