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Masquerade related problems:

I'm currently thinking about writing a Urban Fantasy story (the good kind, not the thinly-disguised romance novel kind) and have encountered a bit of a problem, namely that a 'standard' Masquerade isn't going to work since a) I want to try and avoid any great conspiracies or secret organisations since they've been done to death, b)justifying weird crap being kept secret is neigh impossible to do plausibly in the era of camera phones, CCTV and the internet, and c) I happen to live in the area where the story is set (write what you know and all that) and there's no way in hell that word of something weird happening wouldn't spead like wildfire. So, I need to come up with a work-around but at the moment I haven't got any ideas, hence this post. Any ideas?
 
 2 nrjxll, Sat, 10th Mar '12 5:51:10 PM Relationship Status: Not war
First question: do you need a Masquerade? Stories without them tend to be more interesting anyway.

patience, young padawan
The concept of the Masquerade in general has been facing some hate lately; it's viewed as lazy, cliche, or poorly justified in situations where having supernaturals integrated with humans wouldn't cause adverse effects.
 4 nrjxll, Sat, 10th Mar '12 6:03:18 PM Relationship Status: Not war
Huh, really? I always saw it as essentially lazy, but I never knew popular opinion was turning against it.

Indecisive Goldfish
What sort of magic do the people enforcing the masquerade have at their disposal? I dunno, the "magic doesn't show up on technology" bit saves time sometimes... though it might seem a little cop-out-ish.

I agree with nrjxll, you don't necessarily need a masquerade. I mean, sometimes they claim the masquerade is because They Would Cut You Up or some negative reaction, but like you said, with everyone with camera phones and stuff, someone would probably record injustice happening and the world probably has enough people who fantasize about fantasy being real to lend a sympathetic ear.

@nrjxll: I'm not sure. Having the weirder side of life as everyday knowledge wouldn't really fit with what I've got planned, but on the other hand I don't really need to keep humanity completely ignorant either. Or to put it another way, the weird stuff would probably be less 'hidden' and more 'sneaky'.
 
patience, young padawan
[up][up][up] All I hear about it anymore is that it's lazy/superfluous/poorly handled.

I do have a Masquerade in my work, but I attempt to justify it by saying that the supernaturals in question had to go into hiding once human technology got good enough to pose a threat to them or face extermination.
 8 Sal Fish Fin, Sat, 10th Mar '12 6:58:21 PM from on top of Your Mum Relationship Status: I get a feeling so complicated...
Trolling Swordsman
I set it up so that the Weirdness Censor is hard-coded into the magic. Not only does using magic actively repel Muggles, any Muggles who somehow see a magician in action will simply not see it as magic. As in "People can't shoot fire from their hands; he's obviously got some kind of tiny flamethrower." or "That guy didn't make that other guy's head explode. He used a gun." This causes memory Retcons if/when a Muggle gets his/her hands on a magic item.

edited 10th Mar '12 7:00:42 PM by SalFishFin

 9 nrjxll, Sat, 10th Mar '12 7:04:20 PM Relationship Status: Not war
Well, I can see that the "cliche" complaints don't worry you, at least...

Anyway, I just think that most of the time, having a Masquerade is essentially laziness on the author's part - either they don't want to try and think up a non-Like Reality Unless Noted setting, or they're just won't put in the effort to think about why they have a masquerade in the first place, besides "everyone does it".

Now, my point isn't exactly that it's an inherently bad trope - rather, I'm trying to argue that your first step in creating a masquerade should not be how to justify it in-universe, but how to justify using it in the first place. Is it essential that you have one? Why or why not?

 10 feotakahari, Sat, 10th Mar '12 7:11:14 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
I'd like to note that I don't think I've ever seen a Magical Realism story that so much as mentioned the concept of a masquerade. It seems to be entirely restricted to Urban Fantasy, despite the fact that the "logic" behind having a masquerade in an Urban Fantasy setting would usually make just as much (and just as little) sense in a Magical Realism setting.

(I'll also note that the current argument seems to be between Urban Fantasy and Mundane Fantastic.)

