You’re at the office, and you want to clip some papers together, but there are no paper clips in your desk drawer. So you go to the supply cabinet, and there are no paper clips there either. As you walk back to your desk, you realize there weren’t any empty spaces on any of the supply cabinet shelves, which implies there are never paper clips in the cabinet, which can mean only one thing: you’ve somehow been transported to an alternate universe that’s identical to ours in every way except that the paper clip was never invented.
You begin to panic. You break into a run, and when you reach your office, you fling open your desk drawer. Your stapler is still there. You can breathe again. You force yourself to calm down, to focus. How long has this been going on? When was the last time you saw a paper clip? When was the last time paper clips came up in conversation? Has it been days? Weeks? Months? You can’t remember.
Maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe you can use this to your advantage somehow. You toy with the idea of “inventing” the paper clip yourself. You could patent it, collect royalties on every paper clip ever sold, and make huge amounts of money. But without competition, the stapler industry is probably much more powerful in this world, and they probably won’t take too kindly to the idea of another fastener hitting the market. What kind of tactics would they use to prevent that from happening? Would they resort to violence? You decide to proceed with caution. Also, you have some doubts about the ethics of claiming this invention as your own.
Maybe you’re wrong. Maybe there’s another explanation. Maybe if you just walk into someone’s office and ask them for a paper clip, they’ll open their desk drawer and hand one to you. Or maybe they’ll just sit there, looking confused, and you won’t know whether they’re unfamiliar with the concept or whether they just didn’t hear you. If no one’s ever heard of a paper clip, then “do you have any paper clips” just sounds like gibberish, and you can’t let your colleagues think you’re standing around babbling incoherently all day. You’ll need to explain it away somehow. You almost settle on “Paper clips? No, no — I said, do you have any vapor strips“, but then you realize that “vapor strips” doesn’t make sense in either universe. Unless “vapor strips” does mean something here. You decide to google it.
Before you can do your search, you glance at your email, and you see something you’ve never noticed before: all the messages that have attachments have little pictures of paper clips next to them. You check Wikipedia, and paper clips do seem to exist, so you haven’t stumbled into an alternate universe after all. You have, however, stumbled upon a brilliant idea for a series of science fiction movies.
The first movie would be the paper clip movie. The main character wakes up in a universe without paper clips, decides to “invent” them, and experiences lots of intrigue and car chases involving the evil stapler industry. In the final scene, the main character somehow makes it back to the real world and celebrates by throwing a handful of paper clips into the air; the closing shot of the movie is the paper clips raining down, which is why the movie needs to be in 3-D.
In the second movie, paper clips exist in the alternate universe, but staplers don’t. The main character decides to “invent” the stapler and clashes with the evil paper clip industry.
In the third movie, paper clips and staplers exist, but the staple is never invented. This is the final movie of the series, and the least successful.