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This is Finagle's Law:
The perversity of the universe always tends toward a maximum.
Sometimes called "Finagle's Law of Dynamic Negatives." A simplified version is this:
Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Amongst the general populace, this is usually called "Murphy's Law." However, there is another Murphy's Law—though still related to this one — "If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it." In layman's terms, that means that if someone plugs in a toaster backwards and it fries itself, the problem isn't just that some idiot plugged it in backward, but that it was able to be plugged in backwards in the first place. Someone's going to try and mess it up (or mess it up without trying).
The true Finagle's Law is stronger than "anything that can go wrong will go wrong". It allows for things going well, as the universe is merely lulling you into a false sense of security before proceeding to screw things up for you. It also allows for things that can't go wrong going wrong; some cases of this count as Gone Horribly Right.
Finagle's Law in storyland owes its existence more or less entirely to the Rule of Drama, and is especially common in Crapsack Worlds where things that do go wrong tend to go wrong in the worst possible way. Can also happen to Real Life in a limited pace, as entropy indicates. One is generally left with the impression that the universe is controlled by a malevolent (or at least mischievous) deity—some might say author—who is obsessed with making your life as difficult and humiliating as possible.
At some level, this underwrites a huge percentage of TV plots, especially in comedy. The odds of something happening as the plot unfolds depends not on its actual likelihood, but on its potential for disaster.
The term was also played to both seriousness and hilarity in Christopher Stasheff's The Warlock Unlocked and St. Vidicon to the Rescue which essentially spotlight an entire order of Catholic monk-engineers dedicated to the philosophy of Murphy's and Finagle's Laws, with the Imp of the Perverse thrown in for good measure.
Compare with the Rule of Cool in terms of how events may ignore the laws of physics, biology, good manners and others to a proportionate degree that the events in question serve the plot or otherwise catch the attention of the reader/viewer.
Expressions of Finagle's Law include:
- A Simple Plan
- Butterfly of Doom
- Consolation Backfire
- Cosmic Plaything
- Disaster Dominoes
- Destructive Saviour
- Deus Angst Machina when taken Up to Eleven
- Everything Trying to Kill You in videogames
- Failsafe Failure
- Failure Is the Only Option
- From Bad to Worse
- The Fun in Funeral
- Gave Up Too Soon
- Law of Disproportionate Response
- Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality
- Magnum Opus Dissonance
- Misaimed Fandom
- Mistaken for Index
- Mistimed Revival
- Murphy's Bed
- Murphy's Bullet
- My Car Hates Me
- Not My Driver
- Not Quite the Right Thing
- Nothing Can Stop Us Now
- Out with a Bang
- Phlebotinum Breakdown
- Pointy-Haired Boss
- Priceless Ming Vase
- Random Number God
- Springtime for Hitler
- Status Quo Game Show
- Tempting Fate
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee
- Useless Superpowers
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
- Yank the Dog's Chain
- You Can't Thwart Stage One
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle