Literary Agent Hypothesis

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"The legend you are about to hear is true. Only the needle should be changed to protect the record."
Stan Freberg, St. George and the Dragonet

This is the hypothesis:

The work is Inspired By real events. The person listed as the author is really just the literary agent for the character who wrote it. For some undisclosed reason, all involved want the truth of the story to be kept a secret.

This is a thought experiment that occurs in many fandoms—that the series in question is a Dramatization. The theory goes something like this: While the fan accepts that what he is watching is a television show (or book, etc.), he theorises that the events portrayed happened. Essentially, the fan surmises that the film, TV show, or book (etc.) is a covert re-enactment or re-telling of real events for our education and entertainment. Fans will sometimes claim to believe this wholeheartedly, though this is almost always an exaggeration.

Following from this the theory normally takes one of two routes:

  • Dramatization: The writers of the series are demoted to the roles of literary agents or ghostwriters for the characters. They are charged to transcribe their adventures, often tasked to make only such changes to actual events as are required by the practicalities of the medium and to protect the confidentiality of those involved. Which is to say, "The story you are about to hear is true: only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.", but without any declaration that the work is a account of real events. In this version the characters whom the story is based on, essentially, want their story told but don't want anyone to know it actually happened or that they were involved.
  • Loose Retelling: For whatever reason the creator has taken someone else's story and retold it in a way that won't come back to them and won't be recognised as real. This point of view is a middle-ground between supposing what we see on-screen is absolutely real and admitting that it is just fiction. It may be claimed that several stories have been mashed together and certain people have been merged into single characters.

The former is generally seen as plainly nuts for any fictional work, even the ones that really are true stories; the latter makes interesting scholarly discourse impossible. Literary Agent Hypothesis opens up a huge range of fannish possibilities. Perhaps the most important of these is that we can easily dismiss small continuity errors: the literary agent just cocked up a bit. It also allows us to easily dismiss certain production elements, such as a Special Effect Failure or Sister Becky, or, most especially, the Translation Convention: it didn't "really happen that way", but it's a convenience for the production crew and an Acceptable Break from Reality. Without this notion, it's difficult to talk about how it really happened as, strictly speaking, it didn't really happen at all. This is often invoked when a visual effect is changed by the production team: the phasers didn't really change colour, the filmmaker has just worked out a more accurate way to depict what they always looked like.

While this line of thought has advantages for speculation and is somewhat less silly than supposing that what we are watching is real, it walks a fine line: beyond excusing production mistakes, this hypothesis is occasionally extended to allow for Fanon Discontinuity, supposing that the parts we don't like are the bits that are outright fabrication, and therefore allowing us to discard them. Within fantasy gaming circles, this is also the distinction between "Lore" and "Canon": "lore" assumes certain facts are mostly historic interpretations and beliefs—much like Real Life—making them more easily subject to change, while "Canon" is inarguable (read: uninteresting), constricting to creativity and vulnerable to Ret Cons.

This notion has probably always existed in some fashion, but as an explicitly stated thought experiment, it originated with and is still most closely associated with Sherlock Holmes fandom. Some Speculative Fiction series take this a step further, lifting a page from quantum mechanics and postulating that all works of fiction are reflections of various Alternate Universes somewhere in a multidimensional meta-space-time. Often, this will be revealed during a trip by the characters to (or from) the "real" world. In 18th centuries, novels were often disregarded, and some authors tried to pretend that the book was not only inspired by real events, but that it was a record they found rather than something they made up. Parodied in Dangerous Liaisons, because at this time it became too obvious. Robert Heinlein's novel The Number of the Beast revolves around this idea, and he coined the term "The World as Myth" to describe it. It is a kind of metafiction known as "transfictionality".

This trope is not to be confused with Direct Line to the Author, which is where it is official canon that a fictional story is true, instead of just Fanon. Also not to be confused with Recursive Canon, though it sometimes overlaps it. The distinction between these tropes is as follows:

Tropes related to this include Writer on Board, Executive Meddling may be invoked to imply that the "true" story was changed. Compare and contrast I Should Write a Book About This. Compare Unreliable Narrator or Fictional Document. See also Daydream Believer, which is what you get whenever a fan takes the hypothesis too seriously, or Rashomon Style when the characters in the story themselves are used to recount it.

