Alternate Self

TG: and hey you might even be able to help your past dream self wake up sooner without all that fuss you went through
TT: I think the true purpose of this game is to see how many qualifiers we can get to precede the word "self" and still understand what we're talking about.
Dave Strider and Rose Lalonde, Homestuck

The Alternate Self is the same person as the character, but living a separate life. The most common cause is that the two alternate selves live in separate timelines that diverged reasonably recently and was the same or very similar during the persons formative years.

However, in some Speculative Fiction, a Alternate Self can also be created by a Teleporter Accident, or even a extreme case of Cloning Blues, where the clone somehow keep the personality, skills and memories of the original.

The character and the alternate self (or the two alternate selves, if the plot treats them equally as characters) might have been more or less changed by different circumstances, but they are still the same person at the core. They may or may not be the same age, but they do NOT have a linear relationship of one being the younger self that will become the other - the older self.

An Alternate Self is the opposite of a Mirror Self, and yet they often overlap in a fluid pondering of identity.

In the case of separate timelines, the two alternate selves may or may not be able to share information through Flash Sideways.


Examples:

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     Comic Books  

  • City of Dreams: the protagonist is quite different in her dreams compared to her waking world self.
  • DC Comics: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D was essentially a team of Superman counterparts from the 52 Universes. Not all of them were alternate versions of Clark himself (there was a Captain Atom and a Captain Marvel), but most of them were.
  • Marvel's What If? rarely showed alternate selves meeting, but its Spiritual Successor, Exiles, often had such meetings.
  • In The New 52 Supergirl and Power Girl are the exact same person from different universes. Power Girl is very reluctant to meet her mainstream universe self at first partly because she is worried the universe would explode if they actually touched. When they finally meet in Supergirl #19 the universe is fine, the two Karas psychically bond, kick butt together and the only snag is Supergirl's fortress AI mistaking Power Girl, then Supergirl herself for a clone and trying to destroy her.
  • The Multiversity, being a multiverse crisis event, features a number of these, including Earth-4's versions of the Charlton heroes, Earth-5's versions of the Marvel Family, Earth-10's Kal-L, Earth-23's Kalel, etc. Taken to the next level in Thunderworld #1, which sees Sivanas from across the multiverse team up.
  • Following on from The Multiversity is Convergence, which features multiple versions of characters from DC's pre-New 52 timelines/universes meeting each other.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Sliding Doors is built on this trope. Just a few minutes into the movie, the main character misses the tube. But wait, she did get on the tube. Two timelines, and two lives that are quickly becoming more and more different.
  • Back to the Future features multiple alternate versions of Marty's family and recurring antagonist Biff Tannen. Biff, in particular, is first a corrupt middle-management bully, then a timid goofball, and finally a murderous Corrupt Corporate Executive with enough money and power to completely screw up Hill Valley and its surroundings.
  • The One goes on the premise that there are 125 versions of a person each existing in their own universe. Every time any of them die, the life-force or energy that harmoniously flows through them from the deceased is equally distributed among the survivors making them faster, smarter and stronger.

