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Literature / Xanadu (Storyverse)

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Xanadu is a Shared Universe based on the premise that, during a large fandom convention at a convention hall in Orlando, Florida, a mysterious event known as the Change causes everyone within the building to spontaneously transform into whatever they were dressed as at the moment. Chaos predictably ensues, at first from the confused crowds who, depending on how much the transformation affected their minds and memories, either found themselves suddenly trapped in foreign bodies or stranded on an alien world, and later from delayed attempts by the local police and then the US government at containing the mess.

Most stories focus on individuals adapting to their changes and their implications for their lives and the world. There is no specific overarching plot, although some stories reference events described in others. The setting has for the most part been inactive since the early 2010s.

The stories can be found on Shifti. The setting's introductory page is here, while most of the stories are here. Alveric's "Mermaids of Xanadu" stories can also be found here. Uglygosling's contributions can be found on his DeviantArt page.

This setting contains examples of:

  • Alien Among Us: Since every "Alien" in the story Was Once a Man, most attempt to return to their old civilian lives after the Change. One story follows a family that were turned into Twi'leks resuming their ordinary middle-class suburban American lifestyle following the Event.
  • Alien Blood: Due to being transformed into a part-Vulcan, Hannah bleeds green, copper-based blood.
  • Baleful Polymorph: How some convention attendees view their transformations.
  • Becoming the Costume: The central premise of the setting is that, at a fan convention, an unexplained event causes everyone to transform into what they were dressed at. Mentally the transformation varies from person to person, from "suddenly my costume is much more accurate" to "where am I, what is this planet?", due to each costumed person specifically transforming into what they perceived their costume as being — as such, two people in the same exact costume would still turn into different things and experience different mental effects based on their knowledge and interpretation of the character they had come as, how "in-character" they were, what they were thinking or doing at the moment they transformed, and so on. There is also the "clothing curse", which affects some, but not all, of the transformed people and causes any clothing they put on to transform in the closest equivalent that would be "appropriate" for their character to wear — for instance, anything a Jedi puts on would transform into a set of robes.
  • Cult Classic: In-universe in "The Perils of Voice Acting". The Show Within a Show The Adventures of Young Arkadais was a cartoon series aired thirty years before the stories' time as an attempt to cash in on the popularity of other adventure shows of the eighties. It never gained much popularity, was cancelled partway through its first season and was largely forgotten, but retained a small core of extremely devoted fans who kept reminiscing about it and producing fan content in the decades afterwards.
  • Death of Personality: Attendees who were particularly in-character at the time of the Change, or who had been especially invested in the personality and backstory of the character they were dressed as, had their minds entirely rewritten by the Change. Afterwards, the new personality inhabiting their body is for all intents and purposes a completely different person, with no memories of their former life nor any inherent attachment to it. The resulting Strangers have varying opinions on this — some view their previous selves as something like parents, some try to form new connections with the loved ones of their predecessor, some become wracked with guilt over having been born by erasing another being and some simply don't care at all — but in all instances it's made clear that they aren't the same being, and that the original person is irrevocably gone.
  • De-power: In "Mermaids of Xanadu", the superhuman traffickers' plan hinges on the use of a newly-created mage's powers to suppress the effects of the Change on their victims, turning them back into regular humans. This is noted to be a dicey proposition, and in some ways more useful as a threat than as an actuality, as using it inherently ruins the value of their victims. The other main problem is that the mage can only sustain the spell for so long before running out of energy, and can't easily cover multiple targets at once.
  • Draconic Humanoid: In "Refamiliarization", the main character dressed as a human in the first stages of transforming into a dragon, and thus possessing small horns and a few black scales scattered around his body. As the story goes on, he gradually develops more and more draconic traits, such as a second pair of horns, more extensive scales, claws, a muzzle, wings, and a tail; eventually, he fully transforms into a non-anthropomorphic dragon.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mentioned in passing as having happened to some formerly human convention-goers hit by the Xanadu effect, during a mental health checkup scene in one story.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In "The Care Bear Caper!", the pre-transformation main characters are kidnappers who have come to the convention to snatch Eric Winters and hold him for ransom, who view their crimes as strictly business. As they move through the convention, one notices another would-be kidnapper from another story who is instead obviously targeting the child attendees, and thinking of "what she may be after" gives him a sudden urge to fill her with bullet holes.