Edit: I take that back—there are some Magical Realism works, like Think Before You Think, where a single person or family of people with an unexplained ability keep that ability a secret. There's just never more than one family involved.

edited 10th Mar '12 7:18:32 PM by feotakahari

That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
 11 nrjxll, Sat, 10th Mar '12 7:15:51 PM Relationship Status: Not war
despite the fact that the "logic" behind having a masquerade in an Urban Fantasy setting would usually make just as much (and just as little) sense in a Magical Realism setting.

I'd argue this is because Magical Realism usually doesn't put a priority on "logic" in this sense, since in many ways it revolves more around symbolism and such. The OP's interest in internal consistency/justification for the supernatural elements of his/her setting is likewise why I think Mundane Fantastic is a better fit.

Okay, in hindsight, 'Masquerade' might not be the right term. I just that I've got a story idea that involves a certain amount of weird in mundane surroundings and I need to come up with an explaination as to why the weirdness isn't common knowledge. As for why, among other things one of the main characters is a minor Humanoid Abomination whose preferred 'title' is 'The Runner in the Woods' whose activities largely rely on the fact that no one in their 'territory' realises what they are. It should be noted that I haven't decided on the exact level of weird present in the story.

edited 10th Mar '12 7:58:23 PM by Weaver

 
 13 Sal Fish Fin, Sat, 10th Mar '12 8:02:30 PM from on top of Your Mum Relationship Status: I get a feeling so complicated...
Trolling Swordsman
People tend not to notice "weirdness" if they're not paying attention. See here.

edited 10th Mar '12 8:02:45 PM by SalFishFin

Also known as Katz
[up]People tend not to notice mild weirdness when they're actively focusing on something else. Even change blindness isn't hugely effective; this study, for instance, has a 70% success rate (30% of participants noticed a change). You need 100% success to maintain a charade.

But it's obvious that, under normal circumstances, people notice unusual or out of place things. I have orange hair, so I know.

Had an idea. What about exploiting Reality Is Unrealistic? After all, when most people think of the supernatural they think of the horror movie staples like vampires and werewolves (which I'm going to avoid like the plague), and expect there to be all sorts of flashy stuff. Things like 'good luck' charms that actually work, humanoid abominations that don't quite fit with anything in pop culture and can seem very human when they want to, wards on supernatural hot-spots and unquiet graves, human-form ghouls who work as hospital porters, undertakers and gravediggers, and assorted low key weirdness could quite easily hide in plain sight due to most people failing to realise what they're looking at. I think.
 
 16 Leradny, Sun, 11th Mar '12 7:54:55 PM from Alameda, CA
You don't need a Masquerade to keep something discreet.

If the non-mundane population is large enough for specific divisions and departments to be devoted to cases, and the actual incident lacks apparent danger, you'll just need a brief frenzy of wild speculation before people decide "Eh, tell the police department and let them handle it".

And once that happens, most investigations are kept out of public scrutiny until consent has been given by the subjects being investigated, or the subjects being investigated get dangerous.

 17 feotakahari, Sun, 11th Mar '12 8:32:42 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
^^ Just do me one favor. Don't have the scientist-type characters in your story be Straw Vulcans who ignore any evidence that doesn't suit their preconceptions.
That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
My plans so far are rather vague (I did have a lot more worked out but have since realised that a lot of what I originally planned wasn't as good as I thought so I'm still sorting the wheat from the chaff), but there isn't really any sort of official authority with the job of policing the weirder side of life. At most there's a loose network of individuals of varying levels of competance who do stuff like maintaining wards, intervening if they get wind of someone doing something stupid (the idea was actually originally inspired by an online acquaintance of mine who thought someone was trying to summon something in a graveyard and so bought some blessed salt and sprinkled it around the area), and generally keep an eye on things. As for the size of the non-mundane population, that's one of the things I haven't figured out yet.
 
Also known as Katz
Things like 'good luck' charms that actually work, humanoid abominations that don't quite fit with anything in pop culture and can seem very human when they want to, wards on supernatural hot-spots and unquiet graves, human-form ghouls who work as hospital porters, undertakers and gravediggers, and assorted low key weirdness could quite easily hide in plain sight due to most people failing to realise what they're looking at.

