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OTHER TOPICS > The Masquerade, or why they are always hidden

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message 1: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 93 comments One of the classic tropes of urban fantasy is that the werewolves/vampires/wizards/whatever are in this world, but hidden from us.

It's not necessary for modern day magic -- Operation Chaos and Magic, Inc. both managed quite nicely with alternate histories -- but if you want to say it really is this world, hidden they have to be. (For obvious reasons.)

The problem I have with it is that it's very seldom justified in universe. Persecution doesn't really cut it when you consider the scale of the undertaking -- especially when you consider it has to have been successful for generations, and so you have generation after generation that have not, in fact, been persecuted, and since most of them have people who are born to the masquerade, you are going to get all types, including the sloppy, the lazy, and the fools who woo danger.

Have you run across good justifications for it?

You can pull it off if the reason for it is unknown to the characters, and not controlled by them, either. Rick Riordan pulled this off with Percy Jackson (at least until the last book, introducing the goddess who controls the Mist), but very few urban fantasy writers do.

The only books where I've really seen a voluntary justified is in L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughte trilogy: Prospero Lost, Prospero in Hell, and Prospero Regained, where a secret group, which recruits candidates for membership, hides magic from existence so that instead of trying to fix our problems by worshiping something best left unworshiped, we try to fix our own and so invent Science and Technology.

Are there any other good reasons?


message 2: by Shomeret (new)

Shomeret | 233 comments I think that persecution is a good enough reason and that humans will always persecute whoever is different from them. We see it now, we see it in history and we will probably see it in the future.

There is also the realistic probability that immortal beings like vampires remember their experiences of persecution and have flashbacks to it that prevent them from considering being open about their difference.


So, I Read This Book Today (leiahingolden) | 330 comments That, and there will be the teaching, and that would be easy in "our" world. Just look at what humans do to those who differ only in religion, sex or origin. You can imagine what humans would do to shifters or other of the mythological set, right? Horrors upon horrors, unimaginable death and destruction.

Humans are savages, unimaginable savages, ready, willing and able to slaughter without mercy. It would make it easy to teach the children. As for the stupid and lazy? Well, shifter justice. In a way, more honest, more reasonable than our so-called justice system. Find the bad seed and put them down for the good of the many.


message 4: by Nick (new)

Nick | 100 comments So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "That, and there will be the teaching, and that would be easy in "our" world. Just look at what humans do to those who differ only in religion, sex or origin. You can imagine what humans would do to..."

Absolutely. And even if you did have the occasional sloppy, lazy or thrill-seeking supernatural, the people that saw them wouldn't be believed anyway.

"Dude, I saw a werewolf!"
"Of course you did, mate. And don't think that story is going to get you out of buying the next round of drinks."


message 5: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 93 comments Shomeret wrote: "I think that persecution is a good enough reason"

Really? When has persecution EVER produced this kind of paranoia?


message 6: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 93 comments So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "
Humans are savages, unimaginable savages, ready, willing and able to slaughter without mercy. "


Then why has this savagery never produced this kind of hiding in real lif?


message 7: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 93 comments Nick wrote: " even if you did have the occasional sloppy, lazy or thrill-seeking supernatural"

Occasional? Has any population of supernaturals ever been portrayed sufficiently different from humans that those individuals are not a major component of the population?


message 8: by Nick (new)

Nick | 100 comments Mary wrote: "Nick wrote: " even if you did have the occasional sloppy, lazy or thrill-seeking supernatural"

Occasional? Has any population of supernaturals ever been portrayed sufficiently different from huma..."


I think if the need for secrecy had been ingrained in you from an early stage and you knew that exposing yourself would be risking not only your own life but those of your friends / relatives, as well as the potential for retribution from within your own community, then sloppy, lazy or thrill-seeking supernaturals would indeed be a minority.

In the majority of the UF series I've read there are usually groups (also secret) who hunt supernatural beings, and that's the reason for them staying hidden. Society at large is considered a place to hide, rather than a threat.


message 9: by Shomeret (new)

Shomeret | 233 comments Mary wrote: "Shomeret wrote: "I think that persecution is a good enough reason"

Really? When has persecution EVER produced this kind of paranoia?"