  • Exact Words: In "Far Indeed From Sherwood Forest", a Kestagian mage is described by fictional RPG as being rendered mortal again if his Soul Jar is put within its body. The assumption is that he will be tricked or forced to swallow it somehow, but the main character realizes that this can also be achieved by punching the object directly through the undead mage's rotten flesh.
  • Familiar: In "Refamiliarization", the main characters go as a wizard and his dragon familiar, which in the unspecified tabletop campaign that they're playing is a creature magically bonded to a spellcaster to whom it's connected by a mental link. After the Change, the two remain telepathically connected.
  • Fan Convention: The core premise of the setting is that a large fan convention, called Kublai Con, is held at the fictional Xanadu Convention Center in Orlando, Florida; a particular emphasis is placed on cosplay due to a costume contest held by the convention's very rich host, which inspires both a large number of people to come in costume and some very elaborate costumes being made to win the prize. Then, during the judging for the contest, a magical event causes everyone on the premises to be transformed into what they're dressed as.
  • Fantastic Arousal: In Alveric's mermaid series, mermen possess a pair of fins running down their tails that mermaids find looking at, and especially touching with their own tails, to be sexually exciting.
  • Fantastic Diet Requirement: A character who finds herself transformed into a slake moth ends up living on a diet of hallucinogen drugs — for her, it's that or human souls.
  • Female Groin Invincibility: Lampshaded in "Revan". When fighting a female opponent, Revan attempts to take her down by kneeing her the groin. Revan, who had been on the receiving end of such strikes herself, reasons that the pain of having someone jam their knee in her genitals should be plenty to put her out of commission. However, to her consternation, this achieves absolutely nothing beyond insulting her opponent, who becomes convinced that Revan mistook her for a guy. In-universe, this is justified by the fact that the transformations caused by Change are rooted in what people believed the people they'd dressed as would be like — the other woman's cosplayer had evidently been someone who believed that women really can't be harmed by groin attacks, and consequently gained an immunity to them after being transformed.
  • Fox Folk: Anthropomorphic foxes are one of the more common variants of animal people produced by the Change. They feature particularly prominently in "Against Type", where the main villains are a pair of fox morphs who plan to use mad science to turn humans into more foxes like themselves.
  • Foxy Vixen:
    • In "Against Type", one of the main antagonists, Traci, is a fox woman notable for an exaggeratedly overendowed figure and a tendency to make every word and action seem sensual. It's implied that, due to the prevalence of this trope, this is a common trend among individuals transformed into fox morphs, leading other characters to complain about the "stupid oversexed foxes".
    • In "Wynd, Skye, and One White Mouse", Hannah's parents are briefly accosted by a white-furred anthro vixen who shamelessly flirts with both her father and her fiancé.
  • Freakiness Shame: In the immediate aftermath of the Change, Hannah initially views herself as a freak due to being transformed into a mermaid-alien hybrid.
  • Gender Bender: A number of transformations cause people to change genders and/or physical sexes, such as a frat guy who wore an Ariel costume on a dare and is turned into a mermaid, a man turned into a female Fox Folk, a woman who is turned into a Hulk Hogan clone, and two women who were part of a group cosplaying as marines from Hogan's Heroes. The main character in "Refamiliarization" also undergoes this as his full transformation slowly sets in, but the fact that he's turning into a female dragon specifically means that the sex change is largely a secondary issue for her.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Discussed when Alex compares having a Sith and a Jedi follow him on a mission, the former intending to drive him towards the Dark Side and the latter to ensure that that doesn't happen, to having a guardian devil and a guardian angel on his shoulders.
    Alex smiled, "I'm going into battle with a guardian angel as well? One at each shoulder. Who could ask for more?"
  • Karmic Transformation: A variant. A number of characters are criminals, typically kidnappers, who come to the convention hoping to use the costumes and confusion as cover while they snatch or rob people, and who become transformed into guardian entities — most notably a kidnapper who becomes the devoted guardian of the child he had been attempting to seize — or cartoon characters devoted to making the world a better place.
  • Living Lava: In "Revan", the titular character encounters a person transformed into a towering, stout humanoid being made out of molten rock, which she refers to as a "lava boss" — implicitly, a lava-themed video game boss monster. By the time she reaches it, it's burned most of a room to cinders and is being fought by a crowd of otherwise-transformed people using fire extinguishers. When Revan partly freezes it using ice grenades, she notices that while it can walk on molten legs just fine these simply shatter when solidified.
