The Infinite Loops “explained”

Someone on Spacebattles made and posted this background document for the infamous Infinite Loops project. In terms of showing how goofy oneshots turned into something as  tangled as it is, it’s worth a million words.

Linked here because it’s too big to fit in this post. The thumbnail below shows why.

Advertisements

Time Travel

Now, I have one simple “rule” regarding time travel in fiction. It’s not really a rule, and there are exceptions (as in anything involving writing). That being said, the rule is this: With time travel, either you center the entire work around it, or you don’t include it at all.

Why? In short, because it becomes too much of a contrivance thanks to its incredible power.

 

Examining the Loops, Part 2

So, what would I do to improve the loop-threads?

This is legitimately tough. A part of me just wants to go “Ok, I’d criticize them, but let them be as long as they don’t have inappropriate content.” Another part of me just wants to impose better rules.

Rules like the Familiar of Zero ones, designed to turn a previously spammy fandom substantive. The problem is that FoZ is a specific setting, and the Loops aren’t.

So, if I was in charge of policing the Loops on Spacebattles, here’s what I’d do.

-Inactive loop threads are unceremoniously closed. For active ones, I’d give the authors a short time to write a finish, and then close them as well.

-Canon is flushed-the entire Yggdrasil excuse setup is gone. 

-Snippets have to be very long.

-No one-liners, no dare/suggestions.

-The writer should ideally set out an endstate.

This is an disproportionately large burden, but the loops are disproportionately vulnerable to the worst excesses of goofy fandom. I’d feel reluctant in some ways, but consider it necessary in others.

Examining the the Loops, Part 1

I’m going back to loopfics.

 

-There’s one big problem with them. They have no ending.

Then again, the same can be said about nearly all fanfics. What makes loops stand out?

-Ok, they have no plans for an ending.

The same can be said about even more fanfics (even of the ones that were completed, many were improvised), and many professional works as well (Hi, Mass Effect writers). What makes loops stand out from those?

-They do have plans for an ending-in that they explicitly and completely remove the possibility of an ending.

What does that actually mean?

-Here it is (Warning, spoilers for Undertale and several other games follow)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ _ _

Well, from the author’s guide, here’s the backstory:

Yggdrasil, the world-tree computer that is/runs/controls the entirety of all universes in existence, has broken down for some reason. The Admins who run Yggdrasil have decided to keep all the universes looping in time in time while they fix the problem (whatever said problem is). Some people within these universes remember events from time loop to time loop: these people are called loopers. The Infinite Loops are the various stories of these loopers, who are based off fictional characters from any and all media, as they try to live with time continually repeating. They aren’t completely bored out of their minds though. Occasionally, loops will have variants where people swap places, gender gets bent, history is vastly different, or the loopers are placed in a moment earlier (or later) in their lives. Loopers themselves are the only ones that remember anything about any of the loops: anyone who isn’t looping will just reset. Death means nothing to loopers: they will just reset into existence next loop (having still remembered their death though.) Sometimes different universes will cross over, either merging for a single loop, swapping loopers or non looping characters, or just creating any number of fanfiction-world variants. Virtually anything is possible.

Virtually every looper is very very stir crazy. And very very powerful.

Seeing as the time-till-completion of the Yggdrasil repairs is infinity, they better buckle down for a long ride.

So, it’s a justification.

What is it?

Before the loops began, something (and no we do not need you to explain what caused it.  This is the frame for our Excuse Plot.  Just don’t think too hard on it okay?) happened that destroyed a large chunk of Yggdrasil and threatened to destroy all of reality. Instead of simply rebooting the whole multiverse (which might not have worked in the first place) the Admins that run Yggdrasil decided to go for an alternative solution: lock the universes in repeating time loops until they could solve the problem. How long until they solve it? Well the given number is Infinity. Though there was a number in the Warhammer 40k loops semi-recently: a section of the multiverse was 0.000….002% restored. Yeah. We’re nowhere close.

So yeah, that’s what it is. Out-of-universe, it’s a novice writer’s dream. In-universe, it’s a character’s nightmare. This is, as they say themselves, an obvious excuse to just write “crackfic” snippets-except by linking everything together, it becomes a twisted monster.

If there was no linking, no canon, and it just was a crackfic free-for-all, then I wouldn’t care for them-but also not gaze at the concrete foundation supporting the mess. Maybe it’s SB’s love of the quantifiable, but the gap between the rigid base and the ‘random’ mess it supports is huge.

The loopfic authors themselves don’t think that much of the stated backstory-but, for whatever weird reason, I do.

_ _ _

One of the things that got me inspired (or, to make a reference, determined), was seeing an increasing amount of Undertale loops. Undertale has time-loops in its own universe (they’re the in-universe explanation of saving and restarting the game).

So, this is not only a little bit of an issue, but it illustrates the other parts. Sans the skeleton is arguably, in the looper’s terms, Awake, and it has turned him into a cynical, lazy creature. Flowey, the antagonist, was driven to evil thanks to the SAVE ability and getting bored by everything. Characterization the actual loopfics noticeably lack.

Realistically, anyone who looped would go insane. But with dramatic license removing that, there’s still no theme, no point. Compare this to existing works of fiction featuring time loops.

