Lost copying Land of the Lost?
June 3, 2009 7:33 PM   Subscribe

Did Land of the Lost invent the concept of a pocket Universe? Similarly is the more recent series Lost copying that concept or have other series and stories done the same thing?

So with Will Ferrel putting out a new movie spoofing the original Land of the Lost I went back and watched some of the original series. I had watched it a bunch as a kid and remember it being really complicated and loving that and the craziest part being that when they ran out one side they came back on the other. The new show Lost has the same thing.
-I know Arthur C. Clarke wrote a short story which has a similar conclusion, all centered around a huge black wall.
-Also a Star Trek TNG episode has a similar concept with a higher life form trapping them in this kind of non-space.
posted by monkeywithhat to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Spoiler?
posted by paradoxflow at 7:46 PM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


what about D&D's Bag of Holding? I always thought of that as a kind of pocket universe... just keep out of those deceptive Bags of Devouring, and you've got yourself a wee little cosmos all of your very own.
posted by Philby at 7:47 PM on June 3, 2009


Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass maybe?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:49 PM on June 3, 2009


Well, according to Algis Budrys and confirmed by a GBS, the term dates back to at least 1960 and was coined by Murray Leinster^. So I don't think the concept can really be attributed to a Saturday morning kids' show.

I'm not even sure I would say the term applies, but if you want to use it loosely it could apply to all sorts of dimensional tricks in and out of sf, from Doctor Who's overcoat to Tommy Westphall's snow globe.
posted by dhartung at 8:03 PM on June 3, 2009


I'm not 100% sure of how you're defining "pocket universe." Do you mean a simplified, consistent environment? I'd argue that most fictional stories are set in such pocket universes. In "realistic" fiction, the pocket universe is a simplified model of the real universe. In fantastic literature, it's a model with alternative (but hopefully internally consistent) physics or history.

I suspect you're into fiction in which (a) the pocket universe is fantastic in some way or ways, and (2) the characters or narrative explicitly poke at the physics or history of the (e.g. what happens if I try to leave the island?).

Many dystopias do this: "1984" and "Brave New World" being the most famous examples. My favorite is "This Perfect Day" by Ira Levin. The pocket universe is extremely well worked out, and the novel looks under its hood.

"Flatland" is, perhaps, the definitive pocket-universe novel.
posted by grumblebee at 8:06 PM on June 3, 2009


paradoxflow - spoiler about a tv series that ran thirty years ago?

monkeywithouthat - I don't know about the new "complete series" dvd set that just came out, but the first season set from a couple years ago had some excellent extras about the making of the series, and in particular how they deliberately hired some of the top science fiction authors of the time to write the scripts. The show may have cheesy sets, terrible special effects, and awful acting, but the underlying ideas were really mind-bending stuff. They actually hired a linguistics expert to develop the whole Pakuni dialect, and ran into a problem when confronted with the fact that Chaka could not make the "L" sound. Given that Chaka was supposed to name the Sleestaks, but instead spoke the word as "sareesutaka", they had to alter the script so that the word "sleestak" would be written on a wall somewhere for the Marshals to find. Which is a long way of saying, the creators of the series were very serious about not pandering to their audience in terms of the hardcore science fiction elements. The whole pocket universe thing was not a completely new and original idea in the world of science fiction novels, but it was certainly groundbreaking and innovative for a saturday morning kids show.
posted by Lokheed at 8:09 PM on June 3, 2009


Is it really supposed to be an extradimensional thing? I haven't seen the original series or the movie but from the movie trailer it looks like The Land That Time Forgot, a 1918 novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs where the dinosaurs were in the inaccessible interior of an island that was reached through a subterranean water passage. Similarly there's the underground world full of dinosaurs in Jules Verne's A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) and there's the Hollow Earth scientific theories of John Cleves Symmes and Edmund Halley before him, Edmund Halley having come up with that in 1692 according to Wikipedia.
posted by XMLicious at 8:27 PM on June 3, 2009


paradoxflow - spoiler about a tv series that ran thirty years ago

I believe that was in reference to "Lost." I've only seen the first season, and I knew nothing about the pocket universe aspect.
posted by brundlefly at 8:42 PM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I seem to recall an episode where the were looking through a telescope at them looking through a telescope. Some serious pinching off of space time if you ask me.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:07 PM on June 3, 2009


Robert Heinlein's Glory Road, published in 1963, is a mad romp through a series of pocket universes.
posted by Mitheral at 9:12 PM on June 3, 2009


grumblebee: I'm not 100% sure of how you're defining "pocket universe." Do you mean a simplified, consistent environment?