    Literature 
  • In the Algis Budrys novella "Rogue Moon", teleportation is done in the Star Trek way of decomposition and reconstitution. (Star Trek came out later.) "Rogue Moon" is more interested in the implications though: two copies of the same person genuinely are the same person, so much so that they can communicate with each other using telepathy until they diverge enough. This is useful in investigating an alien machine that kills its occupants. The decomposition is lethal, no ifs, ands, or buts. The scan can then be reconstituted any number of times, but this is a separate process. "Rogue Moon" is messed up.
  • In the Labyrinths of Echo by Max Frei, Murakoks are people with a life-long (but variable in strength) Psychic Link to lots of Alternate Selves in other worlds. The downside is having to keep one's place in the net—a travel to another world leads to insanity. The only one appearing was Kobanote , the Dean of Beggars in the capitol. He has more than enough of skills magical and social, but turned down an offer to join Secret Investigations, arguing he must be a beggar for the balance between the alternates. He's a very rich "beggar", though.
  • Well presented in the third book in the Rogue Agent series, Wizard Squared, where the reader is presented with an alternate take on the climax of the first book, and the domino effect shows how terribly poorly that universe went when the characters crossover. Interestingly, the point of divergence was a possibility that the character in the original timeline discounted as too dangerous. Cue Evil Overlord.
  • In The Talisman people in our world tend to have a twinner in the Territories. Fundamentally the two people will be at least similar.
  • The premise of the short story "The Wheels of If" by L. Sprague de Camp is that, as part of a ploy to discredit a political rival, someone in an Alternate Universe comes up with a way to cycle the consciousnesses/souls of seven people in seven universes who happen to be similar enough to count as Alternate Selves. The rival is one of these, ending up with the mind of a man from our timeline. Unfortunately for the villain, the man from our timeline is himself a capable political operator and knows tricks that haven't yet been thought of in the alternate universe.
  • A few examples from Discworld: in Thief of Time the characters Jeremy Clockson and Lobsang Ludd turn out to be the same person, but duplicated due to the unusual circumstances of their birth, being the son(s) of the Anthropomorphic Personification of Time; in Jingo Vimes makes an important choice as he goes to pick up his "Dis-organiser", which normally tracks what appointments he is due to have in the day—he picks it up as his two selves diverge, and each of them get the wrong one, meaning Vimes gets to find out what would have happened if he had made the other choice.
  • Examples of this are seen in a number of books in the Animorphs series: The Stranger featured an alternate counterpart of Rachel while later the The Familiar and the last Megamorphs book feature alternates of the whole team. Interestingly, the third Megamorphs book deliberately excluded Rachel in its presentation of a dystopian future while including everyone else.
  • The Rifter: Ravishan & Kahlil. Kahlil, after a lonely youth training in Rathal’pesha, spent years in Nayeshi waiting to bring the Rifter (John) to Basawar; then his key to the gates fell into John’s hands and John crossed through. He landed at an earlier point in time and met Ravishan the trainee-Kahlil; together the two of them changed history radically. Now the future where Ravishan becomes Kahlil will never happen, but his future self is still over in Nayeshi, not knowing that events he remembers have been wiped out of existence. Kahlil crosses to Bashawar and arrives thirty years after John’s arrival. He doesn’t meet himself because by this time Ravishan is dead. However, he does pick up Ravishan’s memories; he describes having two timelines in his mind as being like the reflection in a windowpane where you can see both the reflection and the view outside, and focus on one or the other. Eventually the two selves merge even further.
  • In Time Riders, Foster looks to be one for Liam, until City of Shadows when the team finds out that they are all support units and Liam and Foster are separate Liam units.