Examples of the Literary Agent Hypothesis in action include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The Big O. Stage lights and a director would suggest it, but we're not sure...
  • School Rumble often reads like a "Big Fish" version of the author's life. The manga that Harima works on are probably just jokes at the expense of stories the author has written, the unrealistic points of the normal story could simply be exaggerations His boss was intimidating, so he was 20 feet tall... The same could be applied to other characters who were very tall or even changed size, such as Tennouji.
  • More than one Axis Powers Hetalia Fanfic speculates that Himaruya might be doing this.
  • To a degree at least two levels removed, the That Is It, itself written and drawn by an author, implies that the K-On!! series it was inspired by was written by Yui Hirasawa herself.
  • The OEL Manga Dracula Everlasting has the original work by Stoker as being a case of this.
  • Son Goku interviewed by Shonen Jump. That is all.

Fan Fiction[edit | hide]

  • Episode I: The real story? is a fic (originally in Russian) about how the Star Wars films are actually made for show distortions of real events, and it's very risky to use them as actual sources. Then it shows (as much as possible; sources are sketchy) what the events of "Episode I" really looked like before Hollywood Tropes were applied. For starters, Naboo was too remote a planet for taxing disputes - the dispute was actually over properly dividing the profits from a local animal's venom, apparently a drug for Hutts. A few things (like Obi-Wan defeating Maul) do look a bit more plausible than in the movie.

Film[edit | hide]

  • There are, in fact, entire web pages cataloging and debating how far this trope should be applied to Star Wars... sometimes to an inane degree (see Canon Fodder).
  • Cult Classic Jake Speed is built around the notion that pulp novel heros like Mack Bolan, Doc Savage, Remo Williams, and the eponymous Jake Speed are all real; it's the authors that are fictional. (They use the proceeds from the novels to fund their adventures.) The hero even has a ghostwriter for a sidekick.
  • The DVD commentary of Walk Hard is done in this vein, with famous rock and roll stars talking about their experiences with Dewey Cox.
  • Peter Jackson invoked this for the production team of Lord of the Rings, saying something along the lines of "I don't want you to think of this as a fantasy movie. I want you to imagine it's a historical war movie, and we've been lucky enough to be able to shoot in the actual locations where these events took place." The resulting attention to detail has a similar effect on the film's believability to the immense Backstory on which the book was based.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Eoin Colfer makes use of this trope with Artemis Fowl, rather humourously.
  • In The Dresden Files, it's heavily alluded to that Dracula was pretty much commissioned from Bram Stoker, so people would have a defence against the Black Court. In Grave Peril, Harry mentions that the Black Court is almost nonexistent, thanks to that book. And, in one of the recent "extra" stories, it's pointed out that the Necronomicon was actually a Grimoire of great power—until the White Council found it and published it all over the place, and by making it available to every minor mage and wannabe in existence, effectively nullified the power by spreading the effect over the entire world.
    • In an interview with the author, a fan asked whether H.P Lovecraft was onto something in the same way. The answer - yes. Oh Crap.
  • The Number of the Beast revolves around this idea, and Heinlein coined the term "World-As-Myth" to describe it. It is a kind of metafiction known as "transfictionality".
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Dedicated fans use the conceit that Conan Doyle was merely Dr. Watson's literary agent, from whence comes the name of this trope. So basic to the Sherlockian fandom that you can go to a meeting of Sherlockians and never hear Conan Doyle referred to by any other name than "The Literary Agent".
    • But note that Dr. Watson himself claims this to be the case—and who are you going to believe: a real-life doctor and veteran of The War in Afghanistan (three thousand years and counting!), or some obscure literary agent?
  • Likewise it's been suggested several times that Nero Wolfe was a real person and Archie Goodwin was making cash on the side by selling their case records to Rex Stout (and the reason why Wolfe only seems to solve murders is because they sell better than plain old theft or corruption). This is especially appropriate since Wolfe was allegedly inspired by Sherlock Holmes and has been accused of being related to him in some way (either his actual son by Irene Adler or as his nephew by his brother Mycroft, who Wolfe greatly resembles).
  • George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman series blurs a number of lines. The title character is lifted from a Victorian novel (along with at least two supporting characters), and occasional supporting characters are lifted from other works of fiction (notably Colonel Sebastian Jack Moran and Sherlock Holmes himself), but most characters are from actual recorded history (minor characters are often invented by Fraser). Despite Flashman's life story being preposterous, the conceit worked well enough that (according to a 1969 article in Time magazine) at least 10 American reviewers of the first novel thought it was an actual autobiography.
  • While the books themselves do not invoke Direct Line to the Author, Garth Nix has said regarding The Seventh Tower, "Often, I get the feeling that the story is really happening somewhere and all I'm doing is trying to work out the best way to tell it."
  • The Great Gatsby features what would seem to be a mistake when the narrator talks about "the events of two years ago" when he's meant to be relating the story of only one year ago. However, some hypothesize that the extra year was deliberately written in to give the impression that the character spent that time writing and publishing the book.
  • The Time Ships, a sequel to The Time Machine by Stephen Baxter, implies that the Time Traveller told his story to H. G. Wells who then created a fictionalised version. Wells himself wrote the story from the first person and numerous other works have run with the idea that The Time Machine is H. G. Wells's own story and depict him as an actual time traveller (cf Time After Time, Lois and Clark). In the 1960 movie adaptation of The Time Machine, the Time Traveler is referred to as "George". However, the time machine's date indicator plate clearly reads "Manufactured by H. George Wells" meaning the Time Traveller's name is...HGWells.