-Imagine if Groundhog Day ended with the loops continuing. The final scene would be Phil Connors waking up after dying fighting a grizzly bear, and in the scene before that he built a jetpack and flew into one of those oversized mascots.

-Imagine if Majora’s Mask ended with Link doing something even weirder, with the main conflict not even resolved.

-Imagine if Undertale ended with the main character trying to bounce out on a trampoline.

That’s the level the Loops are at. Goofiness propped up by a setting. Shackled by the fact that the theoretical end-point is totally out of the protagonist’s control. Yes, only 2×10 to the negative 1903568th power percent of the multiverse is restored, and the few universes that are are probably some throwaway games or generic action novels.

_ _ _

If I had to write a loop, what would I do?

-Show everything.

-Have a planned ending with the multiverse being returned to normal, with plenty of drama to come from that.

-Build the story around the loops ending.

That way, the loops would be used as a plot device, rather than as an excuse.

Next installment, I’ll talk about possible suggestions for reforming the loop threads.

Looking At Loopfics

So, I feel like writing about the “infinite loops” fandom again, after revisiting it. Looking at a few loops here and there, and taking the recent drama into account (which brings about both cynicism and hope), I want to blog about it.

I mentioned the time loop craze on Spacebattles before. I feel saddened, annoyed, and-disappointed by it, but also slightly hopeful. Very slightly.

The Infinite Loops aren’t/weren’t (just) a decision to write Groundhog Day-styled stories in various fandoms. They are their own universe of countless crossovers. The TVTropes page can at least bring a slight explanation. And-yeah. They’re something.

I like weird crossovers. Even with Sturgeons Law of 90% of everything being “bad”, and even knowing how especially hard it is to make a weird crossover good, I still like the concept. (The amount of theoretical heists I have daydreamed for the Payday cast is astounding, as is me mixing Fallout and the straight JRPG fantasy of the Fire Emblem series). Now, the issue is very simple.

To do a weird crossover right, it must be either extensively thought through or be a total goofball of a fic. The latter can work, but can’t really sustain a full story. The former requires a lot of thinking. To use my example- is there any chance that a noble (in all senses) squeaky-clean JRPG hero would back the psychotic Caesar’s Legion simply because they’re still the form of government they’re used to and know best? Could they stand House treating them as an especially bad primitive?

The loopfics somehow manage to combine all of the weaknesses of both approaches with none of the strengths. Most stories end up as tiny snippets. The ones that “continue” use the format as a way to shove aside anything in the original canon that the author dislikes-nearly always for the worse. So, they’re just tiny “crackfics”-

 

-that are tied together by a set of rules-Anchors, Admins, Awake, and terminology that I still have trouble getting. References to past entries that in practice take the form of in-jokes and arguments. Constant talk of violations of the rules. This was what kept me away from the loops far more than the content itself.

So, now for the events. Mods stepped in, trying to bring order to the chaos .The loop threads had one of the lowest posts-to-views ratios on the forum, and there was precedent in the Familiar of Zero threads, which went from anything goes “Louise summons ____ lol” to structured ones with strict observation and a firm requirement of substantive content.

This slowed the threads down but prompted much argument and few cohesive requirements. So looking at them now, can I say that it’s a total failure?

No. I’m seeing some better self-restraint, and some attempts at bringing order. Maybe that’s all that can practically be done-Familiar of Zero was at least a single setting, while the Loops were focused on massive crossovers from the start.
But there’s still a tiny bit of hope amidst the goofy.

Spacebattles Creative Writing Trends

Spacebattles has had several huge fanfiction trends, most of which I’ve naturally missed.

-Star Trek/Wars/B5/BSG/Stargate fics. Waay back in the day. I entered just as those were fading. Mostly before my time, and Creative Writing was a relatively small, out of the way forum.

-Familiar of Zero. Already mentioned. Gained popularity because of its enormously crossover-friendly setup. Has since largely petered out.

-Self-inserts. Not an exact genre so much as a style of writing. Goes against everything a writer is supposed to do, but as a combination of wish-fulfillment and way to write in an established setting, it worked.

-Worm. This was a bit of a surprise. A long, obscure web-fiction about a superheroine, Worm’s fandom is concentrated on SB-but is very concentrated. Having read only a little, Worm’s draw of both “taking advantage of” superpowers and its surprisingly crossover-friendly nature (fanfic writers love to give the main character different powers) have earned it a huge following on the board.

-Time-loops. Lowest-common denominator goofball-fic. Basically, think Groundhog Day-styled stories. Add in characters of all the settings one could want. Huge needlessly complicated backstory and set of nominal rules. Ability to avoid such matters as plot, character development, or pacing by just rushing ahead to the goofy. (You get the feeling about my opinion on these).

As of the time of this writing on the Creative Writing front page:

Worm, Worm, Star Wars, Worm, Self-Insert, Worm, Loop, Loop, Mass Effect, Worm Self-Insert, Worm, My Little Pony, Worm, BSG, Self-Insert, Self-Insert, Worm, Self-Insert, Loop, Loop, Self-Insert, Loop, Loop, Pokemon, Stargate, goofy meme, Lord of the Rings, Self-Insert, Worm.