One of the premiere tropes in Modern and Urban Fantasy is The Masquerade. It’s so common that much of the time when we’re telling someone about a book we’re reading or a movie we’re watching it goes without saying: in this world filled with werewolves, fairies, mermaids, vampires, chupacabaras, angels, demons and other beasts the humans don’t actually realize what’s going on around them. Or at least the vast majority of the world doesn’t.
This kind of tale works better the further back that you go in history, but it’s still widely used to this day and suspension of disbelief has a sort of bias when it comes to it. When you think about all of the cameras in a city like London or Tokyo it’s hard to believe that at least one type of creature wouldn’t have been discovered by now.
I’m not saying it’s unheard of in popular Modern Fantasy for the world of the supernatural to be out there and known about. The Anita Blake series and True Blood actually do it, and in Anita Blake the creatures have been known about for a long time—the world just grew up with them. There’s an interesting dynamic to a world that has had to cope with things like werewolves or even dragons if you’re going to go the wild route where even bigger things are roaming the world.
Lately I’ve been thinking about this kind of world more, with me slated to rewrite the novel and Keep Austin Safe still in it’s early stages as far as drafts go I could easily convert to this type of world. The reason why I even thought of it was because I had the same idea True Blood had, not realizing it until a friend told me. The synthetic blood as a catalyst for a vampire coming out. I don’t want to use it now partly because of the True Blood thing and partly because of the political and economic and social repercussions I wasn’t planning to have to wrestle with on top of the books main plot.
I got to thinking: what if these characters were just out for a while for one reason or another. What if they never had been hidden? What if something in our not too distant past like WWII or the invention of the camera triggered them coming out?
A lot of other factors will come in to play. For instance, how long they have been out will decide their standing in society. Maybe we’ve had a vampire for President? Perhaps the oldest dragon is always gracing the covers of the tabloids with his exploits? It’s a fun universe to think about—but it’s also rife with pitfalls. It can leave the reader with an un-relatable world that is too unfamiliar for them to keep up with and feel immersed in. I imagine this is why so many people choose to use the real world with the hidden world beneath it as a template for their Modern Fantasy. Well, that and the real world is ready made so people don’t have to spend as much time world building.
I’m looking very seriously at dropping the whole Masquerade thing, I just like the kind of world it creates and really when you look at the two sides the hidden world thing is the done to death one. But I have some huge choices to make before I can get down to any of the details.
1. When did the supernatural world reveal itself? Was it all at once? Did different creatures appear at different times? And is there factions that are still hidden?
2. What caused the reveal? What real imagined historical event caused the reveal? If they were always out there disregard.
3. What historical events that occurred after the reveal would be different from what happened in our world? Does someone different become president? Do racial tensions end up being more relaxed because of the humans banding together more or less against the other things out there?
Then there are a lot of little questions, but I have fun working through this kind of stuff. It can be somewhat painstaking, but in reality it’s my bread and butter. Once I get those first three things answered I will know where I stand on the whether or not I plan to go through with this. The best reason I can see for going with it is already clear and I didn’t list it before: when the hero/heroine meets their first supernatural creature the reaction never usually seems to fit. In a world where these things are public knowledge we don’t have to waste that time or try and force believability into that scene. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done justice.