A Universe Bible
is something created for the writers and production team of a series or franchise. While many of these have made their way into the public arena, they are really not intended for public consumption. As a result, they often contain material which is apocryphal, confusing, or outright wrong.
A Universe Compendium on the other hand is a book or series of books which encapsulates much of the information in the Universe Bible
, reformatted for consistency, with information added or removed for various reasons: It may go into more detail than the bible in some areas, or omit information that would be considered a Spoiler
. Depending on the size of the Universe Bible
, the compendium may be split into several books, each having considerably narrower scopes. They can include licensed supplements for paper-and-pencil Role-Playing Games
, though these just as often qualify as Universe Concordances
Any details in a compendium which have not been established within the work are subject to revision, and cannot be assumed to be Canon
, though it's still considered bad form for fanfic writers to contradict them. Canon writers get more of a pass because they presumably had plans
for the series's future long before the compendium was published, and the compendium authors or may not have consulted with them to avoid contradicting those plans. Sometimes, once such a book is compiled, writers will begin referring to it rather than the Universe Bible
. While the Bible retains primacy, the ad hoc manner in which the Bible is maintained often makes it harder to use.
More common, and more necessary, for Speculative Fiction
shows, since a show with a mundane setting just has to keep track of the protagonists and their situations. The official counterpart of the Universe Concordance
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- Marvel Comics started hiring especially well-known fansite creators to write their compendia on a certain series, bringing the game between a Universe Compendium and a Universe Concordance.
- Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog has The Complete Sonic Comic Encyclopedia. While there are minor flaws, the book is dense with information on various aspects of the series. It's a good way to get up to date with a comic with over 200 issues and several connected series.
- Numerous detailed technical books have also been released concerning the Star Wars universe — from Vehicles of Star Wars to in-depth manuals on the construction and maintenance of lightsabers.
- Stephen King's mythology for The Dark Tower got so out of hand that, when he sat down to finish the series, he hired someone to write him a "Concordance" summarising all the relevant information. He was so pleased with the end result that he had it published.
- The Discworld Companion has been around long enough to have had two new and expanded editions.
- Warriors had Secrets of the Clans, which spawned a fanmade volume chronicling the madness of the fandom, Secrets of the Fans.
- The Doctor Who Spin-Off Faction Paradox has a wildy metafictional version of this sort of book, called The Book of the War.
- Contacting Aliens: An Illustrated Guide to David Brin's Uplift Universe
- The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time.
- The Railway Series had The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways and later, Sodor: Reading Between the Lines, which covered the eponymous island so thoroughly that the actual stories formed a small fraction of the book. Sodor's history, geography, language, economy, industry and even geology were covered to a degree that would make Tolkien envious.
Live Action TV
- "The Blake's 7 Episode Guide", despite its name, contains a complete compendium for Blake's 7.
- Star Trek spawned a plethora of these. For each series, a "Compendium" documents the official storyline and major characters, while there are several "Technical Manuals" and other more specific guides which document the technology and standard props found in the series. One of the earliest of these was the Star Trek Medical Handbook, an official guide to medical science in the 23rd century. The all-encompassing Star Trek Chronology and Star Trek Encyclopedia contain more or less every known fact about the Trek Verse, the former organized historically; the latter, alphabetically. Of course (cynicism hat on) these were never quite up to date while the shows and movies were running: fans were obliged to pick up new editions periodically. And the partwork version (2 pounds per week for six years...) turned into an impenetrable mess of supplements, addenums, and stick-on corrections.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer had three Watcher's Guides that are brilliant and quite comprehenisive, with annotated sections explaining the pop culture references in each episode, notable quotes, and actor interviews. Angel had something similar; they were called "The Case Files."
- GURPS, from Steve Jackson Games, has produced compendia for several literary universes. Author David Brin provided much of the information in GURPS Uplift, including data that had not yet appeared in any of his novels at the time of publication.
- Each Army Book/Codex in Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 aren't "just" rulebooks, but also provide a broad overview of each faction and its major sub-factions, including histories, current actions, and important characters. 40K takes it further, not only having quite a few dedicated Codices and supplements for individual sub-factions (especially for Space Marines) but also a small library of reference books, like the artbooks for the Horus Heresy series and The Sabbat Worlds Crusade for the Gaunt's Ghosts series.
- The Metal Gear Solid Database
- The ones for Shin Megami Tensei are particularly notable, as, in addition to the usual content, they have pages and pages of bibliography for the games. You can accuse them of being inaccurate to mythology, but you can't say it's because they didn't know better.
- A lot of Square Enix games (before and after the merger) can have multiple guides for just one game. Best example would be the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts series: the Ultimanias can almost have the weight of a phone book and are about the size of an average graphic novel released in the US (Japanese tankobon are smaller), filled with strategies, data on items/weapons/monsters, concept sketches of characters and locales, and interviews with key staff and/or voice members.
- The number of "side material" books for the Nasuverse is staggering, containing archives of the game illustrations, concept art, interviews, and entire short stories that tremendously develop several characters (most infamously, the transition of Ordinary High-School Student Tohno Shiki into a vampire assassin) which may or may not involve plotlines from possible sequels. All this, without mentioning the 'Dictionary' sections which expand the Canon into areas rarely mentioned in the original works. (Magecraft organizations, hierarchies, and systems? Alien Invasionders?) One particular volume, Character Material, is comprised almost entirely of completely new characters, characters only mentioned as an aside, or characters which previously were never illustrated.
- Touhou has Bohemian Archive in Japanese Red, Perfect Memento in Strict Sense, and Symposium of Post-mysticism, in-universe documents that provide background detail to many of the characters, locations, events, and in Perfect Memento even the species of Gensokyo. Symposium also features four of the characters discussing the relationship between humans and youkai.
- The Legend of Zelda has Hyrule Historia, which is part a compilation of development info and part a Universe Compendium, mostly because it discusses the official Zelda timeline.
- The Official Guide to Mega Man is an interesting example in that it was pretty much made from the ground up instead of actually using the Japanese source material, detailing things such as the government, the millitary, and how Mega Man himself can't speak under normal circumstances.
- Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, intended as a multi-volume work, is the official universe bible for the Dragon Age series.
- The World of Angry Birds is narrated by the Mighty Eagle himself, detailing the characters and the areas of the game. It also reveals information such as the King Pig having never tasted a single egg in his life.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has Elements of Harmony: The Official Guidebook, a book styled after the book Twilight reads in the very first episode that covers the whole settings, all the characters, and all the episodes up to the end of Season 3.