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Continuity Snarl / Literature

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Continuity Snarls in literature.


  • In his later years, Kir Bulychev admitted that he never reread any books in his Alice, Girl from the Future/Adventures of Alisa cycle, which would explain the many, many continuity problems that emerged over time. Krys, a recurring villain, had about three different (contradictory) origins and six different explanations of how his powers worked. His companion, Veselchak U, gained and lost powers. The chronology has been anything but consistent and don't even get started on when half of the novels were supposed to take place relative to each other. The fact that Bulychev died in 2003 doesn't help at all.
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  • The author of the first three BIONICLE books was probably only instructed to keep the books close to the comic series and ignore other sources. This lead to the events presented in online material (which at the time of the books' writing had a dubious place in canon), as well as the canceled PC game becoming irreconcilable with the book's plot. A lot of scenes also differ in their presentation from the source material, like how the Toa received their Golden Masks, and the entire final battle with the Manas and Makuta, the latter of which doesn't occur in the book, despite being the Grand Finale of that story arc. Many scenes are written in a way that makes the book unwarrantable for a Compressed Adaptation title, since the left-out events cannot be spliced in between the chapters. These could be forgiven, were the book meant to be a simple adaptation, or a "new take" on the story, but it was supposedly intended to be part of the official timeline.
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  • The Briar Creek Vampires: In one book, it is a major plot point that vampires do not simply burn up or turn to dust, but leave behind normal bodies that must be disposed of. In later books, they turn to dust every time.
  • H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. Lovecraft himself was not always very consistent with various details between his stories, and several of the other authors who continued his work had various contradicting views of the mythos, leading to much confusion for anybody trying to fit all the stories into a single continuity.

    Part of the reason behind that is that, at the time, Lovecraft had a very "pulp fiction" attitude towards his stories - not only did he have very little intent to create a cohesive continuity framework into which all of his stories could be inserted, but he tended to see each story as somewhat self-sufficient and exclusive. Mentioning the same occult book in multiple stories or inserting a reference to a character from another story was more a method to create the feeling of artificial depth to the story at hand rather than trying to imply they all took place in a consistent universe. Lovecraft never really bothered to maintain continuity in his OWN stories, let alone all the stories written by his friends and associates that used shared references.

