This is a compilation of all the canonical stuff we know about the nature of alternate universes in the Dresdenverse, including book excerpts and Words of Jim. Seeing how that's apparently the plot of Book 17, Mirror Mirror, I thought I would get a headstart:
WORD OF JIM:
- Dudesan: What we've seen of the cosmology of The Dresden Files seems very Earth-centric. Is that because everything really does revolve around the Earth, or because we're seeing only a tiny slice of a much bigger picture? Are there other planets in real-space inhabited by extraterrestrial sentient beings? If so, do they have their own analogues of wizards, fairies, gods, etc? Are supernatural things influenced by their belief as it is by those of humans? If so, to what extent do these "spheres of influence" overlap?
- Jim: 3) Everything revolves around /this/ earth, in the Dresden stories. But not necessarily around all (or even a majority of) the other earths that exist in the continuum of possibility created by free will. Other, parallel realities have other worlds playing a more central role, and some of them have earth in a nice quiet backwater, peaceful, relatively conflict free, and boring.
Kiama Library, Australia, Q&A, 8 April 2014 (~9min55s):
Actually, one of the books that's going to be upcoming is -- I'm just going to go for total originality and call it Mirror Mirror and stick Harry in a parallel universe where he made one choice differently when he was much younger and show the fallout from that choice in that universe as it's going. That's going to be extremely fun story. I don't get to write it next. I think it's the story after this next one -- which is after Skin Game. There's Skin Game and then the next one the White Council is going to come to town and there's going to be a big brouhaha, and then I think I can do Mirror Mirror after that. And then maybe we'll do professional wrestling stories. Because I love professional wrestling. I watch it for the writing. And you can sort of pick out, well, wait, what's the inspiration for this show? And you can figure out what the book is the inspiration for this show, this particular segment of the wrestling. It's like, 'Ah ha! This is the Return of the King episode. Look! They've destroyed the evil guy and now the good king is back, and now he's the champion of the league, and so and so has been fired, and so and so has been re-hired, and he stretched forth his hand and cured a girl of cancer.' It's wonderful. I love watching wrestling. It's great fiction.
May 2014 Wyrdcon 5 Q&A panel ('~33min23sec):
“I know the subject matter of the books in between, the titles are a little bit more flexible, but I know what the subject matter of the book after Peace Talks is gonna be, I know the title of that one it’s gonna be Mirror Mirror, cos you know I’m writing an alternate universe story and I’m not even gonna bother, of course I’m stealing it from Star Trek, there’s gonna be goatees and eye patches and everything so… [imitation]no she’s just like she is in the regular universe only sluttier, you know and it’s a mirror mirror story, but anyway so ye that’s gonna be a fun one cos that’s gonna be how would the world have been different if Harry had made one choice different...and the fallout from that has affected his life, ...in this case it will be the big decision from at the end of Grave Peril, and you'll get to see how his world is different because of that and how he's the kind of person that does things like summon copies of himself from an alternate reality so he can kill himself conveniently for a while and disappear, except he's going to summon the wrong Harry Dresden, the troublemaking Harry Dresden who had different choices and things are going to be...you know they're going to go just as well for Harry as they always do.”
More from Wyrdcon panel:
- Jim: The book after "Peace Talks" is going to be titled "Mirror Mirror." I'm writing an alternate universe story and I'm not even going to bother... Of course I'm stealing it from Star Trek. There's going to be goatees and eye patches and everything. Just like in the regular universe only (sounds like sluttier), it’s a Mirror Mirror story. But that’s going to be a fun because that’s going to be… How will the world be different if Harry had made one choice differently.
- Audience: Goateed like Harry’s subconscious?
- Jim: It’s going to be a different character because it’s going to be Dresden as he would have been if he made one choice differently, and the fallout from that effect on his life. (unintelligible comment from audience) Yah this guy will have a hat. In this case it will be the big decision at the end of Grave Peril.
- Q: The RPG mentions that you can have different Dresdens based on choices you made in past books, and is that for the RPG only?
- A: No, they came up with that because they know I'm using that as a storyline in the future. Because I've said several times it's only going to be a matter of time before I can resist doing a Mirror Mirror episode of the Dresden Files. In fact, I think I'm just going to call it Mirror Mirror. It's a great title: the same number of letters and everything! My work is done.
- Q: Have you ever had the idea to have a short story of Dresden crossing over into another universe, like Star Wars?
- A: No, because I don't want to get sued. However, just so you're aware the Dresden Files universe exists in a big, wide, spectral multi-verse. It's not like there's parallel Earths. There's an entire broadcast spectrum of parallel Earths, and if you go far enough you'll find the parallel that's where . You'll find the parallel Earth where Star Wars stuff works, and so on. Dresden could get there if he wanted to, but stop and think about that for a minute: Would you really want to go the Star Wars universe? Because you're not going to be a jedi over there. Really jedi are a lot scarier on the ground level than they are from passenger seat view next to one. You know, "There's a bunch of heavily armed fanatics with mind control powers here; they say they want to talk to you." That's kind of spooky.