  • In the first Chrono Hustle story, Jack has a choice between going to the past or the future. He goes to the past. Then in the third story he sends a letter to himself, telling himself to go to the future, which ends up creating a second Jack, who does make that choice.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Most of the characters in the sixth season of LOST are presented this way: Living very different lives in the two timelines while still being the same persons. Subverted in the season finale, but presented this way throughout the season nonetheless.
  • The seven different timelines formed in Community's Remedial Chaos Theory allow for seven alternate versions of each of the seven main characters.
  • Ace Rimmer (and his entire timeline) in Red Dwarf.
  • All the Alternate Universe counterparts of the cast of Fringe — except for Alt Astrid, who has Asperger's/high functioning autism with no explanation for it.
  • William Thomas Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation was split in a Transporter Malfunction. The two alternate selves was the same person at the time of the split, but one of them lived on Enterprise while the other was shipwrecked on a deserted planet for a few years. This other Riker later called himself Thomas Riker and built a separate life for himself. There is also the fact that the Riker who stayed behind never got the chance to be promoted to the rank of Commander (he's still a Lieutenant) leading to at least one ironic situation where Riker is essentially giving himself orders. The writers briefly considered killing Will Riker off, having Data move up to First Officer, and Thomas taking over as Operations Officer.
  • In Farscape, John is "twinned" by an alien device. They are forced by circumstances to split up, and for an extended period of time the series alternates between following one and following the other. Both versions believe that they are the original, and that the other is the copy, but it is abundantly clear that they are both the original.
  • Doctor Who:
    • There's a few of these in an Alternate Universe in series 2 (also known as season 28), including versions of Mickey (known there as Ricky), Rose's parents and Mickey's grandmother. Rose's father and Mickey's gran were already dead in the "main" universe, while Rose's mum and Mickey eventually served as replacements when their counterparts were killed. An alternate Harriet Jones (a short lived Prime Minister in the main universe) is mentioned as President of Great Britain.
    • In the episode "Journey's End", the Doctor's severed hand, having absorbed regeneration energy and come into contact with Donna Noble, branches off into a human-Time Lord metacrisis, with the Doctor's memories, but a biology and lifespan closer to that of a human. Conversely, as the metacrisis went both ways, Donna Noble also gains the experiences of the Doctor, which slowly killed her.
    • In an attempt to save the Doctor's life, Clara basically scattered untold numbers of these all throughout his timeline, all sharing her appearance, high intelligence and her love for both adventure, soufflés, and children. Before the Doctor manages to track down the original Clara on present-day Earth, we meet one in Victorian London, and another one in a crashed spaceship.
  • The Stargate Verse really likes this trope, though they tend to invert it and have the alternate-universe counterparts show up in the main universe.
    • The Stargate SG-1 episode "Point of View" has an alternate Sam who comes to the main universe running away from a Go'a'uld invasion. When they go back into her universe to help fight the invasion off, Teal'c ambushes, kills, and replaces his own alternate self.
    • The SG-1 episode "Ripple Effect" has multiple copies of most of the main characters, and one memorable scene of an entire room full of Sam Carters trying to solve the problem that's causing them all to converge in the same place, with a table full of blue jello. The episode's villains turn out to be the first set of duplicates to show up.
    • The Stargate Atlantis episode "McKay and Mrs. Miller" has an alternate-universe McKay ("Rod") who shows up to ask them to stop destroying his universe with the experiment of the week.
    • In the Atlantis episode "The Daedalus Variations", the team discovers the corpses of their alternate-universe counterparts and McKay has to bootstrap on his own dead self's research. Later in the episode, Sheppard fights off a mysterious alien ship with the aid of yet another alternate version of himself.
  • In the Supernatural episode "What Is And What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20), we see an alternative version of Sam based on what he would be like if his mother lived.

