A dream world is a convention of fantasy writing: an implausible, unpredictable, dreamlike setting that defies the physical laws of reality. The dream world is usually but not necessarily a character's dream. It might be a drug- or illness-induced hallucination, a virtual-reality environment, or even an actual place, such as a quirky pocket universe, alternate dimension, etc., reached by magical or technological means. It is unlikely to be logically constructed or even internally consistent.
In fantasy fiction, a dream world often presents conditions from which one or more characters wish to escape, but they must resolve certain personal problems or interpersonal conflicts (in addition to any necessary technological or magical issues) in order to "wake up" or otherwise leave the setting. Conditions and events in a dream world sometimes teach lessons to the central characters experiencing those conditions.
Characters entering a dream world often recognize that the environment might be a dream, though perhaps an unusually realistic and complex one. Characters native to the setting often treat it as their own "reality" and see nothing at all wrong with it, no matter how bizarre events become.
Famous literary dream worlds include Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (which might not be a dream) and Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (see Alice stories). Movies like The Wizard of Oz, The Five Thousand Fingers of Dr. Terwilliger, Invaders from Mars (1953 version), and the laughably bad Robot Monster are all excellent examples of dream worlds featuring varying levels of conflict, danger, adventure, and paranoia.
Dream Worlds in Daria Canon
Daria includes numerous examples of dream worlds, most of them short-lived and incidental. Brief, anxiety-provoking dreams appear in several Daria episodes, such as "Monster," "Ill," and "Of Human Bonding"; they resolve nothing except to reflect a character's inner worries.
On a larger scale, most of the Daria episode "Murder, She Snored" takes place in one of Daria's dreams, as does nearly all the content of the computer game, Daria's Inferno. Each involves Daria in a quest, to either solve a murder (in the former case) or to escape from Hell (in the latter). "Depth Takes a Holiday" was certainly dreamlike in nature, with its improbable cast, settings, and happenings, but it was treated as "real" to the end. The status of "Daria!" here is subject to debate, though if it is taken exactly as is then it is an example of the characters as actors trope.
Dream Worlds in Daria Fanworks
Many Daria fanfics include brief dreams had by one or more characters (e.g., Brianna Aisling's "Nightfears"), but few take place largely within a dream-world context. Some fanfics have settings that appear dreamlike and bizarre but are not true dreams (e.g., "Deus Jane" and "Jane Unchained"). Unusual dreams are a major component of Richard Lobinske's "A Choice" and "Nervous Dreams."
Dream worlds sometimes serve a broader purpose in fandom by explaining away troublesome aspects of the TV series. In "A Desperately Needed Ending (to 'Depth Takes a Holiday')," Kara Wild posits that "Depth Takes a Holiday" was in truth a dream that Daria had after falling ill from food poisoning. At the extreme are stories in which the entire Daria show is revealed to be a dream world (e.g., Mr Anonymous's "A Day in the Married Life" and Angelinhel's "Padded Walls").
- #10 Dream by Rey Fox
- Air Bed by Brother Grimace
- Daria's Mid-Summer Night's Dream by Lady Love Gordon
- The Dust Bunny Project: A Musical Review! by The Angst Guy
- Feeding Frenzy by The Angst Guy
- If You Only Walk Long Enough by The Angst Guy
- The Impossible by The Angst Guy
- Meowlody Powers by Richard Lobinske
- Mirror, Mirror by Paperpusher
- Shipping Overnight by Brother Grimace
- A Very Weird Midsummer Nights Dream by Wildgoose
- Wonderlane by The Angst Guy
- The Year of the Cynic by Wouter
- "Objectivity Free Landslide Victory", by Guy Wheatley (includes comments on dreamlike Daria episodes)
- "On Crossovers", by Admonisher (comments on dream worlds as part of writing crossover fanfiction)
- Iron Chef: Dream Story
Stories About Actual Dreams