    • Interestingly enough, The Time Ships is itself an example of this trope, with Baxter claiming to have only slightly polished a manuscript allegedly by the Time Traveller himself. The anecdotes by the author at both the beginning and the end of the novel also hint at what ultimately became of him...
  • Steve Hockensmith's mystery/Western Holmes on the Range (about a cowboy who is inspired to take up detective work after reading several Sherlock Holmes stories) doesn't just play this card but starts off being Direct Line to the Author as well! The story itself uses the original literary agent hypothesis—it sets out Holmes as a real person, one of the villains is related to a character from the Holmes story "The Noble Bachelor", and it's eventually revealed that the book is set two years after "The Final Problem".
  • In his novels Tarzan Alive and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, Philip José Farmer's claims that Edgar Rice Burroughs and Lester Dent were just the biographers of Tarzan and Doc Savage. He claims that their books were highly fictionalized and sensationalized and presents somewhat more mundane, but still sensational versions of the stories that correct various factual inaccuracies and continuity errors. For example, he explains that whenever Tarzan encountered a lion, a plains dwelling animal, in the jungle, it was actually a leopard and Burroughs exaggerated because lions were bigger and more dangerous looking. He also tries to explain away both characters' great strength and intelligence by claiming their ancestors were irradiated by a meteor, and that other relatives of Tarzan and Savage whose ancestors were exposed to that radiation include Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Sherlock Holmes, Fu Manchu, and Bulldog Drummond. Philip José Farmer is in a class of his own.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs himself used this approach for Tarzan, the Barsoom novels, and much of his other work. This makes Farmer's approach that of representing literary agent material as a different literary agent.
    • In the Barsoom novels, Burroughs went so far as to claim that John Carter was his beloved uncle.
  • The Pushcart War has left at least one reader who read the book as a kid and didn't realize it was fiction because by that time the dates in her copy were fifteen or twenty years in the past.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor is speculated, based on a number of things including a rather silly villain name, to be the basis for a holothriller(movie) or its novelization, written by one of the characters for the Star Wars Universe. The wiki has more info.
  • T.H. White's The Once and Future King doesn't exactly include this; however, since he was basing his story much upon Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur, his inclusion of Malory as a young squire to Arthur who is entrusted with recording the events of the story is worth a mention.
  • Tim Lucas' Dracula novel, The Book of Renfield, explains that Stoker just cleaned up the original journals and such.
  • The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series by James A. Owen runs on this trope. The three protagonists are revealed at the end of the book to be J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and their friend Charles Dodgson. Their adventures bring them close to things like magic wardrobes and elven cities which they claim to use as inspiration. H.G. Wells acts as their mentor, having admitted that The Time Machine is an autobiography and he had a child with Weena. The second book introduces James Barrie, who personally knew Peter Pan. The most recent book has an undead Edgar Allan Poe admit that The Cask of Amontillado is not a short story, but an instruction manual he wrote for how to deal with his enemies.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien implied this with The Lord of the Rings and related works, supposedly "translations" of works by the characters themselves. The hypothesis in this case is that (as mentioned in-story) Bilbo's diary and Frodo's account of his adventures (with a few additions by Merry and Pippin here and there, finished by Sam) were compiled together into a volume called the "Red Book of Westmarch", which was copied into an edition called "The Thain's Book", to which someone added a few volumes of "Translations from the Elvish" by Bilbo. This was copied in turn by one "Findegil, the King's Writer"—the date this copy was made is the last dated event in the book, so we can presume Tolkien "discovered and translated" this copy.[1]
  • Harry Potter: The author blurb for JK Rowling's companion book The Tales of Beedle the Bard (an in-universe book published in the real world written as if it were in-universe) says she wrote the "seven-volume biography of Harry Potter."
  • The Khaavren Romances are supposedly Historical Fiction written within the Dragaera universe and then "translated" by Steven Brust. One of the novels even includes an "interview" between Burst and the "real" author, Paarfi, where Paarfi lambastes Brust for the liberties he's taken with the novels.
  • Series of Unfortunate Events: The letters to his agent at the ends of the books suggest that he is telling the true story of the orphans.
