Universe Alteration

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Tropes and genres
Synonym(s)UA, Altered Universe
Related tropes/genresCanon Divergence AU, Alternate Reality, canon AU
See alsoAlternate Universe
Related articles on Fanlore.

Universe Alteration, or UA, is a subtype of the alternate universe genre which some fans may or may not consider synonymous with canon divergence, alternate reality, or canon AU. The term isn't very widely used[1] and like all attempts to categorize different types of alternate universes is probably subject to fannish drift.

Two similar definitions:

When your characters in fanfiction are in the exact same universe as cannon[sic] but you’re altering just a couple of plot points or a few character traits[2]
Unlike an AU or Alternate Universe, Universe Alterations or UAs are set in the canon universe, but with "alterations". For example, a character is born younger, someone never died, a certain things exist in an otherwise-unchanged universe, etc. The story is not set in a completely different universe, but canon is altered in some way. (Of course, some small changes like that can radically affect canon enough to push it into alternate timeline/universe territory, so it's up to you to determine what your project falls under~)[3]

With this definition, universe alteration would therefore be differentiated from canon divergence less by what's changed by the story and more by how and why those things changed: canon divergence tends to focus on the differences, often to the point of purposefully derailing canon events as much as possible, while universe alteration stories mostly maintain the status quo. By this definition, the following things may be said to qualify as a UA story:

  • the age of one or more characters adjusted up or down (or the year(s) a canon takes place adjusted forwards or backwards)[4][5]
  • one or more characters being ignored or replaced[6]
  • soulmate AUs where canon events and worldbuilding still also apply[7]
  • non-canon relationships being pre-established
  • canon relationships never having got together
  • some forms of denialfic and other rejections of canon facts[8]

Not every fan sees universe alteration as distinct from canon divergences and alternate universes, however, and instead think universe alteration isn't substantially different from canon divergence or alternate universes at all[9] and/or simply don't use the term. Some fans both consider the term to be dead[10] but works using the tag are still posted or updated fairly frequently, sometimes multiple works in one a day.[11] Many of the recent works tagged "Universe Alteration" are also tagged "Alternate Universe" or "Canon Divergence".[11] At least one fan seems to have used it to mean fusion.[12] Some fans see universe alterations as any headcanon that doesn't substantially change the canon material.[13][14]


Altering the Universe was widely used in 2008 in English fandoms,[15] but its use is dated back to 2002 by works in English, Portuguese and Spanish.[note 1]

Fanfiction.net's search function brings up two Chronicles of Narnia fics published in 2008, one Harry Potter fic published in 2010, and then three fics from three different fandoms published in 2013. [15] The first AO3 instance of the term is a Harry Potter series in 2011, then joined by a small amount other fics in other fandoms in 2012, followed by a large jump to several pages worth of fic in 2014.[11]

English usage of universe alteration may have focused on age and other timeline tweaks at first. One explicit femslash blackcest fic in the Harry Potter fandom from 2010 ended its list of warnings with, "universe altered: years and ages , ADULT CONTENT."[5] In 2008, another fan began publishing two Chronicles of Narnia fics where the characters were aged up. The summaries claimed this was, "Slight universe alterations (UA)."[4] The A/N in the first chapter of one of the fics went on to explain:

[...] For the story to work with what I have in mind for plot as well for it to properly fit the rating the ages of the Pevensies and Caspian have been altered. (This effectively means their ages are altered for the LWW timeline for this story to work). [...][4]

Other example tags and summary mentions

UA (Universe Alteration: Same universe, with a few differences)[16]
A universe alteration; canonverse, but not.[17]
Only universe alteration is that 221C is upstairs, not down; features OC Addison Lane who finds herself caught up in the Baker Street Boys' business when she moves into the flat above them." [8]
I figured this wasn’t extensive enough to warrant an AU so I’ll just say it’s a UA (universe alteration) instead.[18]
Its more of a slight alteration to the universe though[19]
like its canonverse but theres details changed[19]
*CU=Canon Universe, CD=Canon Divergent, UA=Universe Alteration (same as canon universe, but Sherlock is a vampire, for example), AU=Alternate Universe (completely out of the canon universe - teenlock, unilock, etc.)[20]
This story is set post-series for Merlin and weaves through pre-series and season one continuity for The Musketeers. I've taken a few liberties, but would class this as Universe Alteration, rather than Alternate Universe. And yes, for simplicity's sake, I have chosen to overlook the complexity of linguistic (and other) development over the space of a millennium.[21]

