I talked about Crisis on Infinite Earths
and mention that I disliked the concept of Hypertime, but I didn't elaborate. Well, I've had time to reflect, and I've come down to three main problems:
1) It's definition is too abstract for specific cases and too obscure for general cases.
2) It doesn't help anything.
3) In fact, it tends to make things worse.
First of all, Hypertime is defined as a metatimeline, outside of the normal "mainstream" timeline, where all "stories" are of equal weight and potential reality. If I wake up one morning and decide to go for a jog first before breakfast, that's the main timeline. However, with Hypertime, there's also a tertiary timeline where I decide to eat breakfast first, or not to jog at all, or where I don't exist at all. But Hypertime isn't just a broad acknowledgment that other possibilities exist, like most parallel timeline conceits; no, the way Hypertime is set up, sometimes those tertiary timelines flow back into the standard timeline. Think of a very complex river system, where tributaries become auxiliaries, with the possibility to become tributaries again. So that day I chose to jog first, I get a cramp in my leg and can't do as much walking later that day, say maybe up or down some stairs. But the timeline where I didn't jog (either before breakfast or at all) reintersects with the main timeline . . . and now I never hurt my leg, and can now do that running up or down a flight of stairs.
Anyone see the problems this cause? Does this mean that the calories I burnt jogging are lost? Do I no longer remember the order of my morning routine, or whether I did everything in it this morning or not? Now amplify that problem by spreading it out over the length of a comic book story, which could be ignored or embraced as the writers and editors see fit. Now, there's one good thing, in theory, that this does: in Crisis on Infinite Earths
the timeline was reset, so some stories that had continuity for decades and decades were erased from existence. But Hypertime supposedly allows for those stories to return . . . just not in the main timeline. In short, if a reader has memories of a story existing, they can incorporate that story into their own personal history of each and (potentially) every character.
Except it doesn't work that way. Because if the writers want, they can choose to ignore any story they want, too, and write stories that invalidate previously established facts. There's nothing wrong with this, it happens all the time with continuing fiction stories. The thing is, in the pre-Hypertime version, these previously unknown facts--often called "retcon," short for "retroactive continuity"--were portrayed as simply extra information, like how a murder mystery doesn't begin with the revelation of the killer, but later on it becomes known. After Hypertime, however, these newly confirmed facts are either the way the main timeline was always supposed to go, or simply a tributary timeline that has now fed into the main timeline, and might be rewritten by later Hypertime tributaries.
"Every story is true" was the selling point, the tagline, of Hypertime. But it doesn't work that way. Instead, it turns into "Every story has the same value." And if a story has zero value? Then all stories have zero value.
It turns continuity into an even bigger mish-mash than it was before. Now, any story's history and context is an unknown quantity. Before Crisis on Infinite Earths
there were previously established alternate realities, each with their own firm
previously established history. But with Hypertime, there's no such thing as previously established history. Superman doesn't have to come from Krypton. Batman's parent's didn't have to die. Everything is subject to the whims of whoever is telling the story. Some people might appreciate this potential freedom, but unless the writer is responsible with the history of the characters, the audience is the one who suffers. Previously established history could just be another tributary-cum
-auxiliary. So now the audience might have to play guessing games with . . . everything they read. Which means they might not want to waste money on something if they don't know where it fits. Most of the time, the writers don't just do whatever they could, but remember: all stories are of equal value. Even ones you don't choose to fit in your personal history of the characters. "Every story is true"--even stories that couldn't ever be.
So that's why I don't like Hypertime.
Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque