The movie "Sucker Punch" and the "Once Upon a time" series make it hard to distinguish what state of reality is the "real" one (not that it matters).

In "Fixing the Shadow" we encountered a character who was either a cop who has infiltrated a biker gang or a biker member who used to be a cop. It was indistinguishable. But that was only a single reality where the character only had to choose.

The characters actions have the same interpretation in different realities (Sucker Punch), but in "Once upon a time" a fictional reality completes the real reality.

Sorry for blabbering on, but I hope I have managed to convey what I am trying to ask for.

3 Answers 3


An excellent question. Since it's a plot or perspective technique which can be used in any kind of fictional story, I wouldn't call it a "genre." Science fiction, Western, soap opera, comedy, and procedural are genres (with sub-genres like "medical procedural" and "lawyer procedural"). Having more than one "true" narrative could happen in any of those types of stories.

I think "multiple realities" describes it very well, particularly if the viewer is meant not to know if one is more "real" than the other(s).

It isn't quite Rashomon, but it's related.


I think what you might be looking for here is slipstream fiction. The term is quite modern, but is generally about moving away from a single universal perspective and rather writing from a more personal or foreign one. Examples of this genre exist long before the term was coined, and might include books such as Walser's The Tanners, or O'Brien's The Third Policeman. These stories may include multiple or varying realities.

From the course description of an MFA Slipstream Fiction course: the genre embodies concepts of "a freewheeling approach to genre boundaries and conventions; and a sense that 'consensual' reality should not delimit a writer's vision."


I do agree that this technique can successfully be used in any genre, but often when the conflict of a story is centered around the characters trying to distinguish what is real it will have the psychological thriller sub-genre associated with it.

On the other hand when characters casually acknowledge the existence of multiple realities or parallel universes and aren't troubled by them those stories generally fit broadly into either science fiction or fantasy.

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