- Q: One of my favorite parts of your novels are the divine and the demonic, and kind of how they offer (?) each other, and how they have rules, and I wanted to ask, what made you decide that Chicago wasn’t enough, that all of Creation has to be at stake?
- A: Well, it’s not all of Creation. It’s just all of THIS Creation. We haven't really pulled the camera back far enough yet. There’s a lot of reality in the Dresden Files. The Dresden Files is a universe that is driven by Free Will, and every time you make a choice, it creates a new universe. So, there’s this vast spectrum of universe out there, and it’s not just ours, there’s causality going off in every direction. So a philosophical war on that scale is something that is just so tremendous you can barely imagine it. And while it dwarfs into unimportance our particular universe, at the same time, the only way to win that war is one choice at a time, one person at a time. And that’s really what’s going on at the level where the angels are operating, that’s what they’re concerned about. On the level where Dresden’s operating, its like, “How can I survive until the next chapter?” and that’s sort of the problem that we’ve got, as people, how do we look out and try to fix the things that are wrong with our world, when we’re basically going, “How do I get to the next chapter?” How can we have that longer view point, do we need it? I don’t know the answers to questions like that, but I enjoy the hell out of torturing Dresden with them! That’s really kind of the point of what I do.
- Q: I read the short story from Marcone's point of view, Even Hand, and I noticed that John Marcone is not his real name. Is that going to be significant?
- A: Sure is if somebody tries to cast a spell at him using the name John Marcone! That would be a big deal. We'll have to see how that works out. Actually the character that's really interesting is the Mirror Mirror universe Marcone, and we'll get to him in a few books.
THE DRESDEN FILES RPG
(This is what one of the questions above refers to):
Dresden Files RPG: Core Rulebook Volume 2 - Our World Section "I'm Not So Wild About Harry (Alternate Dresdens)": There are a number of times where Harry Dresden could have made a different choice (or suffered a different fate), which would have changed the overall nature of the Dresdenverse. If you don’t like Harry Dresden as the hero portrayed in his case files, make him a villain — or at least an anti-hero.
Here are some suggestions for “alternate Harrys”:
- Pre-Storm Front: Harry (and Elaine) are Justin DuMorne’s thralls; Harry is DuMorne’s enforcer.
- Storm Front: Mr. Dresden, Supernatural Security Consultant to “Gentleman Johnnie” Marcone.
- Fool Moon: Harry the Hexenwolf (he keeps the belt he stole).
- Grave Peril: Count Harry of the Red Court (infected by Bianca or Susan).
- Summer Knight: Winter Knight Harry (he accepts Mab’s offer).
- Death Masks: Harry Denarian (he accepts Lasciel’s coin); there are two chances for this.
- Blood Rites: Harry Dresden-Raith, husband to Lara Raith (basically Lara’s sex-slave or thrall).
- Dead Beat: Harry Demigod (he consumes the Vortex rather than Cowl).
- Proven Guilty: Winter Knight Harry or Harry Denarian.
- White Night: Harry Dresden-Raith or Harry Denarian.
- Small Favor: Winter Knight Harry or Harry Denarian (though this latter one is very tenuous). Slightly more likely is Harry taking up Nicodemus’ offer of support, since they seem to have common enemies.
The three most likely options for an alternate Harrys are Winter Knight Harry, Harry Denarian, or “the thrall of Lara Raith”. Of those, “marrying” Lara is possibly the biggest stretch, and accepting Lasciel’s full power, the least.
Which says something about Harry, doesn’t it?
"We live in strange times," Bob said philosophically. "They're peers, of a sort, Harry. Hey, word is that even the Almighty and Lucifer worked a deal on Job. Spider-Man has teamed up with the Sandman before. Luke and Vader did the Emperor. It happens."
"Spider-Man is pretend and doesn't count," I said.
"You start drawing distinctions like this now?" Bob asked. "Besides, he's real. Like, somewhere."
I blinked. "Um. What?"
"You think your universe is the only universe? Harry, come on. Creation, totally freaking huge. Room enough for you and Spider-Man both."
— Ghost Story, Chapter 35
Vadderung waved a hand. "Nonsense. There are laws that govern the progression of time in relation to space, like everything else."
"Meaning that the echoes caused by the temporal event are proportionately greater than the span of time that was bridged," he said. "Had the attack been launched from a century ago, or hence, the echoes of it would have begun far, far in advance of the event-centuries ago. These echoes have appeared only within the past few days. I would guess, roughly, that the attack must originate only hours from the actual, real-time occurrence."