  • Mad Scientist:
    • One of the main antagonists in "Against Type" is Max, a Fox Folk mad scientist with the ability to create gadgets that can perform any number of effectively magical functions, alongside a maniacal disposition, an obsessive devotion to his dream of replacing the human race with other fox people, and poor impulse control.
    • In "Quest Moments", a government official explains to the main character, who cosplayed as and was transformed into Benton Quest, that the US government has been trying to employ Xanadu survivors who became super-scientists to contain the crisis and more generally as potential future assets. He starts to call them mad scientists, before quickly correcting himself and using "genius".
      "We're actually contacting and trying to recruit a number of Xanadu survivors whose talents may be of use in this situation. You're simply the first mad — er, genius scientist to accept the invitation. Most of the others have vanished, or refuse to meet with our agents."
      Skyler smiled. "A certain amount of paranoia is endemic to the profession, Mr. Director. There's always someone out there trying to steal our inventions, or the credit for them, or turn our creations into weapons of mass destruction. Or on the flipside, they might fear being shut down because their research violates local ethical standards or costs too much."
  • The Magic Comes Back: A minority of tranformees perceive the change as simply brining back magic that was present in the world but long dormant, and some of the transformed people as being ancient gods or creatures incarnated again.
  • The Marvelous Deer: One character is transformed into a white stag from an ancient legend, which perceives itself as having once existed in the distant past and simply being incarnated again. Its legend had mutated in intervening centuries to describe it as granting wishes to those who could catch it; although its human self had hated that part, the stag accepts this new compulsion as simply a change in the world's magic and goes along with it, haunting the wild places of the world in challenge to would be wish-seekers.
  • Mass Transformation: The plot of the entire shared universe is kicked off by Eric Winters inadvertently causing one by putting on what turned out to be a magic raven mask.
  • Maternity Crisis: Downplayed in Uglygosling's "The Human Fish", where a mermaid named Ana goes into labor during a hurricane, and she isn't able to swim to a hospital due to both distance and the storm; fortunately, she's far enough below the surface of the water that the hurricane isn't that much of an issue, and the colony she's living in has a midwife on hand.
  • In Medias Res: "Alex and Hannah" begins some time after the Change, with Alex looking himself over in his hotel room, before shifting back to a few days earlier to explain how he got to where he is now.
  • Mermaid in a Wheelchair: Most of the people transformed into mer by the Change are permanently stuck in their forms. As such, they mostly use wheelchairs to get around on land.
  • Mind Hive: A group of dragon dancers, implied to have been named Ben, John, Phil and Ray, are turned into a single Chinese dragon named Behjopiray. The new creature's mind is presented as an amalgam of the four people who were turned into it, and its internal monologue is a set of four distinct commentaries with slightly different personalities — most are largely subsumed into the new draconic persona, but the last one retains more of its human memories.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Many individuals develop compulsive tics, habits and instincts to match their new bodies. Nicodemus, who is transformed into a giant rat, gains the innate twitchiness and nervous disposition of a prey animal, strongly prefers to arrange his bedcovers into a nest in which he can completely hide himself, and develops a compulsive habit of stealing and hoarding small shiny objects.
    Nico cringed a little as his friend and co-worker lifted it into the back of the Honda. "It's mostly just junk. Useful junk, I hope. But junk. I... I can't help it. I've been able to fight off a lot of ratty behaviors, but I need an outlet, so... um. Guess I'm a packrat."
  • Mooks: In "Mermaids of Xanadu", superhuman traffickers use a number of Tolkienian orcs as minions and disposable thugs, who are aggressive and vicious but fairly ineffective in fights against determined opponents.
  • Ms. Fanservice: In-universe, Hannah describes the news hosts who interview her after she returns to her hometown as "a perky blonde in a red dress with lots of cleavage [and] a perky brunette in a black dress with even more cleavage", implicitly as an example of the common news station ploy of hiring attractive women as anchors to entice people into watching.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Entirely possible for someone to be turned into one. In Hannah's case, she was changing from one costume into another, resulting in her transformation into a Mer-Vulcan.