    Pinball 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The GURPS Infinite Worlds sourcebook has an over-the-top version of this, in which a large number of Alternate Selves of Lord Byron — including a sea captain, a republican revolutionary, a vampire, and a female vampire hunter — all meet each other.
  • The Alternity Tangents sourcebook refers to these as "Persistants", or Persistant Individuals. While most parallel individuals don't vary too much, the backgrounds of some of these individuals can vary greatly, depending on the universe they live in, and within an infinite number of universes, there isn't necessarily any logic behind an individual being the head of a Fortune 500 company in one reality and be the night janitor of the same company the next reality over.

    Theater 
  • The Musical If/Then follows a woman named Elizabeth as she takes two alternatives (as "Liz" and "Beth") in starting her new life in New York.

    Video Games 
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us is an alternate universe where The Joker blows up Metropolis, and Superman kills him, which is the Start of Darkness that leads to a Face-Heel Turn for Supes. The characters of the main universe end up going to the Injustice universe, and have to deal with the corrupt, totalitarian state that it's become, including many Alternate Selves that have also made a Face-Heel Turn. Main!Superman especially calls out Injustice!Superman once the two finally come face to face.
  • In the video game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, three of the four Spideys are alternate Peter Parkers.
  • Shows up in Bioshock Infinite, thanks to the multiverse exploration aspect of Elizabeth's "tears". Turns out not only is Rosalind Lutece's "brother" Robert actually an alternate version of herself according to her audio logs, but Booker Dewitt is actually an alternate version of the game's Big Bad, Zachary Comstock.
  • Shows up a lot in Tales of Xillia 2, due to much of the game's plot involving the exploration (and destruction) of alternate universes. You run into (And sometimes fight against) a lot of the characters who died in the prequel as a result.
  • Fire Emblem Awakening features this due to time travel. All of the second-generation characters get alternate selves in the "Future Past" DLC episodes, Morgan gets a second alternate self in said DLC episodes, and the playable version of Yen'fay is explicitly an alternate self to the NPC version of the character.
    • Not to mention that the game's Bigger Bad is an alternate-future version of the Avatar, the player character, who is possessed by an Eldritch Abomination.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: Lorule has counterparts to the inhabitants of Hyrule, most notably Hilda and Yuga, who are the counterparts to Zelda and Ganondorf, respectively. Link is aided by his own counterpart in the form of the shopkeeper Ravio, who keeps his face hidden by a rabbit mask until the ending of the game.
  • Chrono Cross makes extensive use. The game's set up us that when the main hero was a child, he was attacked by a demonic panther. In one world, he lived, in the other world, he died. This is what allows him to travel between worlds. Some characters are also changed between worlds-the main hero's childhood friend is far more somber in the other world, and his mother is nowhere to be found.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IV, when traveling to the Alternate Timeline of Blasted Tokyo, you meet a man named Akira. After leaving Blasted Tokyo, you are taken to another timeline named Infernal Tokyo, home to another Akira. Their timeline diverged with the events of the nuclear war twenty-five years previous; in Blasted Tokyo, the nukes were allowed to strike, while in Infernal Tokyo, the crisis was averted, with the coda of the advent of demon technology. It's also heavily implied that there's a third Akira in the original universe, who eventually became King Aquila of Mikado. All three Akiras share the fate of being crowned King of Tokyo or its nearest equivalent. In the same vein, the main protagonist's previous incarnation was part of the history of these alternate timelines and was in fact pivotal to the development of all three.
  • Many of the characters in the Sega Dreamcast Action RPG Napple Tale exist in two places — one in Napple Town and another one, described as a warped mirror image out in the "seasons" — the game's platforming levels. The characters aren't identical, but they are linked to each other.
  • Blazblue has Hakumen, who is Jin Kisaragi's alternate self. Specifically, he's from a timeline when Noel Vermillion didn't exist, and Tsubaki was his secretary. Tsubaki is killed by Nu, trying to stop Jin from going after Ragna as he normally does in the present timeline. When Nu tries to fuse with Ragna like she always does, Jin runs after the two and flung back in time as a result. His body, damaged beyond repair, he is installed in the Susanooh unit, which explains his current appearance.
  • Elsword gives us the (as of this writing, unreleased outside of Korea) third job path for Add, the Diabolic Esper, which invokes this in its backstory. Specifically, Add perfected the ability to go back in time to prevent his family from being killed, but he miscalculated and wound up in another timeline in which he found that his family had never been killed and his young self was living happily with his family.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, when traveling through Luigi's dreams, Mario is accompanied by "Dreamy Luigi", who is significantly braver than the waking world's version, and is possesses many abilities the real Luigi doesn't.
  • In The Witch and the Hundred Knight, there are at least 3 alternate versions of Metallia shown throughout the game. One is shown as a high school delinquent, the other is a sick patient in a hospital, and Torude who is revealed at the end of chapter 12 as Metallia questions her about changing her own name.

    Visual Novels 
  • The plot of Princess Debut has Sabrina's alternate self, Princess Sabrina, burst out of her closet and tell her the two must change places as the princess is dreadful at dancing and a huge ball will take place within a month. The cast of the available princes are all alternate selves of her classmates and childhood friend, though their names differ somewhat.
  • Archer of Fate/stay night is this to Shirou Emiya, the main character. He is only able to exist in the same era due to being summoned from outside of the timeline.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, Lion Ushiromiya is this to Sayo Yasuda, also known as Beatrice, Shannon and Kanon. Lion exists in a world where Sayo wasn't rejected by Natsuhi, thrown off a cliff, and raised to be a servant, only to be driven to create different personas as a way to cope with bullying, heartbreak and gender/body issues. The chances of this world existing is about one in 2, 578, 917.
  • In Virtue's Last Reward and its sister game Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, this is pretty much the basis for how Phi, Junpei and Sigma are able to know information they can't know. The games work on the multiple world theory, in which every single difference in action, human or otherwise, creates another branching universe. All three of them are able to "know" information, and obtain the same memories that their alternative counterparts in different histories obtained at the same time-frame within their respective universes [e.g, at 3PM on the same day]. It's revealed in Virtue's Last Reward that the reason for this is that they subconsciously perform "universe jumps" where their mind alone is transferred into the mind of another version of themselves. Although technically the Sigmas, Phis and Junpeis can be considered "the same" person in a sense [since they all streamed from the same "point", they're all the same person, just in different "choice paths"], most normal non-esper people have no way to "mind jump" through alternative timelines into their "other selves".