    Furthermore, Lovecraft aimed to create the feel of ancient myths by adding in deliberate inconsistencies, depending on what source the characters of a particular story gain their information. There's at least three different species as candidates for the title of the Great Old Ones, for example, as well as the more famous interpretation which Derleth embraced that the name refers to unique creatures of immense power.
  • Discworld suffers somewhat from this, but it is explained in-universe as the results of Time shattering and having to be stitched back together by the History Monks. Twice. They only get away with it because of the extraordinary power of the human mind to deceive itself.
    • An in-universe example happens in Pyramids, where it's mentioned that Djellibeybi's mythology has been changing so thoroughly over the years, several concepts and objects have multiple gods and stories that explain them, each of them contradicting each other. The sun alone has several gods who are supposed to move it around. The High Priest is the only one that can keep them straight, mostly through prodigious Doublethink that lets him believe each mythological continuity simultaneously while being aware they can't exactly mesh. And when all of these mythologies come to life when reality goes on a Pyramid-assisted lunch break, they cannot keep the stories straight either, and agree to decide who's real through an all-out brawl, complete with announcer
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    • The History Monks have apparently pushed the invention of the clacks back a bit. It originally appears in The Fifth Elephant as an exciting new invention. The book ends with Lady Sybil announcing her pregnancy to Sam. But in Going Postal, the twenty-ish daughter of the inventor talks about the early success of the family business as though it happened when she was a child. And Thud! must be set after that, since it refers to stamps, but Young Sam is still learning to talk. Then Raising Steam has Adora Belle reminiscing about being in clacks towers when she was a baby, even though this book takes place "a scant while" after Snuff, in which Young Sam is six.
    • Sir Pterry freely admitted that he never let continuity problems spoil a good joke or situation, reasoning that his readers probably won’t care either
  • Another devout Catholic fantasy author (1892-1973) had similar problems with his massive fantasy opus about small people who save their world from evil. It's possible that Henry Darger had so many characters with similar (or the same) names simply because he forgot that he'd already used that name back in In the Realms of the Unreal Book CLXVII 2.0.
  • The Land of Oz suffered from continuity problems from L. Frank Baum's hands. This included whether they used money, whether they could die, and where Ozma came from.
    • He managed to get a Continuity Snarl with two books. In the first book, the Scarecrow is Offered the Crown of the Emerald City—Glinda has the flying monkeys carry him back there so he can claim it. In the second book, when the Scarecrow goes back to Glinda for help regaining his crown, she tells him that he's not entitled to it, it's Ozma's.
    • The fate of the Winged Monkeys themselves is a smaller case of this. In the first book, the Golden Cap can only be used to command the Monkeys three times per person, and when Glinda gets a hold of it, she explains exactly what she'll use it for (specifically, to send Dorothy's three companions to their new homes), and then says she'll give the cap to the leader of the Monkeys, freeing them. In the second book, The Scarecrow says that Glinda still has the Golden Cap, and the Winged Monkeys are now her permanent slaves.
    • Heck, as Oz went on, the number of adaptations, prequels, sequels, spinoffs, side-stories, etc have made it even worse. In fact, take one look at the number of books alone that take place in an alternate continuity, and which ones are considered "Canon".
  • Ranger's Apprentice has problems with its continuity, possibly because Writers Cannot Do Math. Every major event in Halt's life — leaving home, coming to Araluen, becoming a ranger — happened "twenty years ago"; in the first book this isn't a problem, because it would've been about twenty years exactly from when it started to then, but all this still happened "twenty years ago" after five or six in-universe years. Possibly justified with Halt just rounding it off, because "twenty years ago" is easier to say than "twenty-five years ago".
  • Chris Roberson aims for this on purpose — as a kid, he loved reading comic books and seeing all the ways they interconnected. Everything he writes that isn't a tie-in to Warhammer 40,000 is in a single setting, but he explicitly uses the "many worlds" model of quantum mechanics, and slight deviations lead to massive differences over a relatively short period of time. Attempting to fit his works into a single continuity would be arguably meaningless, and it's uncertain whether even he knows what he's doing half the time.
  • An entire cottage industry has sprung up around trying to wrestle the Sherlock Holmes stories into continuity — not only with each other, but with actual history. They call themselves the Baker Street Irregulars after the street urchins Holmes often calls upon for help.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog mini-novels made by Michael Teitelbaum and Ron Zalme; the novels clearly take place in the SatAM universe, yet the Robotnik used in it is the one from Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. How that fits into continuity is anyone's guess.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • Ahsoka: When Ahsoka recalls her and Rex Faking the Dead, she mentions that dead clones are indistinguishable from each other. However, The Clone Wars episode "Missing in Action" establishes that all clones have an identifying barcode tattooed on their forearm, scannable by any astromech droid. While it's possible that Ahsoka didn't know about this, the odds of Rex not knowing about it are extremely slim, and it's stated that he worked on his fake burial with Ahsoka. Also, when Rex was captured by the Empire in the Rebels episode "Stealth Strike" (which aired roughly a year before Ahsoka came out), Admiral Titus makes no mention of Rex being presumed dead by the Empire. This could imply that the fake burial didn't work, but there's no definitive answer.
    • Queen's Shadow: Although the revelation that one term of office for a monarch of Naboo is two years clears things up regarding the various queens in Attack of the Clones, The Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith, it starts another mess: King Veruna, Padmé's predecessor on the throne, is said to have reigned for 13 years. Now, in Legends it was said that Veruna was massively corrupt and the rules were changed as a result, and he's indicated to be corrupt in canon as well, but there's also the fact that Réillata is 23 when re-elected as queen, and her first term is said to have happened when Padmé was a child: doing the math, that means she was either first elected at the age of 4, which is young even by Naboo's standards, or someone done screwed up.
      • Master and Apprentice, released the month after Queen's Shadow, then goes and adds even more confusion by mentioning that at the time the book is set, 7 years before The Phantom Menace, Naboo is ruled by another teenage Queen. All that can be implied by this is that, in all likelihood, Veruna is no longer Padmé's immediate predecessor on the throne, as that's the only thing that makes any sense anymore.