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: Wynd, who is initially turned into a Pegasus by the Change, is eventually transformed into a winged centaur — the closest to her original human form that the magic of the Change will permit.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: A few characters are transformed into dragons. Notable examples include Mi'chelwarorn, formerly Michael, who underwent a full physical and mental transformation into a Dungeons & Dragons silver dragon; a man who came dressed as a human in the first stages of a transformation spell and afterwards transforms over the course of a month into a fire-breathing black dragon around thirty feet long; and a group of dragon dancers who became a Chinese dragon capable of breathing underwater and using magic.
  • Our Gryphons Are Different: The first sighting of a winged horse that Hannah and Beth investigate when searching for Wynd turns out to be a hippogriff, which as they point out to the soldier accompanying them is distinguished from a pegasus by its eagle head and predatory habits, which are soon after demonstrated when it dives on and decapitates a cow.
  • Our Liches Are Different: In "Far Indeed From Sherwood Forest", the villain is a Kestagian mage, a type of undead from a fictional D&D competitor. A Kestagian mage is an undead wizard who stores his soul within a diamond called an Aelpa, cannot be killed as long as it's intact, and has innate knowledge of its location proportional to how far away it is from him — if it's within a hundred feet he only knows that it's within that distance, as it grows further away he gets a stronger bead on its position, and once it's ten miles or more away he can point straight at it. One who seizes this Aelpa can control the mage, such as by casting spells using the mage's magic. An Aelpa can only be destroyed with magic, or if one somehow contrives to make the mage swallow it, which will reunite his soul with his body; this won't kill him, but it will make him mortal.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Alveric's mermaid stories focus on a number of people turned into mermaids — "mer" being the gender-neutral term — of various sorts. As with every other Xanadu transformation there is a considerable amount of variation between individuals, but certain overall patterns are present.
    • Most are women — only four or so mermen are present. Most are amphibious, possessing both lungs and gill slits beneath their ribs; the exceptions are one dolphin-bodied one, who's strictly an air-breather, and the four Silent Sisters, who can only breathe water. Some air-breathers can stay on dry land indefinitely, while others' fish parts will dry, crack and bleed if they go too long out of water. They cannot speak underwater or move easily on land, and so are by necessity bound to shallows and coastal waters. The mermaids seen in the stories proper are all permanently stuck in their forms, but others are mentioned who can shift back and forth when they become wet or dry, with the use of a magic phrase, or at will; these largely go back to their human lives, and don't interact with the permanent mers much.
    • Most have two-colored tails, either banded or splotched, with fishlike scales and horizontal tail fins. Some also have large pelvic fins, which make them slower but more maneuverable swimmers. They also tend to have fingers webbed to the first knuckle. The Silent Sisters all have pelvic fins, in addition to dorsal fins, smaller ones on their arms, scattered scales on their upper bodies and sharp teeth; one also has a vertical tail. Mermen also tend to have a pair of frilly fins running down their tails, which mermaids find to be a turn-on.
    • All mermaids are exceptionally good singers and can use their singing to create magical effects. At least one mermaid can save drowning people by turning them into mer themselves.
    • Unusual cases include the main character Hannah, who was in the middle of switching costumes when the change hit and turned into a Vulcan mermaid, a frat boy who got turned into Ariel, and a merman with a koi tail.
    • As the case with Hannah shows, it's entirely possible to create Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot type hybrids such as a Vulcan Mermaid or a Jedi Mermaid.
  • Pegasus: The serendipitously named Wynd is turned into a pegasus by the transformations. Later, she turned into a winged centaur that's the closest to her original shape that the magic will allow her to get.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: One short story describes a pair of twins, one a picture of politeness and courtesy around adults but wicked, false and demanding around other children while the other is sullen, quiet and stubborn but trustworthy, sincere and devoted to helping others. At the convention, the wicked twin had gone as an angel and the good one as a devil, but after the Change they only remain in these forms for a moment before they feel a pair of immense hands pick them up and set them down in each other's bodies.
  • Refugee from TV Land: This is largely how Strangers, the transformees whose personalities were completely overwritten by those of the fictional characters they were dressed as, perceive themselves. Most have full memories of their fictional lives, and consider themselves to have been pulled from their worlds and dropped into a strange one where their lives and adventures are described in comics, books and movies.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: In "Against Type", Nicodemus is transformed into a rat the size of a dog.
  • Serial Numbers Filed Off: In-universe. Gamimon, a fictional game, is described as a blatant and obvious knockoff of Pokémon, just distinct enough to avoid lawsuits but otherwise carefully copying its formula in order to ride on the tailcoats of the latter's popularity. Out-of-universe, it was created because the author of the story it appears in didn't know enough about Pokémon to write about it without making errors and decided to use this trope to avoid the issue.
