Luminous Times Universe

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Title: Luminous Times Universe
Author(s): Fern Marder & Carol Walske
Date(s): 1988-1992
Fandom: U2 (RPF), Robin of Sherwood, Mel Gibson (RPF), Hamlet, Lethal Weapon, MacGyver
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Luminous Times was a privately-circulated series of fan fiction stories that eventually became part of a larger shared universe.

Written mainly in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the series was a crossover between the Robin of Sherwood characters and the musicians from the rock group U2 that was part AU, part RPF, and wholly original. Many stories in the universe were part of a shared timeline that tracked real time events that were happening during U2’s rock tours in the 1980s. In later years, some stories branched off and involved the actor Mel Gibson in his many movie roles as well as the lead character from MacGyver. The stories were then “published” in zine format, albeit with a small circulation of no more than 20-30 copies.

The universe is perhaps one of the early examples of multiple writers blending both media and RPF fan fiction. And while there may have been earlier examples, it is certainly one of the few remaining universes that was distributed in printed format.

Approximately five writers participated and most of the stories were written from 1988 to 1992 with the fiction covering a time period from April 1194 to March 1989.


The series began when Fern Marder’s co-worker injured herself which led to Fern working long work hours with significant overtime. Being a writer, Carol Walske did what came naturally and started to commit words and ideas to paper:
...we wove over the dining-room table and across the chasm between the beds…..this 'ridiculous' talk-story about Bono of U2—our favorite band, and then some, but that is yet another story—going to Sherwood and meeting Robin Hood….[in fact] there actually existed a few pages of 'Bono of Sherwood,' perhaps the only line of which remaining is one joke…. It started as a story full of in-jokes. References to personal things we knew about the band ran through it liberally. As did puns referring to everything under the sun. For the first time ever, we were working on a story just for us—no zines, no publishers, no deadlines, just fun. Hah! This wasn't to last forever.[1]

They talked about the story to a friend and then showed it another friend and she talked to some more friends on the way to a Clannad concert: “And they told some other people and we told some other people and somehow we ended up with a potential reader list of maybe twenty people who wanted to try their luck at reading our lark that was never supposed to see the light of day.” [2]

Sharing With Conditions

Because RPF was at the time a rarity and not well accepted, Fern and Carol placed conditions on how the series could be shared with other fans. First, the person had to be trustworthy - someone not inclined to make trouble for any of the creators in public or private. Second, the copies were to be accompanied by a LOC. Since the zine was never 'published' in the traditional manner and the concept of blending RPF and fandom characters was so unique for its time, naturally the writers wanted to know what others thought. In the end, Fern believes she received 17 LOCs from people outside her initial circle of friends."[3]

She also learned that the sharing may have gone beyond those 17. When their Robin of Sherwood zine Another Time, Another Place first premiered at a Chicago convention, the inclusion of U2 song titles and lyrics was noted by fans who were perusing the dealer's room. A few immediately connected the publishers of Another Time to the creators of the Luminous Times Universe. "And that's how we knew that our copies of LT had spread far beyond what we had initially intended - when random strangers come up to you at events and are able to connect a Robin of Sherwood zine to U2 fanfic, you know there is a lot more copying going on. The only reason we were unhappy was that we had requested LOCs as part of the conditions of copying and sharing. "[4]

The FanQ Award That Wasn't

The circulation of copies led to one group of fans to set up informal reading parties. At one convention, fans who had passed around "A Sort of Homecoming read sections aloud at room parties. Some friends threatened, tongue in cheek, to mount a write in campaign to award the zine a FanQ award - although no one could agree on what category the zine should fit in.[5]

Multi-Media Format

The creators also selected lyrics to accompany the stories, and, for the first publication “A Sort of Homecoming”, created a mixtape:

"...we also started thinking about the mixed-media heritage of this little project. Sunshine usually provides poetry for our literary endeavors, but this required something unique, something that reflected the musical back ground implicit in the story. So we found song lyrics to fit each part—one song each for Bono and Robin. Which, of course, gave rise to a soundtrack tape (with appropriate music added on) to accompany the readers' giggles and moans.”[6]
At one point a fanvid was contemplated, but never created:
"Along with the accompanying audio tape, there really should also be a video to highlight this full-media project, but we're waiting for the video release of Rattle and Hum, as it has some absolutely essential footage (Bono singing "MLK," for instance). Besides, we can't do the video yet—the band's sick of looking at themselves on film, and Robin's still camera-shy."[7]

Stories in the Universe

Main Universe

Branching Off:

  • Lethal Bodkin 1 & 2 - Mel Gibson, Hamlet and Martin Riggs in the Luminous Times Universe
  • Maps & Legends I – MacGyver in the Luminous Times Universe

A Sort-of Related Zine:


  1. Source: editorial A Sort of Homecoming.
  2. Source: editorial A Sort of Homecoming.
  3. Fern Marder is a conversation with Morgan Dawn dated Oct 12, 2013, quoted with permission, including one from Australia.
  4. Fern Marder is a conversation with Morgan Dawn dated Oct 12, 2013, paraphrased with permission.
  5. Fern Marder is a conversation with Morgan Dawn dated Oct 12, 2013, paraphrased with permission.
  6. Source: editorial A Sort of Homecoming.
  7. Source: Afterword A Sort of Homecoming.