  • Star Wars Legends is so large almost no fans have read even most of it. The lack of clarity on what was and wasn't canon (and the constant refusal to listen to Word of God) doesn't help either.
    • One of the simpler examples of this snarling; if you take the Original Trilogy and the EU as a whole, then it seems like Boba Fett manages to fall into the Sarlacc no less than three times: both the novel Tales of the Bounty Hunters and the comic "Boba Fett and the Jawas of Doom" start with Boba escaping from the Sarlacc's guts, but with completely different results. In the former, Boba is found and nursed back to health by Dengarrnote , while in the latter, he is found and temporarily enslaved by Jawas, only to end up plunging back into the Sarlacc's mouth again at the comic's end.
    • Ultimately, the entirety of what is now Legends was rendered Canon Discontinuity with the 2014 Continuity Reboot, with the new canon under tighter control to prevent widespread Continuity Snarls.
  • Because he was constantly revising his unpublished works, J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973) managed to create a Continuity Snarl all by himself (which is probably why they were unpublished). His son Christopher edited many of them together into The Silmarillion, trying his best to come up with a version that didn't contradict itself and presenting it as in-universe folklore to cover remaining holes. For some idea of this: if you account for everything Tolkien wrote about her, Galadriel has four distinct backstories.
    • This quote from an interview with his son Christopher says it all:
      70 boxes of archives, each stuffed with thousands of unpublished pages. Narratives, tales, lectures, poems of 4,000 lines more or less complete, letters and more letters, all in a frightening disorder. Almost nothing was dated or numbered, just stuffed higgledy-piggledy into the boxes. "He had the habit of traveling between Oxford and Bournemouth, where he often stayed," Baillie Tolkien recounts. "When he left, he would put armfuls of papers into a suitcase which he always kept with him. When he arrived, he would sometimes pull out any sheet at random and start with that one!" On top of all this, the handwritten manuscripts were almost indecipherable because his handwriting was so cramped.
  • Tortall Universe:
    • The Queensgrace Dilemma: In Lady Knight (published 2002), while the part of the army that Kel is travelling with is on the Great Road North, they stop for one night at a town on said road called Queensgrace. This is where Kel meets and rescues Tobe. In Mastiff (published 2011), a prequel set over 200 years earlier In-Universe, a town and fief called Queensgrace on the Great Road North figures heavily into the plot. The count and countess are discovered to be involved in a treasonous plot against the crown, and are in jail awaiting execution by the end of the book. As a result, the fief is renamed Princehold and awarded to Lady Sabine, one of the protagonist's friends. It seems odd that there would be another town by the same name on the same Great Road, given the scandal attached to the name.
    • Tortall: A Spy's Guide (published 2017) has a listing of what is supposed to be all of the kings of Tortall from its founding to the series' present, framed as an in-universe homework assignment by Thom of Pirate's Swoop. Among other things, ordinals reveal there are at least four missing (the first and third Jonathans and Bairds, despite the fact that Jonathan I is directly mentioned by name in Protector of the Small), and some of the historical events don't match up with things stated in previous books. And, although there are notes from Thom's tutor, in keeping with the Fictional Document nature of A Spy's Guide, there are none suggesting that he forgot any monarchs or that he got details about those specific historical events wrong.
  • A couple of them in Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell:
  • Warrior Cats:
    • In The Fourth Apprentice, Yellowfang witnesses Breezepelt and Brokenstar attacking Jayfeather and tells him that the Dark Forest is rising. In Fading Echoes, a book written by a different author, Jayfeather tells her about the attack and the uprising within the Dark Forest and she is shocked and apparently doesn't know anything about what he's talking about. Ummm...
    • In Secrets of the Clans, Raggedstar is the leader when his son, Brokenstar, is born. However, in Bluestar's Prophecy and Yellowfang's Secret, he is deputy. (Although in the scene in Yellowfang's Secret where she gives Brokenkit to Lizardstripe, there's a few accidental mentions of his leader name; the scene appears to have been copy-pasted from Secrets of the Clans and edited.)
    • The short story "The Elders' Concern", from the official Warriors app. The story is about how the elders are discussing how they're not happy with Fireheart as deputy, because he's young and not Clanborn and was named after moonhigh... except in this story, he's named deputy immediately after Lionheart; it takes place the day after Lionheart's death. Also, they're unhappy that Tigerclaw wasn't chosen, because he's the best fighter. Uh, Fireheart was an apprentice when Lionheart died. And how could they forget about the Big Bad Tigerclaw becoming deputy after Lionheart and his subsequent attempts to kill Bluestar in order to become leader?
    • Firestar's nine lives is probably the most major one. He first lost a life in The Darkest Hour to Scourge, and then Dawn to the falling tree; at the beginning of Sunset, it said he had seven lives left, and then at the end after he's caught in the fox trap and is noted to be lying motionless, it says he has six left. Then Firestar's Quest came out - which takes place after The Darkest Hour and before Dawn - which said that he had six lives left, and then he lost one to rats in the book. When asked why it said six, Vicky said that he lost one to Scourge, one to the rats in the book (even though the line was before it occurred), and one helping Ravenpaw (the Ravenpaw manga was not released until years later, and when it was released, it took place after Firestar's Quest and he didn't lose a life in it), so that didn't clear up matters at all and just caused confusion; the "six" line is generally assumed to be an error. Vicky also said that he didn't lose one in the fox trap (and the short story "After Sunset: The Right Choice?" would later support this), despite Sunset itself claiming he had. He lost one in Long Shadows to greencough, and one just before The Fourth Apprentice to a fox. In Fading Echoes, Yellowfang says that five of Firestar's lives are in StarClan, leaving him with four remaining. If you count all the lives we actually saw him lose in the books minus the fox-trap one - Scourge, rats, tree, greencough, fox - this is correct. He lost a life at the end of Fading Echoes to Russetfur, evidently leaving him with three left. And then he lost a life - his final life - in The Last Hope to wounds from the Dark Forest battle. The only way that this count is accurate is if you count the fox trap (which one book said did happen, and Word of God and one short story said it didn't), and the supposed "Ravenpaw" one which didn't actually happen in the manga nor was referenced whatsoever in the books, or perhaps just headcanon that his wounds in The Last Hope were bad enough to take more than one life. No matter which book directly references his life count, it's always incorrect each time.
  • Young Wizards: In The Book of Night with Moon Tom and Carl are stated as Advisories, which would put it before the second book in the other series. Then Nita shows up... and says that Dairine has passed Ordeal, which is the plot of the third book!


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