by Christopher Grant
Alternate Endings is the brainchild of a conversation that Richard Godwin and I had with each other last weekend. The discussion was about whether or not variant endings would work in prose fiction. I had been reading about variant endings that Matt Fraction (one of my favorite comic book writers) had planned on having three variant endings to the third issue of Casanova: Luxuria (the first arc of the Casanova epic) and it fell through at the last moment when it seemed to be unfeasible.
This is why both Richard and Matt are credited with the creation of the site at the site.
Parallel worlds, supernatural or paranormal events, duality, general weirdness, dreams, et al, have been of particular interest to me for quite a long time.
Alternate endings to television shows or movies that I have seen dozens of times have been a fun little game that I’ve played for at least as long.
Instead of so-and-so surviving this round of Survivor or The Amazing Race, it’s X.
What would’ve happened in a world where Al Gore was declared the winner of the 2000 election instead of George W. Bush? Would the Twin Towers still be standing? Would Iraq have been attacked? Would we be going on ten years of US occupation in that country and eleven in Afghanistan?
These are interesting questions that can be answered in fiction.
What if the husband kills his wife in this version of your noir story but in the second version, she kills him as he attempts to kill her? And what if in the third, she and he end up dead when her lover comes into the picture and decides he wants the contents of their bank account? And what if in a fourth version, the lover is actually in love with the husband and they kill the wife together?
See? Fun, ain’t it?
That’s what Alternate Endings is all about.
Christopher Grant is well known for being the editor of A Twist Of Noir, a magazine that has launched many fine writers. He is also a great crime writer himself with a wealth of knowledge about the genre and many others. His magazine Eaten Alive is dedicated to zombie fiction. And now he has launched Alternate Endings. Stories in his latest magazine have to have two endings, in other words, the same story twice, ending differently. To mark the launch of Alternate Endings he met me at The Slaughterhouse where we talked about parallel universes and the nature of reality.
To what extent do you think one second can make a difference in a person’s life?
Depends on the situation, I suppose. Life and death, such as a heart surgery or brain surgery, one second most definitely can make all the difference. In sports, say you take a second longer to shoot a puck or a basketball at the hoop. Clock runs out, buzzer goes off, game’s over and you’re the goat. Timing in European football, a goaltender takes a second too long and it’s goooooalll.
Timing in life is probably less intense than it is in gaming but life-changing events can take place in that one second, too. Someone chokes on something and you’re the only one in the room that knows how to apply the Heimlich maneuver properly but you’re not in the room because you stepped out to use the restroom. To the guy that just choked on that chicken bone, I think that one second was extremely important.
Do you believe in parallel universes?
I do, for the simple reason that I know that this universe exists, so it would be presumptuous of me to believe that this is the one and only universe in existence. I’m sure that this raises questions that shoot off of that, such as, is there another Christopher Grant right now in the universe next to this one talking with another Richard Godwin right at this moment? I can’t answer that definitively except to say maybe. I’m sure, in that other universe, someone is probably asking themselves the same question, is there one of me over there?
Just the thought that there are these places and these people that we can’t quite touch or communicate with (yet) is completely fascinating to me.
David Lynch explores parallel realities extensively in his films. How do you think Twin Peaks illustrates the concept and what does the giant mean when he tells Agent Cooper ‘there is a man in a smiling bag’?
David Lynch is a favorite of mine (as I know he’s a favorite of yours, too, Richard) both in what he directs and what he writes. Twin Peaks, now there’s a series that the general viewing public fell in love with and out of love with almost instantaneously, mostly because they were both fascinated by and not ready for what it was that Lynch and Mark Frost were putting out there. Oh, yeah, and Lynch and Frost wanted to keep the whole Who Killed Laura Palmer as a MacGuffin, something that would never be answered, something the public and the network couldn’t handle. Sometimes knowing everything isn’t good for you. Those of us that understood the show and understood why that mystery shouldn’t have been resolved still love it, though.
To your question of how Twin Peaks illustrates the concept of parallel realities, the easiest answer is the denizens of the Black Lodge and more specifically the Red Room. Bob, Mike, the Man From Another Place, Laura Palmer and her Doppelganger, Cooper (by series end), Leyland Palmer (or was that his Doppelganger?) and so on. Mike, the one-armed man, especially, as he’s the only figure that we see outside of the Lodge, as well as in, in any true capacity. The fact that he has to use drugs to become something like normal (or what we would perceive to be normal) is an interesting concept.