  • Michael Moorcock is quite fond of this one. The Oswald Bastable and Colonel Pyat series are prime examples.
  • Gene Wolfe's Soldier of the Mist and sequels are supposedly translations of 2,500-year-old scrolls. Even more audaciously, his Book of the New Sun series is supposedly translated from a far-future language "that has not yet achieved existence". Wolfe's Afterwords to these books are masterpieces of mock scholarship.
  • In the foreword to The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling claims to have based the stories on actual research conducted with various Indian animals. Likewise, "Quiquern", his Inuit story from The Second Jungle Book, is supposedly a translation from a piece of walrus-tusk on which the hero carved the story in pictures. Kipling allegedly found it after it had made a prodigious voyage from the Canadian Arctic to Ceylon (of which Kipling could not possibly have had any real knowledge even if it were true).
    • While we're on the subject, Pamela Jekel claims that her Kipling pastiche The Third Jungle Book is actually a lost Kipling manuscript.
  • The Saga of Darren Shan posits the story as Darren's diary. At the end of the series, when Darren returns as a Little Person he goes back in time and scares the younger him away from seeing Steve reveal that Mr. Crepsley is a vampire, allowing for them to avoid becoming involved in the war and letting others take their place in this timeline. He then gives Mr. Tall the diary and asks him to change the names and publish it as a fictional book so the world will know what really happened.
  • Alan Dean Foster's novel Quozl, has one of the characters meet the titular aliens, while a teenager. Her brother later finds himself watching a Quozl cartoon, and confronts her. She admits having stolen the ideas, but notes that it paves the way for the Quozl to come to be a part of earth. It works.
  • CS Lewis's Space Trilogy begins with, then discards, the trope. The epilog to Out of the Silent Planet reveals that the protagonist ("Elwin Ransom") is a friend of Lewis's, who asked him to publish the work; Lewis changed the names of all the characters (including the protagonist) because the villains are alive and powerful (and, one presumes, quite capable of suing for libel). Lewis is a minor character in the beginning of the sequel Perelandra, but in that book it is specifically noted that "Ransom" is the protagonist's name. By the third book, That Hideous Strength, events have carried the series far beyond the real world, and Lewis discards the "literary agent" pretense entirely.
  • Played with in Philip K. Dick's short story "Waterspider". The protagonists decide to fix a technological problem of their era by time-travelling into the past, the golden age of precognatives, and consulting with the precog whose paper "Night Flight" foresaw their very predicament: Poul Anderson. The reader eventually realizes that the "precog society meeting" is actually a Science Fiction convention—it turns out that all the major SF authors were precogs without realizing it, and were accurately predicting the future in their writings.
  • In Who Cut the Cheese? by Stilton Jarlsberg, Biff in the frame story is selling copies of Who Cut the Cheese? out of his car.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The only plausible explanation for the Celebrity Paradox in the Recursive Canon is that Drake and Josh is a tv show in The Verse of iCarly, Zoey 101 and Victorious. When Carly and Spencer from iCarly are watching Drake and Josh, neither of them makes any mention that the characters on the show are identical to them. Ergo, the in-universe version of the show must not have had Megan and Crazy Steve being played by Miranda Cosgrove (who plays Carly) and Jerry Trainor (who plays Spencer), but instead by 2 other actors.
  • The Distant Finale of Babylon 5 suggests that the entire show has been a dramatization of the show's events, funded and produced by ISN.[2] The end of the finale features a quick montage of the entire B5 production crew, framed as the crew who made the dramatization.
  • An early draft of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Little Green Men"—in which it turns out Quark was responsible for the incident at Roswell, New Mexico—plays with this a bit by including a character named Lt. Gene Roddenberry.
  • "The Haunting of Deck Twelve" from Star Trek: Voyager played with this by showing us upfront that Neelix was the one telling the story, and then lampshading it by having the Borg children call him out on one of its technical inaccuracies, to which Neelix basically responds "Who's telling this story?" After that, whenever any of the characters in the flashback scenes says something technically inaccurate, we understand that they didn't really say that; what we're hearing is just the way Neelix (who doesn't understand the Voyager's mechanics very well) remembers it.
  • This is occasionally used in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys with scenes in several episodes set in the present day. Apparently Kevin Sorbo really is Hercules.