Where did the conception of "normal" come from? If nobody has been actively hiding this stuff and it's been around for a long time, then it would be common knowledge. Everyone knows that good luck charms don't actually work; in your world, everyone would know that they do work.

This is a general weakness with The Masquerade (and particularly the Weirdness Censor approach to it): It's based on our conception of how people expect things to be, and how people expect things to be is based on how things are.

Except not everyone knows that they work, rather the ones that do work are 'camouflaged' by the ones that don't. Basically, most people would probably have some degree of awareness (it is set in a country where more people believe in ghosts then god after all), it's just that between fiction, hoaxes, superstitions that are actually bollocks, inaccurate folklore, and general cultural stuff, it's lead to a situation where people have trouble seperating the wheat from the chaff.

I don't want the 'truth' to be common knowledge because then it becomes ordinary. You get official organisations whose job is dealing with things and everything is regulated and boring. Not to mention that humans being the way we are we'd probably have hunted down and killed everything by the twentieth century.

edited 12th Mar '12 5:14:39 PM by Weaver

 
 21 Sal Fish Fin, Mon, 12th Mar '12 5:16:17 PM from on top of Your Mum Relationship Status: I get a feeling so complicated...
Trolling Swordsman
There's your logical reason for a Masquerade: Witch Hunts. Sure, it's not the 1400's anymore, but if the existence of magic/magical creatures was common knowledge, we'd have something like the Mutant Registration crap that the X-Men have to go through. Especially in this current world where we're all terrified of the possibility of terrorist attacks.

edited 12th Mar '12 5:16:48 PM by SalFishFin

 22 Leradny, Mon, 12th Mar '12 5:49:02 PM from Alameda, CA
You get official organisations whose job is dealing with things and everything is regulated and boring

So what, the police force is an uninteresting organization? The government can't have anything exciting happen? The entirety of modern-day life is regulated and boring?

edited 12th Mar '12 5:49:20 PM by Leradny

 23 Night, Mon, 12th Mar '12 6:02:34 PM from PSNS Intrepid Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Who you are does not matter.
[up][up]The Mutant Registration crap actually makes sense as a concept. (Marvel just likes leaping off the slippery slope.) If there are people with extra powers over the rest of us then equality under the law is bunk, because not everyone was created equal.

edited 12th Mar '12 6:03:30 PM by Night

"Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other...and rise."
Also known as Katz
If people have trouble separating what's true from what isn't, then the idea that people just assume it's something "normal" doesn't work nearly as well, because people won't have a solid boundary between what they know to be true and what they know to be false, and so they won't know when to assume something is real and when to assume it isn't.

For instance, if I see a zebra walking down the street, I'll assume it's real and be like "check it out, there's totally a zebra walking down the street!" If I see a unicorn walking down the street, I'll assume it's fake and be like "wow, they totally made that horse look just like it has a horn!" Zebras are real, so it's possible there really is one walking down the street; unicorns aren't, so it isn't possible. But if I'm not positive whether unicorns are real or not, I won't assume it's fake, because I don't know.

Anyway it only takes one scientist investigating one bona fide good-luck charm to create replicable proof that they do, in fact, work.

I don't buy the "they'd all be hunted down and killed" logic, either. Unusual groups do get persecuted IRL, but to the best of my knowledge* none has ever gone so far as to attempt to completely hide their existence from the world at large, so the idea of magic users or whatever doing it is utterly without precedent, both in terms of whether people would try it and whether it would work.

(Not to seem like I'm coming down too hard on your ideas here—The Masquerade is just a big, complex, problematic idea that gets hand-waved as "of course that's what happens" way too often. The fact that you're considering all this is a very good sign.)

 25 Sal Fish Fin, Mon, 12th Mar '12 6:07:44 PM from on top of Your Mum Relationship Status: I get a feeling so complicated...
Trolling Swordsman
[up][up] That's what I'm saying, though. They keep up the Masquerade because otherwise they'd have Muggles applying their Muggle rules and regulations to the lifestyles of the magical ones.

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