    Web Comics 
  • El Goonish Shive got several full arcs of these in continuity and about as much outside of it. Tedd exists and has self-esteem issues in every Alternate Universe — even the one where aliens fought in the American Revolutionary War and every third or so guy around is a Half-Human Hybrid.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja:
    • The Mayor, who traveled from the future to save the world from ninja zombies. Then, he discovered that alternate versions of himself had also traveled into the past to save their timelines from various things like Rogue Super Vacuums. Usually, they finish their mission and live a peaceful life away from the city.
    • There's also Dr. McNinja's clone who had lived a peaceful life as a farmer. His name is Old McNinja.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • The wormgates could link one input to multiple outputs, creating "gate-clones". The most extreme case was a scientist named Gav, who went through a clone-gate with nearly a billion outputs, and is now an entire marketing demographic.
      Gav-285074072: There are still over 900 million Gav-clones out there. My activities of the last year can only be understood statistically.
    • Also, at one point Kevyn Andreyasn managed to go back in time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. The timeclone accomplished this, and then retired.
    • Kevyn did the gate-cloning trick once before, but only made one copy of himself. The original was killed soon thereafter. Kevyn puts down the successful suicide mission on his resume.
    • The gate-cloning trick, in fact, was how the owning corporation ran the wormgates; there would be the output that got you where you were going, and another one at a top secret location, where your alternate selves would be detained, interrogated, and then executed so that they didn't have to feed you or worry about their secret getting out.
  • The comic The Dreamer features 21st century and 18th century version of several characters, most notably the main character Beatrice Whaley (and so far it is hinted that there are others as well).
  • In Problem Sleuth the character Pickle Inspcter has many of these such as Future Pickle Inspector, Past Pickle Inspector,and God Head Pickle Inspector,Past Future Pickle Inspector and Future Future Pickle InspectorThis is then taken to the extreme when One of the alternate Pickle Inspectors Creates smaller and smaller alternate versions of himself until they make all matter on the atomic scale.
  • In Homestuck there's many alternate versions of characters who come from Doomed Timelines, including Davesprite, who's Dave from an alternate future who came to the past and prototyped himself. Also, in the post-scratch session there are alternate versions of the kids, as well as their ectobiological parents. And everyone who plays SBURB gets a dream self as well, so they can play around on Prospit and Derse even while they sleep.
    TT: I think the true purpose of this game is to see how many qualifiers we can get to precede the word "self" and still understand what we're talking about.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama:
    • In the episode "The Farnsworth Parabox", the characters travel to a whole slew of alternate universes in which they meet their appropriate counterparts. The universe they interact with the most, though, is defined by opposite coin flips, and differing hair colors.
    • In the Futurama movie Bender's Big Score, the paradox-free time travel creates temporal duplicates, however its nature as a paradox-correcting time code means the duplicates are always doomed. Fry's duplicate (created due to time travelling on the day he got frozen) managed to last long enough to become a more mature and savvy version of Fry, and as it turned out was Leela's new boyfriend Lars Filmore.
  • In "Spider-Wars", the two-part Grand Finale of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Spidey visited a parallel universe where a version of The Clone Saga had happened, and Ben Reilly/Scarlet Spider was fighting against Peter Parker/Spider-Carnage. He was assisted by various other alternate Spideys, including an arrogant armored Spidey from a world where Uncle Ben had never died, a Spidey who had Doc Ock style tentacles, and a Spidey who was still suffering from the mutation sickness from Season 2's "Neogenic Nightmare".
  • As part of the Spider-Verse event, the Ultimate Spider-Man series had its own feature-length take on a team up across the multiverse, as Spider-Man pursued the Green Goblin from one universe to the next. The participants were new versions of Spider-Girl, Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Man: Noir, Spider-Ham, Spyder-Knight, and even young Miles Morales.