Music[edit | hide]


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Final Fantasy Tactics is narrated throughout the whole thing by many of its characters, describing how they felt and acted during that particular time you are playing. The entire backstory is meta-narrated by Alazlam Durai, a descendant of Olan Durai (a character you get to encounter) whenever none of the other characters are in play because he retells the entire story from start to finish in his book.
  • Though it's not official, one popular theory for puzzling out The Legend of Zelda series' snagged-up timeline is that it is a legend, with details being changed with each retelling of the story of Ganondorf trying to take over Hyrule, becoming the monster Ganon, kidnapping Zelda, and being stopped by a certain green-clad Heroic Mime. Therefore, they say, there really is no single timeline—instead, each game is a kind of remake of the previous ones.
    • This also explains why details such as the appearance of monsters and the general layout of Hyrule are not remotely consistent between subsequent games.
  • The Silicon Knights remake of Metal Gear Solid, The Twin Snakes, had no connection to the original studio other than Hideo Kojima's supervision and the dialogue scenes, which were made from scratch by Konami. The entirety of the original title was rebuilt from the ground up including these new scenes, and while it was the same game in heart, it was basically made with a new brand of cloth. As such, the whole story underwent a bit of a genre shift, as the original game was a very deadpan action-suspense-drama account of a mission which takes place over a short period of time and was not apparent to anyone outside of the know. The remake, on the other hand, graciously exaggerates the narrative, featuring scenes in which bullets are sliced (with a vibrating blade, nonetheless), the protagonist superleaps about 15 feet across a gap and onto a raised area, and a bunch of missiles explode in some cataclysmically unrealistic way. As a lot of fans of the series played both games within a half-decade timeframe, the differences were all too notable, and many have taken to break the two down, former and latter, into "how it happened" and "how it was told."
    • This theory is aided somewhat by the in-universe existence of the book In The Darkness of Shadow Moses, an account of the game's events written by one of your contacts in the game. Twin Snakes could therefore either be considered a reading of the book, or even a film or game based on that account. You could even argue that The Patriots had the film made with all that bullet time nonsense to make people believe it wasn't true.
    • Several scenes throughout the series note that soldiers are increasingly being trained to fight in Virtual Reality without any real battlefield experience. MGS2's Mind Screw finale explicitly associates the non-canon game Metal Gear: Ghost Babel with this practice, implying that it exists within the MGS world as a VR scenario.
      • This is also another explanation for The Twin Snakes; it's not a movie adaptation of In the Darkness of Shadow Moses, it's the VR training of the Shadow Moses incident Raiden mentions having gone through during his training before Sons of Liberty.
  • Splinter Cell: An "interview" on the first game's disk and a promotional Character Blog for Chaos Theory openly state that the game is based on the real Sam's escapades. According to him, he was originally bought into Ubisoft as a consultant before they decided to make the series about him. Which begs the question of how an agent who officially doesn't exist gets a popular series of video games made about him. The "interview" even has his character model from the game sitting in a chair in Ubi HQ, in full Splinter Cell gear.
  • Final Fantasy X plays with this trope a bit, at times feeling like a real story that would become a legend of the end of magic. The best example is when the Ronso, the resident Proud Warrior Race, plan to erect a statue of Yuna, with a great big horn (because the Ronso deem this facial feature to be the symbol of great power), thus matching Final Fantasy's traditional depiction of summoners as having unicorn-like horns.
  • Touhou fandom often postulate the idea (jokingly or not) that ZUN acquires all the necessary information to make the games and supplementary material from conversations with his drinking buddy, Yukari. Any contradictions are therefore Yukari being deliberately misleading or ZUN forgetting a detail.
  • This trope is used as a fan explanation for the MASON System's apparent time-traveling abilities in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney.
  • At the denoument of Sherlock Holmes Vs. Jack the Ripper, it's strongly implied that Watson made up the "Hound of the Baskervilles" case, to cover up the fact that he and Holmes had actually been in London at the time, where they'd solved the Whitechapel murders. The in-game killer was Jewish, and Holmes knew that preventing an anti-Semitic bloodbath by outraged Londoners was more important than revealing the truth, so he had the man locked up in secret.
    • In Kate Martinelli's published Sherlock Holmes fan-fiction The Art of Detection this gets really confusing. This is the latest book in the modern-day detective series, which features, as part of the plot, and included in the book, a "discovered" Sherlock Holmes story...that happens to be a first-person B-Story, by Sherlock, during the last Mary Russell book. (Although if you have not read the Mary Russell series, you will make different assumptions about who Sherlock's missing "chronicler" is, and assume it's Watson. But the story is clearly taking place during "Locked Rooms" and it's actually Russell.) It's hard to figure out how this could logically work...King either took a break from editing the Sherlock Holmes stories she was sent, to make one up set in that continuity (which is just incredibly weird), or she stole that story and published it uncredited inside another book as fictional fiction, when it's actually entirely true. What's even weirder is that, in the story, the police, and a bunch of Sherlock fans, are trying to figure out if Doyle wrote it, and none of them bother to include the possibility that it might actually be written by Sherlock himself. In a universe where he really exists, there should be at least a minority viewpoint believing that. This leads to the absurd conclusion that Sherlock is fictional in that fictional universe but real (but assumed fictional) in the real universe.
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opens with the title character promising to tell a story to some unseen person, which leads players to believe he is addressing them. He continues to narrate at various points in between gameplay, and whenever the player dies, he interrupts with: "No, that didn't happen, hang on..." and restarts from the last check point. Near the end of the game, it's revealed that he's been telling the story to Farah, the Princess who accompanied him throughout much of the game but doesn't remember because the Prince used the dagger and the hourglass to rewind time to before the events of the game even began. It turns out he's trying to stop those events from ever happening by exposing the Vizier as a traitor before he has the chance to let the Prince's army into the city.
  • Based on the opening and ending videos, it's implied that entirety of Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries is a story or series of stories told by an older Spectre some time after the Word of Blake Jihad.
  • Dragon Age II is told by Varric to Cassandra when she comes to him looking for the Champion sometime after the events of the game. How much of an Unreliable Narrator he is has yet to be determined, although he does admit to blatantly making things up, such as the beginning of the game and the first telling of their raid on Bartrand's house. Cassandra calls him out on it.

