Selective Butterly
Changing history only changes a single concept when a lot more should be changed


(permanent link) added: 2013-02-21 04:01:40 sponsor: PsychoFreaX (last reply: 2013-02-21 04:28:22)

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Sorry I'm still trying to make the laconic shorter. Can anyone help with that?

Anyway, this is a subtrope of Butterfly of Doom. Theoretically if you were to travel back in time and kill someone famous like say, Thomas Edison(hypothetically!), not only will he have never invented the light bulb(in fact, it's more likely that someone else would eventually figure it out), but many more alterations would be made in the present. For example, people's relationships with others, their career status or if they were ever even born. Not so much in fiction.

If you take the above example then fictional time travel will usually only make alterations to only selectively erase all of Edison's inventions. That is the Selective Butterfly, when changing history through time travel, even from far back in the prehistoric time, only changes one concept, when realistically a whole lot more should be changed as a result, but remain untouched.

Also see In Spite of a Nail for the complete aversion of Butterfly of Doom.


  • Chrono Trigger is probably the biggest offender there is. Somehow, if you don't defeat the reptites in the 65000 BC and they become the dominant species, their civilization will develop in the exact same pattern as humanity and the altered 1000 AD will be almost the exact replica of the original. But with reptites instead of people. There are other examples too that includes NP Cs from different eras.
  • A Simpsons episode had an episode with Homer and a time traveling toaster that sends him back to the prehistoric age where he mistakenly killed a mosquito. Throughout the episode he goes back and forth in time and killing different creatures in the past. The resulting changes in the present include Ned Flanders ruling the world, everyone has frog tongues, the world gets submerged underwater or no donuts. Somehow though, Homer's family or even the layout of the neighborhood remain untouched.
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