Over our summer break, I was reading a book whose protagonists traveled to alternate universes which, frankly, I didn’t like very much. But it did get me thinking about the idea of alternate universes in fiction. Not the scientific concept of alternate (parallel) universes—though that’s often the subject of many sci-fi stories—I’m talking about the alternate universes that result from one thing changing in a fictional story. What if Charles Xavier died before he could found the X-Men? What if Captain America was a Nazi? Undoubtedly, a lot of things would be bad. And unfortunately, this is the kind of alternate universe that we often see in today’s fictional media. However, the idea that one different thing could change everything is so broad that I don’t understand why this kind of grimdark change is the most common. Fanfiction also often deals in alternate universes which diverge from canon, but the changes of fanfiction, on the whole, all tend to be more positive and more emotionally satisfying. Though many mainstream movies and TV shows disdain this sort of happy story, an alternate universe which changes originally negative canon material into positive new story fodder can bring with it a wide range of different emotions than the usual grimdark reboot is capable of.
Time passes by in a tipsy haze of sunlight and rainbows. Rose talks to Kanaya until she can no longer keep her eyes open, and then some, because when she can immerse her friend in such meaningless discussion she does not have to think about the little monstrosities creeping through her grey matter, prodding and whispering and reminding her that she is not free yet.
Even still, sleep comes difficult when she knows that she’ll find herself on Derse, in close range of the Outer Ring. Just sitting in her tower she imagines tendrils wrapped around her mind so thickly she can barely see straight. She is afraid that she will wake up dark again, identity and conscience eaten away.
I originally encountered this Homestuck story back in February, when I was looking for gen fics to rec on Valentine’s Day. Although it focuses more on Rose’s struggle to come to terms with her sexuality, I ended up disqualifying it as a gen fic since it still did have romantic content. Today, however, I have no such restrictions and I’m happy to share Show the Lights with you.
Show the Lights begins during Act 5 Act 2 with Rose’s descent into grimdarkness, but rapidly diverges from canon after that. Dave, Aradia, and Jade quickly interfere in Rose and Jack’s duel, and transport Rose back to LOLAR. In the original comic, Rose’s grimdark berserker rage is stopped abruptly when she’s killed by Jack. (She gets better.) In this fic, her recovery is not so easy. Trapped in her trance but encouraged by the distant soothing of a voice that turns out to be Kanaya’s, Rose manages to use her planet’s power to escape her grimdarkness—enough to regain conscious control of her body, at least. However, the process of withdrawal from Horrorterror power is akin to quitting a powerful drug cold turkey, and equally as unpleasant.