Visual Novels[edit | hide]


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Achewood is supposedly based on things that the characters do in real life, with author Chris Onstad tweaking things for the sake of humor and occasionally making things up entirely if his "roommates" didn't happen to do anything funny that day. The characters' blogs (of course the characters have their own blogs) tell the "real" story as they are written by the characters directly, without Onstad's input or influence. Note that these "roommates" are walking, talking housecats and living stuffed animals.
  • Phil and Kaja Foglio, the authors of Girl Genius, claim to be teaching a class at TPU (Transylvania Polygnostic University) and that this comic is a textbook for their class on Agatha Heterodyne (the mad scientist around whom the story centers) and assert that everything in it is true... "Occasional guesswork and narrative license have been applied in cases where the facts were uncertain or where documented occurrences would have been more amusing if only they had happened in some other way. Other than that, it's all true."
    • Humorously enough, there is some truth to this. The Foglios work/worked as professors at the real-life TPU (Teikyo Post University, later renamed Teikyo University).
  • Sailor Sun is a webcomic ostensibly about the "real lives" of the actors and actresses who portray web comic and fan fiction characters. Recursive Canon abounds, since the actors all seem to be playing themselves.
  • Sire is based on this concept; people like Dr. Jekyll, Inspector Javert, Jeeves and others are said to actually have existed.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • The "Slender Man" photographs and most subsequent adaptations of the story, including several mockumentaries and "video diary"-style projects, treat the Slender Man as a very real figure: at least, as real as an Urban Legend cryptid such as Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster could be. The Slender Man has become so ingrained in popular culture that you could be forgiven for thinking that the myth had been incubating for decades, as opposed to being the creation of a forum member and a product of a contest to manufacture "paranormal" photographs by editing normal ones. One of the common elements is characters thinking the whole Slender Man thing is just a myth, and the stuff they find online is fake, until it actually happens to them.
  • Lonelygirl15 toyed with its viewers by masquerading as an actual video diary of a real girl, and as the webisodes slowly became more and more absurd and involved more plot, it was revealed that it was indeed a scripted program and all part of an elaborate ruse.
  • Supposedly, author User:Max Sinister compiled the Chaos Timeline from a computer file he accidentally downloaded from Another Dimension.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • This was parodied in Darkwing Duck, where a TV writer in the "real" world had gotten a helmet that tuned into Alternate Universes, and used this to make the Darkwing show. At the end of the episode, the helmet was smashed, but when the writer picked it up, it started tuning in on Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers instead.
  • Some technically-minded fans attempt to reconcile the exaggerated action of the Star Wars: Clone Wars miniseries with the films and Expanded Universe by explaining that the cartoons are in-universe propaganda created by a minor character from the miniseries. According to the official Databank, this may actually be the case.
  • An episode of The Real Ghostbusters animated series showed the Ghostbusters consulting on a feature film based on their real adventures and starring actors named Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis. At the end, we saw the cartoon characters watching live-action clips from the movie itself, with Peter Venkman complaining that this Murray guy looked nothing like him.
  • There was an episode of Justice League where the League travels to a different world featuring some villians and superheroes that resemble those of Green Lantern's favorite childhood series. After some initial confusion, Martian Manhunter posits the authors wrote under "some sort of psychic link to this world" unknowingly. After finding the graves of his heroes and hidden wreckage from a war, he finds that the reason the series was canceled was because the bad guys won and most of the rest of the world is all just an illusion created by the villain.
  • Futurama deconstructs the idea in "Yo Leela Leela"—Leela creates a wildly successful children's television show, but it turns out her characters and their world really exist and she's just been documenting their actual daily activities and passing them off as works of fiction. Eventually she's overcome with guilt over exploiting these people's lives for profit and pretending to be a creative writer, and confesses the scam. The television executive ends up simply cutting out the middleman and turns the show into a reality show following the real characters directly.
  1. The Book of Lost Tales, his earliest version of the Silmarillion, instead has a Direct Line to the Author: The stories are told via a framing device of elves telling them to an Anglo-Saxon mariner who stumbled upon the Elvish island Tol Eressea, who then writes them down and takes them back to England. His book is found long afterwards in the ruins of an old house, and ends up with Tolkien who, being a Professor of Old English, translates it. The two are possibly not incompatible hypotheses -- if the "Anglo-Saxon mariner" framing story hadn't been discarded very early on, it would have been easy enough to have the stories from the Red Book (The Lord of the Rings) being told to him in addition to the Translations from the Elvish (The Silmarillion) stead, explaining how Tolkien could translate them.
  2. Which is why they're the only Earth news channel mentioned through the show's run.