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TG: and hey you might even be able to help your past dream self wake up sooner without all that fuss you went through

TT: I think the true purpose of this game is to see how many qualifiers we can get to precede the word "self" and still understand what we're talking about.
Dave Strider and Rose Lalonde, Homestuck

The Alternate Self is the same person as the character, but living a separate life. The "straightest" cause of this split is that the two alternate selves live in separate timelines that diverged reasonably recently and was the same or very similar during the persons formative years.

However, in some Speculative Fiction, a Alternate Self can also be created by a Teleporter Accident, or even a extreme case of Cloning Blues, where the clone somehow keep the personality, skills and memories of the original.

The character and the alternate self (or the two alternate selves, if the plot treats them equally as characters) might have been more or less changed by different circumstances, but they are still the same person at the core. They may or may not be the same age, but they do NOT have a linear relationship of one being the younger self that will become the other - the older self.

An Alternate Self is the opposite of a Mirror Self, and yet they often overlap in a fluid pondering of identity.

  • Alternate Self = Same person, but different life.
  • Mirror Self = The opposite person, but in some ways still the same.

In the case of separate timelines, the two alternate selves may or may not be able to share information through Flash Sideways.

Examples of Alternate Self include:

Comic Books

  • City of Dreams: the protagonist is quite different in her dreams compared to her waking world self.
  • DC Comics again: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D was essentially a team of Superman counterparts from the 52 Universes. Not all of them were alternate versions of Clark himself (there was a Captain Atom and a Captain Marvel), but most of them were.
  • Marvel's What If rarely showed alternate selves meeting, but its Spiritual Successor, Exiles often had such meetings.

Fan Fiction


  • Sliding Doors is built on this trope. Just a few minutes into the movie, the main character misses the tube. But wait, she did get on the tube. Two timelines, and two lives that are quickly becoming more and more different.
  • Back to The Future features multiple alternate versions of Marty's family and recurring antagonist Biff Tannen. Biff, in particular, is first a corrupt middle-management bully, then a timid goofball, and finally a murderous Corrupt Corporate Executive with enough money and power to completely screw up Hill Valley and its surroundings.


  • In Rogue Moon, teleportation is done the Star Trek way of decomposition and reconstitution. The book is more interested in the implications: two copies of the same person genuinely are the same person, giving them telepathy until they diverge enough. This is useful in investigating an alien machine that kills its occupants. The decomposition is lethal, no ifs, ands, or buts. The scan can then be reconstituted any number of times, but this is a separate process. Rogue Moon is messed up.
  • In the Labyrinths of Echo by Max Frei, Murakoks are people with a life-long (but variable in strength) Psychic Link to lots of Alternate Selves in other worlds. The downside is having to keep one's place in the net--a travel to another world leads to insanity. The only one appearing was Koba[1], the Dean of Beggars in the capitol. He has more than enough of skills magical and social, but turned down an offer to join Secret Investigations, arguing he must be a beggar for the balance between the alternates. He's a very rich "beggar", though.
  • Well presented in the third book in the Rogue Agent series, Wizard Squared, where the reader is presented with an alternate take on the climax of the first book, and the domino effect shows how terribly poorly that universe went when the characters crossover. Interestingly, the point of divergence was a possibility that the character in the original timeline discounted as too dangerous. Cue Evil Overlord.
  • In The Talisman people in our world tend to have a twinner in the Territories. Fundamentally the two people will be at least similar.
  • The premise of the short story "The Wheels of If" by L Sprague De Camp is that, as part of a ploy to discredit a political rival, someone in an Alternate Universe comes up with a way to cycle the consciousnesses/souls of seven people in seven universes who happen to be similar enough to count as Alternate Selves. The rival is one of these, ending up with the mind of a man from our timeline. Unfortunately for the villain, the man from our timeline is himself a capable political operator and knows tricks that haven't yet been thought of in the alternate universe.
  • A few examples from Discworld: in Thief of Time the characters Jeremy Clockson and Lobsang Ludd turn out to be the same person, but duplicated due to the unusual circumstances of their birth, being the son(s) of the Anthropomorphic Personification of Time; in Jingo Vimes makes an important choice as he goes to pick up his "Dis-organiser", which normally tracks what appointments he is due to have in the day--he picks it up as his two selves diverge, and each of them get the wrong one, meaning Vimes gets to find out what would have happened if he had made the other choice.

Live Action TV

  • Most of the characters in the sixth season of Lost are presented this way: Living very different lives in the two timelines while still being the same persons. Subverted in the season finale, but presented this way throughout the season non the less.
  • Ace Rimmer (and his entire timeline) in Red Dwarf.
  • all the Alternate Universe counterparts of the cast of Fringe
    • Note that calling them alternates instead of mirrors does not reflect very well on "our" Olivia's character, since her alternate does some pretty nasty things.
  • William Thomas Riker in Star Trek the Next Generation was split in a Transporter Malfunction. The two alternate selves was the same person at the time of the split, but one of them lived on Enterprise while the other was shipwrecked on a deserted planet for a few years. This other Riker later called himself Thomas Riker and built a separate life for himself.
  • Occurs in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Ripple Effect" when several alternate SG-1 teams end up in the SGC.
  • In Farscape John is duplicated by an alien device. They are created perfectly identical, but split up from that point, probably for reasons of preserving sanity. It's not made clear which of them is the original and which the duplicate.
    • It's actually implied there's no original or duplicate. It's probably called being twinned for a reason.
    • The "Original"/"Duplicate" is subjective. The John on screen is thought the original, the one off-screen is the duplicate. It makes sense with the treatment of the character.
  • There's a few of these in an Alternate Universe during the new series of Doctor Who. (In particular, Mickey's alternate version is a bit of a Badass.) However, by the end, enough people have gotten killed off that there's only one version of each character running around.
    • In the episode "Journey's End", the Doctor's severed hand, having absorbed regeneration energy and come into contact with Donna Noble, branches off into a human-Time Lord metacrisis, with the Doctor's memories, but a biology and lifespan closer to that of a human. Conversely, as the metacrisis went both ways, Donna Noble also gains the experiences of the Doctor, which slowly killed her.
  • A routine occurrence in Sliders.
  • The Stargate Verse really likes this trope, though they tend to invert it (having the alternate-universe counterparts show up in the main universe).
    • The Stargate SG-1 episode "Point of View" has an alternate Sam who comes to the main universe running away from a Go'a'uld invasion. When they go back into her universe to help fight the invasion off, Teal'c ambushes, kills, and replaces his own alternate self.
    • The SG-1 episode "Ripple Effect" has multiple copies of most of the main characters, and one memorable scene of an entire room full of Sam Carters trying to solve the problem that's causing them all to converge in the same place, with a table full of blue jello. The episode's villains turn out to be the first set of duplicates to show up.
    • The Stargate Atlantis episode "McKay and Mrs. Miller" has an alternate-universe McKay ("Rod") who shows up to ask them to stop destroying his universe with the experiment of the week.
    • In the Atlantis episode "The Daedalus Variations", the team discovers the corpses of their alternate-universe counterparts, and McKay has to bootstrap on his own dead self's research. Later in the episode, Sheppard fights off a mysterious alien ship with the aid of yet another alternate version of himself.

Tabletop Games

  • The GURPS Infinite Worlds sourcebook has an over-the-top version of this, in which a large number of Alternate Selves of Lord Byron - including a sea captain, a republican revolutionary, a vampire, and a female vampire hunter - all meet each other.
  • The Alternity Tangents sourcebook refers to these as 'Persistants,' or Persistant Individuals. While most parallel individuals don't vary too much, the backgrounds of some of these individuals can vary greatly, depending on the universe they live in, and within an infinite number of universes, there isn't necessarily any logic behind an individual being the head of a Fortune 500 company in one reality and be the night janitor of the same company the next reality over.

Web Comics

  • El Goonish Shive got several full arcs of these in continuity and about as much outside of it. Tedd exists and has self-esteem issues in every Alternate Universe -- even the one where aliens fought in the American Revolutionary War and every third or so guy around is a Half-Human Hybrid.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja has the Mayor who traveled from the future to save the world from ninja zombies. Then, he discovered that alternate versions of himself had also traveled into the past to save their timelines from various things like Rogue Super Vacuums. Usually, they finish their mission and live a peaceful life away from the city.
    • There's also Dr. McNinja's clone who had lived a peaceful life as a farmer. His name is Old McNinja.
  • The wormgates in Schlock Mercenary could link one input to multiple outputs, creating "gate-clones". The most extreme case was a scientist named Gav, who went through a clone-gate with nearly a billion outputs, and is now an entire marketing demographic.

 Gav-285074072: "There are still over 900 million Gav-clones out there. My activities of the last year can only be understood statistically."

    • Also, at one point Kevyn Andreyasn managed to go back in time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. The timeclone accomplished this, and then retired.
    • Kevyn did the gate-cloning trick once before, but only made one copy of himself. The original was killed soon thereafter. Kevyn puts down the successful suicide mission on his resume.
    • The gate-cloning trick, in fact, was how the owning corporation ran the wormgates; there would be the output that got you where you were going, and another one at a top secret location, where your alternate selves would be detained, interrogated, and then executed so that they didn't have to feed you or worry about their secret getting out.
  • The comic The Dreamer features 21st century and 18th century version of several characters, most notably the main character Beatrice Whaley (and so far it is hinted that there are others as well).
  • In Homestuck there's many alternate versions of characters who come from Doomed Timelines, including Davesprite, who's Dave from an alternate future who came to the past and prototyped himself. Also, in the post-scratch session there are alternate versions of the kids, as well as their ectobiological parents.

 TT: I think the true purpose of this game is to see how many qualifiers we can get to precede the word "self" and still understand what we're talking about.

Western Animation

  • In the Futurama episode "Farnsworth's Box", the characters travel to a whole slew of alternate universes in which they meet their appropriate counterparts. The universe they interact with the most, though, is defined by opposite coin flips, and differing hair colors.
  • In "Spider-Wars", the two-part Grand Finale of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Spidey visited a parallel universe where a version of The Clone Saga had happened, and Ben Reilly/Scarlet Spider was fighting against Peter Parker/Spider-Carnage (I forget which of them was that universe's original Peter). He was assisted by various other alternate Spideys, including an arrogant armored Spidey from a world where Uncle Ben had never died, a Spidey who had Doc Ock style tentacles, and a Spidey who was still suffering from the mutation sickness from Season 2's "Neogenic Nightmare".

Video Games

  • Archer of Fate Stay Night is this to Emiya Shirou. He is only able to exist in the same era due to being summoned from outside of the timeline.
  • In the video game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, three of the four Spideys are alternate Peter Parkers.


  1. not the only hint that among his alternates was one Joseph Dzhugashvili.
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