It's important to realize that persecution of religious and sexual minorities that cause them to hide is happening right now everywhere on the planet.


message 10: by Nick (new)

Nick | 100 comments Shomeret wrote: "It's important to realize that persecution of religious and sexual minorities that cause them to hide is happening right now everywhere on the planet."

And has done throughout recorded history.


message 11: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 93 comments Shomeret wrote: "
It's important to realize that persecution of religious and sexual minorities that cause them to hide is happening right now everywhere on the planet. "


Not one of which has even tried to hide on the scale we see all the time in urban fantasy.


message 12: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 93 comments Nick wrote: "I think if the need for secrecy had been ingrained in you from an early stage and you knew that exposing yourself would be risking not only your own life but those of your friends / relatives, as well as the potential for retribution from within your own community, then sloppy, lazy or thrill-seeking supernaturals would indeed be a minority."

All human beings are told from an early age about things that can injure and kill them and wreak harm on their family and friends without making such beings a minority.

And even a minority is enough to blow the masquerade.


message 13: by So, I Read This Book Today (last edited Apr 30, 2014 03:03PM) (new)

So, I Read This Book Today (leiahingolden) | 330 comments Mary wrote: "So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "
Humans are savages, unimaginable savages, ready, willing and able to slaughter without mercy. "

Then why has this savagery never produced this kind of hiding in..."


Jews in Nazi Germany. Gays and Lesbians in small towns. Suni, Muslim, any group who is persecuted inside a country where they are the "unwanted minority". And on and on..... for example, check out my review here: http://tinyurl.com/mgdtrh6

The photos are actual shots, taken as the bodies were being gathered from the streets, Mary.


So, I Read This Book Today (leiahingolden) | 330 comments Mary wrote: "Shomeret wrote: "I think that persecution is a good enough reason"

Really? When has persecution EVER produced this kind of paranoia?"


What would it have been like to be a Jew in Nazi Germany? Yep, I would be WAY paranoid!


message 15: by Nick (new)

Nick | 100 comments So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "What would it have been like to be a Jew in Nazi Germany? Yep, I would be WAY paranoid!"

That was the first example that sprung to mind for me, as well. It wasn't the Jehovah's Witnesses that Anne Frank was hiding from, that's for sure.


So, I Read This Book Today (leiahingolden) | 330 comments Nick wrote: "So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "What would it have been like to be a Jew in Nazi Germany? Yep, I would be WAY paranoid!"

That was the first example that sprung to mind for me, as well. It wasn'..."


Exactly. Besides my other examples - 12 MILLION Native Americans (a low estimate) were slaughtered by the Christian invaders when they took over North America.


message 17: by Nick (new)

Nick | 100 comments So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "Exactly. Besides my other examples - 12 MILLION Native Americans (a low estimate) were slaughtered by the Christian invaders when they took over North America."

Well a lot of the Europeans who went to the New World were people fleeing religious persecution in the first place. Catholics were persecuted in England during the Reformation and were executed as heretics, while of course the Catholic Church had the Inquisition for dealing with *their* heretics.
In the modern era, look at the treatment of gay people in Russia, Uganda and the Islamic countries in the Middle East. You wouldn't want to be open about being gay in any of those places.


So, I Read This Book Today (leiahingolden) | 330 comments Nick wrote: "So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "Exactly. Besides my other examples - 12 MILLION Native Americans (a low estimate) were slaughtered by the Christian invaders when they took over North America."

..."

exactly. The happenings at the Olympics are an example. And then there was the whole "let's hide what we are doing until the Olympics are over" that the Russians pulled off beautifully. It seems that humans are, by their very nature, unable to survive without hatred. What a shame.


So, I Read This Book Today (leiahingolden) | 330 comments Hey, Nick. Did you check out my review of The Janus Effect?


So, I Read This Book Today (leiahingolden) | 330 comments Nick wrote: "So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "Exactly. Besides my other examples - 12 MILLION Native Americans (a low estimate) were slaughtered by the Christian invaders when they took over North America."

..."

exactly. The happenings at the Olympics are an example. And then there was the whole "let's hide what we are doing until the Olympics are over" that the Russians pulled off beautifully. It seems that humans are, by their very nature, unable to survive without hatred. What a shame.


message 21: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 93 comments So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "Jews in Nazi Germany. "

Up to the very end of the Holocaust, Nazis were able to find Jews openly living in Germany.

In Urban Fantasy, entire populations are living so entirely in secrecy that the overwhelming majority of humanity is unaware of their very existence. Not for a few years. For generation upon generation.


So, I Read This Book Today (leiahingolden) | 330 comments I suppose the answer is that most UF readers are entirely comfortable with mythological creatures in hiding. If you are terribly uncomfortable with it, maybe a more straight-fantasy genre would be more appealing for you? Readers should love what they read - if not, why read it? Life is short, time is precious, and each of us should do, and read, what makes us happy.


message 23: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 93 comments So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "I suppose the answer is that most UF readers are entirely comfortable with mythological creatures in hiding. If you are terribly uncomfortable with it, maybe a more straight-fantasy genre would be ..."

Is there a particular reason why you are uncomfortable with the question of whether the world-building in urban fantasy is as good as it could be?


message 24: by thalassic (last edited Apr 30, 2014 10:41PM) (new)

thalassic I think it's a reasonable assumption that with the horrible things that we humans do to each other (humans just like ourselves) who are perceived to be different whether in terms of race/ethnicity, religion, sexuality, etc., that have caused large numbers of people to hide or flee from massive persecutions if not mass killings ... why would a species that is not human think we would be any less brutal to them?

Look at how people freak out when some dead animal washes up on a beach and isn't readily identifiable. Then a few days later the 'monster' is shown to be a rotting dog corpse so the panic can settle down. Or a raccoon with a skin condition that renders it hairless is automatically assumed to be a chupacabra (google it, it wasn't long ago). It's like we're programmed to think 'monster' any time we're presented by the unknown. The unknown is scary and it's the enemy in our minds all too often.

If there really were creatures of myth and legend living in our world they would have LONG ago learned that people mean them only harm and taught their children that survival means hiding.

I'm always happy with excellent world building that explains why things are the way they are, but I don't think it's bad world building to just let it be assumed that people drove the other sentient beings into hiding at some point in the distant past and now all we have are legends that we no longer believe in about them. That's just understanding human nature, unfortunately.

And really, if a rogue supernatural being got careless or reckless enough to be found out, chances are some terrified individual would kill it and ask questions later. The supernatural community arranges for the body to disappear and nobody believes the person who claims to have killed something not human. There's a story or two in the tabloids and then it's forgotten anyway. Ripples in a pond, not world-changing shockwaves.

We have so many stories about sightings of things in the real world; the Jersey Devil, Bigfoot, various lake monsters, etc. but no hard evidence that any of them are real creatures. If Werewolves and vampires and fairies or whatever were real then why would it be any different? Especially because they're not just animals but intelligent beings that would be better at hiding in plain sight.


message 25: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 93 comments Elizabeth wrote: "
If there really were creatures of myth and legend living in our world they would have LONG ago learned that people mean them only harm and taught their children that survival means hiding."


Leaving aside questions of whether this is plausible, are there any Urban Fantasies where the children are taught this -- and believe it? I can not think of one book where the hidden people's reaction to the rest of us is that we mean only harm.


message 26: by Nick (new)

Nick | 100 comments So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "Hey, Nick. Did you check out my review of The Janus Effect?"

Just have! Sounds very interesting. I've added it to my list.


So, I Read This Book Today (leiahingolden) | 330 comments Mary wrote: "So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "I suppose the answer is that most UF readers are entirely comfortable with mythological creatures in hiding. If you are terribly uncomfortable with it, maybe a mo..."

I'm not uncomfortable with it at all - I was just concerned for you and your reading pleasure.


message 28: by Feral (new)

Feral | 42 comments I think a lot of it has to do with a balance of power. If the minority group can "come out" and still be able to protect itself or if the society is sufficiently advanced as to have safeguards against persecution, then there is no need to hide. However if it would become a witch hunt, no one want to see the fires and pitch forks headed their way.