XMLicious: Is it really supposed to be an extradimensional thing?

It's a pocket universe (the show anyway, I haven't seen the movie) in the sense that the entire universe is only a few 10s of miles in size.

In one episode the family climbs a mountain and with a pair of binoculars they can see the backs of their own heads. In another episode they take a raft down a river and end up back where they started.

I put the DVDs on my netflix queue last year because I remember how much I enjoyed the show as kid and I thought it would be good for a laugh. I was surprised just how well they thought out the 'lore' of the show. I was also surprised when I saw shows were written by Norman Spinrad, Larry Nivan and Ben Bova.

As to your question, I'm pretty sure they didn't invent the concept but I've been googling like a nerd on speed and other than the interior of the TARDIS I'll be damned if I can find an earlier example. (absence of proof is not proof of absence.)
posted by Bonzai at 9:12 PM on June 3, 2009


It's a loose term, & I dunno if monkeywithhat is after those specific pocket universes where out one side = in the other, but yeah, dhartung seems to be right with the term itself being coined by Murray Leinster around 1946~47.

"Brigadoon", and the legends it's based on, may also fit...
posted by Pinback at 10:16 PM on June 3, 2009


paradoxflow - spoiler about a tv series that ran thirty years ago

I believe that was in reference to "Lost." I've only seen the first season, and I knew nothing about the pocket universe aspect.


Don't worry, it's not about pocket universes. Nothing about "Lost" has been spoiled for you, and while monkeyhat might think otherwise, it's got nothing to do with pocket universes. I am deeply jealous that you still have five seasons of the show to look forward to, whereas I've only got one more year.
posted by incessant at 10:28 PM on June 3, 2009


That fundamental idea (or something very much like it) appears in "The Magical Misadventures of Harold Shea", by Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague De Camp. The first of those was published in 1940.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:46 PM on June 3, 2009


Plato wrote about Atlantis in the 300's BC.

Explorers and Conquistadors of the "New World" were often (along with mapping, collecting flora/fauna/slaves/etc., spreading the gospel and disease, and looking for other things to exploit) really were looking for "lost" or hidden supernatural worlds or objects like the famed Fountain of Youth or El Dorado which were really continuations of ancient old world tales.

For another recent example see Men in Black
posted by Pollomacho at 5:08 AM on June 4, 2009


There is a game, where you play warring factions of the people living inside a self-aware pocket universe.
posted by nomisxid at 6:20 AM on June 4, 2009


In one episode the family climbs a mountain and with a pair of binoculars they can see the backs of their own heads. In another episode they take a raft down a river and end up back where they started.

If there's anything like this is LOST, it's subtle enough for me to have totally missed it.
posted by lampoil at 8:12 AM on June 4, 2009


Marvel's Heroes Reborn.
posted by WCityMike at 9:18 AM on June 4, 2009


The Wikipedia article has plenty of examples.

One of the more extended uses of pocket universes, not mentioned in the article linked above, started with DC Comics' Crisis on Infinite Earths mega-crossover series. The idea behind that series was to create one unified "DC Universe" and get rid of a number of alternate-reality versions of the superheroes, but somebody at DC couldn't bear to get rid of the original versions of Superman and Lois Lane, as well as another version of Superboy, so they stuck them in a pocket universe, supposedly forever, although a future mega-crossover called Infinite Crisis ended up cracking open the pocket universe, killing the original Superman and Lois, and making "Superboy-Prime" into a supervillain.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:56 AM on June 4, 2009


Yeah I may need to use a different term then "Pocket Universe" but that was the best I could come up with. A difference clearly exists between a bag that is bigger on the inside then is on the oustide (although do not get me wrong I am also curious as to who first came up with that and where I can buy one) and a place like exists in Land of the Lost. Still the only thing I can find is the Arthur C. Clarke short story called "The Wall of Darkness". That was first published in 1948 and may have been the inspiration for the concept in Land of the Lost. Still it is a very different thing. The other examples people have given are also good but all come way after the Land of the Lost series. This is all part of my interest in where concepts emerge.
posted by monkeywithhat at 11:50 AM on June 4, 2009


A side note - something being bigger on the inside than on the outside is an actual real-world general relativity effect of gravity. If you draw a box 10 billion meters on a side around the sun there's way more than (10 billion meters)³ of volume inside of it the way there would be in flat space. See the precession of the perihelion of Mercury, one of Einstein's 1916 predictions as a validation of GR that was later confirmed experimentally.
posted by XMLicious at 4:25 AM on June 5, 2009


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