Entry updated 20 December 2011. Tagged: Theme.
In cosmology an open universe is a model of the Universe which implies that it will continue to expand forever; in this general sense, the term is found incidentally in many sf novels. However, sf readers also use it in a quite different meaning: to designate a work or series whose characters and venues may be made use of by fans and others in Fanzines without copyright restrictions (although the original authors do sometimes impose constraints). The best known open universes of science fiction are probably Star Trek and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover – although the huge modern enthusiasm for creating fan fiction has unofficially "opened" the universe of almost any sf (and even more so, Fantasy) franchise that one might name.
A cognate use of the term, to designate works or series whose authors invite other professional authors to participate, is perhaps deceptive. Open universes of this sort, from H P Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos to Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius, are perhaps more appropriately thought of as a kind of Shared World. [JC]
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