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Urban Fantasy: The Masquerade


Tweet of the Day: Bridges in Fantasy

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This is my attempt to integrate my other writing blogs into this one. That means more posts about Urban Fantasy, Pop Culture, Music and Science Fiction as well as regular post about writing and short stories. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure I label the post accordingly for your convenience. If you also read those other blogs, don’t be surprised to see old post that migrated here, with some helpful updates along the way.

For example, all post dealing with Fantasy/Urban Fantasy will be labeled Urban Fantasy or UF for short.

Now on to the show!

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If you don’t know what Urban Fantasy is, here is a quick definition:

A broad genre label, this includes just about any setting which involves present-day Earth with a magical element.

The urban refers to the modern (usually although not always in a city) part of the setting while the fantasy deals with magic and creatures of legend. Yet nobody seems to notice. Somehow, all this weirdness remains hidden from the average Joe/Jane. They remain clueless while goblins snatch dreams from under kids beds, vampires seduce cheerleaders who went out on a school night with fake IDs and warlocks commune with strange creatures from beyond the mortal plane of existence.

How is that possible?

The answer is the Masquerade.

The specifics of how the Masquerade works vary from work to work. They range from the simple obliviousness of civilians to a secret organization wiping all traces of the unnatural from our collective memories.

I’ll tackle those in another post.

Instead, I’ll focus on why writers chose to employ this concept in their works.

Reason #1: It won’t look like the modern world  (our world) if all these things are happening. So in order to maintain the readers suspension of disbelief, the writer enacts a masquerade to explain how is it that granny is not having afternoon tea with her werewolf neighbors (or for that matter why the local union worker is not fighting off said werewolf of granny with a power drill). Not to mention the impact of magic as a power source (among other things) in a supposedly modern setting. The Masquerade prevents the story from sliding into Alternate History or Super Hero territory.

Reason #2: It makes the hero special. Maybe he was a wizard all along, or can wield a special power against the darkness. He can be both “one of us” (like the reader which makes it easier to identify with) yet pierce the veil and become something more. You can’t be very special if everybody around you has a blazing sword or blast lighting from their fingertips. Yes, I know, you can find many other ways to stand out, but this one is just too good to pass up.

Reason #3: Piercing the veil is part of the fun. Delving into a world like our own but filled with secrets is one of the reasons people read fiction. We want to know more. It also serves as a great way to develop a character if they are also learning about it alongside the reader. It maintains both the sense of connection between character and reader and the sense of wonder about it all.

The above are some of the reasons why the Masquerade is such a popular mechanic in urban fantasy, but it is not an exhaustive list. And not all UF works use it. But that is a subject for another time.

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3 comments on “Urban Fantasy: The Masquerade

  1. [...] tackled what the Masquerade is and some of the reasons why an author would use it in his work. Now lets talk about the reason [...]

  2. [...] hardest part about the Masquerade is maintaining it. There are a few ways to go about it, none of which is fool proof but many [...]

  3. [...] talked about what the Masquerade is and how to maintain it, now we look at a world which doesn’t have it said [...]

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