"Which is tomorrow," I said. "So it's happening sometime today or sometime tomorrow."
"Most likely not tomorrow," Vadderung said. "Altering one's past is more than mildly difficult."
"The paradox thing?" I asked. "Like, if I go back and kill my grandfather, how was I ever born to go back and kill my grandfather?"
"Paradox is an overrated threat. There is . . . a quality similar to inertia at work. Once an event has occurred, there is an extremely strong tendency for that event to occur. The larger, more significant, or more energetic the event, the more it tends to remain as it originally happened, despite any interference."
I frowned. "There's . . . a law of the conservation of history?"
Vadderung grinned. "I've never heard it phrased quite like that, but it's accurate enough. In any event, overcoming that inertia requires tremendous energy, will, and a measure of simple luck. If one wishes to alter the course of history, it's a far simpler matter to attempt to shape the future."
I grunted. "So if I go back in time and kill my grandfather, what happens?"
"He beats you senseless, I suspect," Vadderung said, his gaze direct.
Oh, man. Vadderung knew about Ebenezar. Which meant that either he was higher in the old man's circle of trust than I was, or he had access to an astoundingly scary pool of information.
"You know what I mean," I said. "Paradox? Universe goes poof?"
"If it works like that, I've never seen it, as evidenced by the fact that . . ." He spread his hands. "Here it is. I suspect a different form of apocalypse happens."
I frowned. "Like what?"
"A twinned universe," Vadderung said. "A new parallel reality, identical except for that event. One in which you never existed, and one in which you failed to kill your grandfather."
I pursed my lips. "That . . . doesn't really end well for me in either case."
"An excellent reason not to meddle in the natural course of time, wouldn't you say? Meddling with time is an irrationally, outrageously, catastrophically dangerous and costly business. I encourage you to avoid it at all costs."
— Cold Days, Chapter 21
Some others, while not quite as explicit as those, apparently are hints towards those parallel realities.
For a second, I thought nothing had happened. And then I realized that the soulgaze was already up and running, and that it showed me Molly, standing and facing me as nothing more than she seemed to be. But I could see down the hall behind her, and the church’s windows held half a dozen different reflections.
One was an emaciated version of Molly, as though she’d been starved or strung out on hard drugs, her eyes aglow with an unpleasant, fey light. One was her smiling and laughing, older and comfortably heavier, children surrounding her. A third faced me in a grey Warden’s cloak, though a burn scar, almost a brand, marred the roundness of her left cheek. Still another reflection was Molly as she appeared now, though more secure, laughter dancing in her eyes. Another reflection showed her at a desk, working.
But the last…
The last reflection of Molly wasn’t the girl. Oh, it looked like Molly, externally. But the eyes gave it away. They were flat as a reptile’s, empty. She wore all black, including a black collar, and her hair had been dyed to match. Though she looked like Molly, like a human being, she was neither. She had become something else entirely, something very, very bad.
Possibilities. I was looking at possibilities. There was definitely a strong presence of darkness in the girl, but it had not yet gained dominion over her. In all the potential images, she was a person of power—different kinds of power, certainly, but she was strong in all of them. She was going to wind up with power of her own to use or misuse, depending on what choices she made.
What she needed was a guide. Someone to show her the ropes, to give her the tools she would need to deal with her newfound power, and all the baggage that came with it. Yes, that kernel of darkness still burned coldly within her, but I could hardly throw stones there. Yes, she had the potential to go astray on an epic scale.
Don’t we all.
— Proven Guilty, Chapter 41
And Harry's fever dream with the multiplying Blue Beetles:
It was one of those fever dreams, noisy and bright and disjointed. I don’t remember many of the details—just that I could never keep up with what was happening, and I felt as though as soon as my eyes would focus on something, everything would change, and as soon as I caught up to the action that was happening in the dream, it would roar off in a different direction, leaving me struggling to reorient myself, trying to keep up the pace with my feet dragging in the mud. The whole while, I was conscious of several other Harry Dresdens in the dream, all of them operating a little ways off from me, doing their own confusion dance in parallel to mine, and we occasionally paused to wave at one another and exchange polite complaints.
“A Knight will be there,” she said. “That’s how it works. And I’m on the way.” Her expression became distressed, and a moment later the dream world started flickering, and I was suddenly driving in a small herd of Blue Beetles, all of them filled with slightly different versions of Harry Dresden and Molly Carpenter. I had to slalom the VW through them.
“. . . there as soon as I can . . .” came Molly’s voice, distantly, and then I was driving alone.
The traffic got worse and worse and more confusing, and then there was a loud screech of tires and twisting metal, a bright light, and a sensation of tumbling and falling in exaggerated, graceful slow motion.
— Skin Game, Chapter 14