But parallel realities can be seen outside of the Black Lodge and outside of the various players from that realm, as well.
For instance, Josie Packard.
Here is a woman that at first appears to be completely innocent of whatever it is that Catherine Martell (her sister-in-law) is accusing her of (which we find out about later in the series). Even the way that she turns a phrase makes her appear innocent. The further into the series, even in Season One, we go, more is revealed about her and we understand that she had a different life before she inherited her husband’s mill, so much so that when she is killed, we’re still not completely clear on what all she was hiding.
Donna Hayward is another character that starts out pretty virtuously and, upon wearing something as simple as Laura’s sunglasses, becomes a completely different person. We find out in the Twin Peaks film, Fire Walk With Me, that this isn’t the first time that Donna has worn something of Laura’s and that something has had a strange effect on her.
I think the entirety of Twin Peaks is about duality and about parallel realities.
As for what The Giant means when he tells Cooper, “There is a man in a smiling bag,” within the series, we are led to believe that it is the body of Jacques Renault and whomever killed Jacques is probably the person who killed Laura Palmer. But I think there’s probably a deeper meaning there and might even point to Cooper being taken over by Bob at the end of the series, as what we see at the end of the series could be described as a smiling bag, since it’s not really Cooper.
Physicists posit that the event horizon of a black hole is the entry point to a parallel universe. Do you think it is possible we are living within a black hole and is the doppelganger our ideal self or our Nemesis?
Now, see, this is why I love doing interviews with you. The questions that you ask are thought-provoking and not the basic run-of-the-mill.
An event horizon is something that should interest noir fans and writers, whether they know it or not. Boiled down to the simplest explanation, an event horizon is a point of no return. The point of no return is present (or should be) in every noir story. It’s the part of the story where the man (usually the man) falls for the femme fatale and does something exceedingly stupid, you know, like murders the femme fatale’s husband because she entices him to.
If we are living within a black hole, that would go a way towards explaining why we have not received transmissions from other possible intelligent life in the universe. If our transmissions aren’t getting out, they’re not likely to bother looking for us, are they? At the same time, if you believe that we have been visited by aliens, where are these aliens coming from and why visit us? Is it possible that they’re not aliens but us from a parallel universe?
Food for thought.
As for the doppelganger, another interesting, fascinating area to explore.
They say everyone on the planet has a twin.
I have second-hand experience with this phenomena, due to my mom having had first-hand experience.
When I was a child, I remember hearing the story about how she was downtown shopping for, probably we three kids, and said that she believed that she saw her brother, George.
A little while later, maybe a small handful of years, we were traveling back home from a trip out east and stopped at a motel in Indiana. The next morning, she swore that she saw her brother again.
In both cases, George was neither in downtown Duluth, nor in Indiana, but rather in Milwaukee.
A couple years ago, she was upstairs and thought that she saw my dad standing in the doorway to their bedroom. She said he was just staring at her and she said she said to this figure, “I thought you were downstairs.” She came downstairs and he was still sitting in the chair that he had been when she went upstairs. I can attest that he had never left the chair.
Various famous people have had experiences with doppelgangers, including Abraham Lincoln, who saw his in a mirror on the night of his election to president in 1860. His doppelganger was a two-faced Janus-like reflection of himself. The one face was just as his own, the second, in Lincoln’s own words, was “five shades paler” than the first. This, of course, startled him and he sat up from the couch that he had laid down on and the faces disappeared. He laid back down and again, he could see the faces. He sat up and yet again, they disappeared. He was only able to experience this a third time after which, no matter how he manipulated the mirror or himself, he could not duplicate the experience.
After telling his wife about this experience, she said that she thought that this meant that he would be re-elected to a second term but that he would not survive that second term.
And, of course, she was correct in that assessment.
So is the doppelganger the ideal self or the nemesis?
Depending on your thoughts on death (and I could go off on a tangent on that topic), Lincoln’s doppelganger could have been the nemesis. In the same vein, it could have also been the ideal self. It may sound strange but perhaps death isn’t the enemy. If all we are is
energy in a shell (our bodies), and when we die, that energy is released, is death really death or is it birth?
Is the doppelganger an anomaly created by the brain or is it a tangible thing? Again, if we are nothing more than energy in a shell, then it’s both, isn’t it?
There is so much that we still don’t understand about the world that we live in, the universe that this world turns in and the bodies, especially the brains, that we inhabit.
Christopher thank you for a brilliant and thought-provoking interview.