  • Shared Universe: The setting is open to any author to write stories for, and most stories are written by different people. It's also common for other authors' stories to reference each other, although one of the setting's rules prohibits major events that other author would be obligated to include in order to limit constraints on new stories.
  • Shark Man: Downplayed with a cook who had worn a shark mask to get into the spirit of things while catering at the convention. Post-Change, she still looks mostly human, but has three rows of serrated teeth and doesn't need to sleep anymore.
  • Show Within a Show: A few of the works people cosplayed for, such as The Adventures of Young Arkadais and Gamimon, were created purely for the stories.
  • Sirens Are Mermaids: All of the transformed sirens who retain their voices become exceptional singers and gain the ability to create magic through their song.
  • Soul Jar: In "Far Indeed From Sherwood Forest", a Kestagian mage is a lich-like undead who keeps his soul inside an enchanted diamond call an Aelpa. He is entirely immortal as long as the Aelpa is intact, but if someone seizes control of it then it can be used to magically control the mage. An Aelpa can only be destroyed with magic, but if it can be placed within his body then his soul will rejoin with it and he will become mortal again.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: After being transformed into a cat, Erica gains the ability to fluently understand other felines. Notably, this isn't presented as a spoken language, but as a system of postures, movements and small noises, each carrying some form of meaning, that she can now perfectly interpret.
  • Spell Book: In "Refamiliarization", the prop book that a character had brought with him while cosplaying as a wizard is transformed into a true grimoire, filled with masses of runes and diagrams describing different spells. His non-wizard friend can't look at its text for more than a few seconds without getting a headache.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: A character named Wynd becomes transformed into a pegasus. This is lampshaded by her sister Skye, who remarks on the serendipity of the situation while lamenting how her own name doesn't match her transformation into a mermaid.
  • Stock Animal Diet: In "Against Type", after Nicodemus is turned into a giant rat, he develops a strong obsession with cheese. This comes back to bite him when Max uses a "scent amplifier" to augment the smell of a block of cheese, both making it more odoriferous and strengthening its effects, in order to turn it into an irresistible lure.
  • Superhuman Trafficking: In the wake of the Change, an underground market springs up for possession and exploitation of the newly-formed supernatural beings. In "Mermaids of Xanadu", the main characters become targets of one specifically intending to profit from the capture and sale of mermaids and a Jedi. The story discusses some of the issues with doing this, chiefly the ones revolving around trying to keep powerful supernatural beings prisoner. The traffickers rely on threatening to De-power their victims to keep them in line, but doing so ruins their value — but, on the other hand, letting them keep their powers and abilities makes them very difficult to contain.
  • They Called Me Mad!: In "Against Type", the Mad Scientist Max starts to launch into a rant of this sort after being introduced as such, although he stops partway once he realizes that the scene he's making is attracting the attention of the guards keeping watch over Xanadu.
    "Mad scientist," Nico explained, trying to keep the tension out of his already high-pitched voice. "Marx, I-"
    The fox-man's expression became very, very intense. "Mad? You dare to call me mad? The fools at the institute called me- uh..." Marx blinked, suddenly realizing he was making a scene and that the two Guardsmen were paying particular attention.
  • Transformation Ray: In "Against Type", the Mad Scientist Max creates a flying ray gun whose blasts can transform victims into whatever the weapon is set to produce. In his case, he mainly uses it to turn humans into Fox Folk like himself.
  • Unicorn: One story briefly mentions a unicorn penned outside Xanadu Hotel alongside other animals. Another character is turned into a unicorn himself, with his mind largely being subsumed by the creature's new consciousness.
  • The Unmasqued World: The Xanadu Event pretty much demonstrated that magic is real, and that magical beings definitely exist now if they hadn't before.
  • Unscaled Merfolk: One of the mermaids, Jennifer, has a dolphin tail and fluke instead of the piscine ones the others have. Notably, she's the only one who can't breathe water, although she can hold her breath for upwards of a half hour.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Eric Winters had no idea that the mask for his crow costume was actually a magic raven mask artifact.
  • Was Once a Man: Every non-human in the stories was formerly a human cosplayer hit by a transformation at a fan convention.

Alternative Title(s): Xanadu