All the same, I do remember watching shows such as Bewitched and I Dream of Jeanie and thinking both Darrin and Tony were complete morons to try to make the women give up magic. People would have found ways to explain away any weird things those pretty young women did, and even if they didn't the women would just get a bunch of new age followers. Those were the safest "What is your command master?" supernaturals in the world--and there was no need for Sam to do housework instead of magicking it away. If Darrin had stayed home while Sam had the fun creative Mad Men job, he'd have had her nose twitching soon enough.


So, I Read This Book Today (leiahingolden) | 330 comments Elizabeth wrote: "I think it's a reasonable assumption that with the horrible things that we humans do to each other (humans just like ourselves) who are perceived to be different whether in terms of race/ethnicity,..."

Brilliant commentary, Elizabeth! One should also add to your list the fact that humans have a tendency to see what they expect to see. A point that is brought up in many UF stories. That werewolf on four feet? Just a big, furry dog. That flying man? Hum... shadows, right? Many studies of human brain function agree that the brain "fills in" what it doesn't understand, attempting to create a picture which fits within its file of understandable items/actions.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/...
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/...
http://phys.org/news/2011-04-eyes-bra...

Yeah, a bunch of "sciency stuff" but fascinating!


So, I Read This Book Today (leiahingolden) | 330 comments Feral wrote: "I think a lot of it has to do with a balance of power. If the minority group can "come out" and still be able to protect itself or if the society is sufficiently advanced as to have safeguards agai..."

So true, Feral! Just like child birth --- can you see a man actually going through THAT without knock-out drugs and a C-section? ROFL


message 31: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 93 comments So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "Mary wrote: "So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "I suppose the answer is that most UF readers are entirely comfortable with mythological creatures in hiding. If you are terribly uncomfortable with it, maybe a mo..."

I'm not uncomfortable with it at all - I was just concerned for you and your reading pleasure. "


Well, I was just concerned for you and your topic reading pleasure.


message 32: by Nick (new)

Nick | 100 comments So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "So true, Feral! Just like child birth --- can you see a man actually going through THAT without knock-out drugs and a C-section? ROFL"

I think if it was us chaps who had to go through pregnancy and childbirth, the human race would probably have died out by now... ;)


So, I Read This Book Today (leiahingolden) | 330 comments Nick wrote: "So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "So true, Feral! Just like child birth --- can you see a man actually going through THAT without knock-out drugs and a C-section? ROFL"

I think if it was us chaps..."


Don't you just know it! Although actually, I saw it happen and decided, No WAY am I doing that. . . and went out and got myself a dog, LOL


message 34: by Nick (new)

Nick | 100 comments So, I Read This Book Today wrote: "Don't you just know it! Although actually, I saw it happen and decided, No WAY am I doing that. . . and went out and got myself a dog, LOL"

Well I've often heard reference to the "miracle" of childbirth, but it looks like a lot of hard work to me... surely it would only be a miracle if the baby just popped out with no effort whatsoever? ;)


message 35: by Nick (new)

Nick | 100 comments J.B. wrote: "I think the wise sage, Douglas Adams, had what is probably the best answer to this conundrum, in his explanation of "SEP" or "Somebody Else's Problem". From the Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy Wiki..."

I miss Douglas Adams. Taken from us much too soon - he was only 49 when he died, if memory serves.


message 36: by Timothy (new)

Timothy Maguire | 4 comments The most justifiable Masquerade I can think of off the top of my head's the one from Geekomancy, where most humans are magically conditioned to rewrite any memories of magic and monsters so that they're more 'normal' (it works a bit like encounters with the Silence). The only exceptions are people who've conditioned themselves to believe in the extraordinary (take one guess what kind of people they are).

As for the whole monsters afraid of humanity, Dresden Files makes a lot of sense on that front. The inhuman characters make it explicitly clear they reckon they'll lose the war with humanity (humans are often called the nuclear option), but it's also clear that humanity would declare war on them. Most of the monstrous races in the series do eat/ enslave/ manipulate humans, so a violent response wouldn't be too surprising.


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