External Links


  1. ^ Hoopla says: fanfiction.net "UA" search (archive) — It looks like a 2002 Spanish Star Wars fic might be the first, followed by Spanish and Portuguese Harry Potter fics, but someone who knows the languages would have to check to make sure. The first English work, a 2002 X-Files fic called This Can't Be Happening, hints that "UA" might actually stand for something that's synonymous with "unrequited" or "UST", especially considering the author's notes on fanfiction.net and how the fic is listed on Gossamer. In 2002/2003, several Portuguese Card Captor Sakura fics include "UA sem magia" (no magic) and "UA con magia" (with magic) in their summaries. A Spanish Shaman King fic first published in 2003 uses "UA Universo Alternativo" in the summary, but it was last updated in 2013, so it's a little less sure that the fic was published in 2003 with that summary. The first clear-cut English example seems to be this 2005 Star Trek fic that uses "UA" in the summary but "AU" in the author's notes.

    ellakbhesse says: based on what was said earlier by Hoopla, the first use seems to be from 2002 in a Spanish Anakin/Padmé fic called Forbidden by Vejibra Momiji, -- the same one she mentions in her footnote -- published on February 21, of that year, where Anakin is 19 years old and Padmé 24 years, she is 3 months pregnant, after dating for almost a year -- they met 9 years earlier, and Anakin's mother passed away about 6 months earlier. He then decides to ask her to marry him, as he loves her and wants this son or daughter to be a Skywalker. Vejibra marked history as Universo Alterno, the Spanish form for Alternative Universe. However, as I don't know the universe of Star Wars, I wouldn't be able to say what the differences between this work and the movie are.

Translation Requests: Help! Editors need some assistance translating a source or text on this page.

See the footnote about 2002 English, Spanish, and Portuguese usage of "UA" — some Spanish & Portuguese examples are definitely ship abbreviations, but I think some might be Universe Alteration.


  1. ^ toastystats's 2014 look at the various AU tags on AO3 found that out of 26,000 works, 19,000 were "Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence" and only 200 were "Universe Alteration".
  2. ^ UA definition on Urban Dictionary, submitted 2014.
  3. ^ Universe Alteration Button 2 by SchrodingersKit, posted 2017.
  4. ^ a b c One of the Guys by Cerulean Musings, posted 2008-2014.
  5. ^ a b Toujours Pur by allg0nemadd, published in 2010.
  6. ^ Won't Lie To You by The Derpite, published 2013
  7. ^ "Slight universe alteration where everyone has a clock on their wrist that counts down til the day they die. (Still canon adjacent)" — Final Countdown by FireOnHigh, published in 2013.
  8. ^ a b With Love, SH by The Derpite, published 2013-2017.
  9. ^ "Terms for canon divergence that changes one major event: alternate reality, alternate universe, universe alteration" — A nonnie on fail_fandomanon in Post 864 Ask meme - canon divergence, 2018-04-13.
  10. ^ "I did once see it suggested that UA - Universe Alteration - could be used for canon divergence instead, but it never took off." — SilverCookieDust in /r/fanfiction December 29th, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c (AO3 search)
  12. ^ "Hiccup Haddock doesn't expect much when he moves to the small town of Burgess, Washington, until he meets the dark and mysterious Jack Frost - a boy who's hiding a dark secret: he's a vampire. As their worlds and hearts collide, Jack must battle the bloodlust raging inside him as well as a coterie of undead that would make Hiccup their prey. Twilight UA (Universe Alteration)" — Midnight by JakeTheStoryTeller, published 2016.
  13. ^ Papyrus~, The Multiverse Theory | Multi-fandom RP | Signup thread. May 19, 2016.
  14. ^ "headcannon Universe Altered: Percy has a strong New York accent but hides it because when he was younger, he hated sticking out with his ADHD and dyslexia and his accent was one more thing that made him different." — Percy the Yankee by clerrrrr, posted 2017.
  15. ^ a b fanfiction.net "Universe Alteration" search (archive)
  16. ^ A Price by any-otp-will-do, published in 2013.
  17. ^ This Bowl of Stars by upthenorthmountain, published 2016-2018.
  18. ^ Voltron Fusion - Klance by zZenosyne, posted 2017.
  19. ^ a b Universe Alteration AO3 tag.
  20. ^ january stats by sherlollilists, posted 2019.
  21. ^ A/N on Blood of the Living Dead by llywela, posted 2016.