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12:01:19 AM Dec 24th 2015
edited by bluej100
12:33:48 PM Mar 16th 2012
Is the "all mythology" entry really a valid example? I didn't remove it, but I'm unclear on where the boundaries of this trope lie.
08:21:05 PM Mar 18th 2012
I'm inclined to say no. This trope is about "this is a true story" being used as a narrative technique in fiction; I feel that mythology is not, in the relevant sense, fiction.

When a myth says "This is a true thing that actually happened", it's not just a narrative technique, it means it. Either you believe the myth is true, or you don't, but there's no pretending-it's-true-when-we-know-really-it-isn't.
03:55:18 PM Feb 21st 2012
edited by LancelotG
I tried to submit the "Jeeves and Wooster" stories by P.G. Wodehouse, but was told that Bertie Wooster (the first-person narrator) isn't the author, Wodehouse is. I'm a little confused as to how this trope works—does it only count as an example if the Real Life author is specifically name-dropped/implied to be the literary agent? In the stories, Bertie makes several allusions to the fact that he's writing these things down himself ("at the time of going to print", etc.). If the author-as-literary agent thing isn't mentioned or brought up, but it's still heavily implied that the narrator is the author in-story, is that a separate trope? Thanks.
05:34:05 PM Feb 21st 2012
My understanding is yes.

A character can be the author of the text within the world of the story without it following that they're implied to to be the real author as well.

The distinction might be clearer with a work that's explicitly set in another world. If you're reading a fantasy novel, and the narrator talks about how they're writing their adventures down and getting them published, you assume that's just something that's happening in their fictional world, and not that they're somehow passing the manuscript off to someone in our world to become the book you're reading — unless, like Steven Brust or Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author specifically implies that that's what they're doing.
04:13:34 PM Jan 29th 2012
I don't remember Sir Terry ever saying the Discworld novels were "real" somewhere, unless you take the "alternate pasts" line (which he said once, and keeps getting quoted) very literally.
10:14:00 PM Mar 28th 2012
edited by Jinren
I dimly remember reading it in the intro to one of the books. Could have been one of the Science books rather than a main novel. (It's been a long time: how many of the books even have out-of-character introductions?)

The actual comment was something along the lines that they had an existence, not necessarily meaning in the same way as we do.
04:03:48 AM Jul 24th 2012
edited by DaibhidC
Okay, Science of Discworld III does open with the words "Discworld is real". In context, though, this means it works the way humans think the world does, making it subjectively realer than a world that refuses to. (And also in the context of explaining that Roundworld isn't real, and only exists on a shelf in Unseen University.)

But the intro to The Discworld Companion has a bit about the curious fact Stephen Briggs knows more about Discworld than Terry: "We discussed the psychology of this and decided that, since I'd invented the places and characters, a sanity pocket in my brain prevented me from thinking of them as facts". Which suggests someone who has little truck with the "Discworld is real in any sense" theory himself, but is prepared to accept it from other people.

I've heard a lot of fans suggest it (myself included), but that's Literary Agent Hypothesis.
05:00:46 AM Nov 16th 2011
edited by Hadashi
Deleted to move up a bit
09:03:45 PM Nov 7th 2011
I don't think these are examples. They're cases where it's said an author is creating the work based on a historical document or account, but it's not suggested that it's the real-world author. In some cases, it's explicitly said to be an equally fictional in-universe author (for instance, Katherine Kerr's Deverry novels with the author's notes by Deverrian writer Cadda Cerrmor).

Card Games
  • The Magic: The Gathering Antiquities War and Urza-Mishra War comic book mini-series are said to be based on a translation of the epic poem The Antiquities War, by Kayla bin-Kroog, with commentary by Taysir of Rabiah. The novel The Brothers' War, by Jeff Grubb, is also based on this poem.
    • The cards of the Kamigawa block also seem to follow suit. Many of the flavour texts are quotes from fictional historical volumes written after the Kami War.
    • This goes way back — Fallen Empires cards similarly quote in-universe history books, which were so popular one of them actually got its own card.
    • Magic has always loved quoting in-universe books and other literary sources, see for example Granite Gargoyle from Alpha, the first set ever printed.

Computer and Video Games
  • The first official strategy guide for the Wing Commander series, Wing Commander I & II Ultimate Strategy Guide, was written as being from the memoirs of Carl LaFong, before the Player Character was named "Blair".
    • The Wing Commander novel Action Stations is, per the foreword, a reconstruction of the events surrounding the 2634 attack on McCauliffe that kicked off the Kilrathi War, written by a post-WC4 historian trying to give a more complete picture of what made Admiral Towlyn what he was.

  • Flatland is written as A Square's account of his adventures, often addressing the reader directly.
  • Diana Wynne Jones' The Tough Guide to Fantasyland takes this to the extreme: it's a traveller's guide for the realm in which all High Fantasy stories take place; these are in fact tours set up by "The Management" for adventuresome vacationers. It is unclear whether these books are the tour themselves or whether they were written by survivors of the tours.
    • This was the oft cited guidebook in the author's novel, Dark Lord of Derkholm, which means that it's the guidebook for a perfectly ordinary universe being exploited as fantasyland... which only makes Jones's role more confusing.
  • The Dresden Files, a recent book in the series hints that Harry is the author of the series (and the RPG - see below - explicitly says the novels are Harry's case files). It is revealed that Harry's mentor Ebenezar takes part in a tradition, maybe followed by all wizards or maybe just a habit he happened to pick up from his own mentor, of keeping journals of his work. Harry sees a brief excerpt of Ebenezar's journal, which is written in a first-person, conversational voice. The Dresden Files itself is written in a First-Person Smartass tone, which might mean that it's Harry's own journal. For extra fun, the officially licensed Dresden Files RPG is this trope too, written by Harry's friend Billy and prefaced with notes from Harry, Billy, and Bob suggesting that one of the reasons for publishing it is so it can used in the same fashion as Dracula. They also contribute margin notes, some of them reflecting on how the content will be received (such as Harry worrying that his Mafia contacts may be insulted by a reference to "mafias" without capitalization, or problems with publishing certain secrets that have been revealed in the novels but are unknown to most of the universe's characters).
  • Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dr. Watson himself claims that this is his account of events.
  • Katherine Kerr doesn't make a big deal out of the concept in her Deverry novels, but the page on pronunciation at the start of each book used to record her ongoing arguments with an Elvish linguistics professor about the simplifications she was using.
    • On the internet, she's explained that this is a Deverrian writer, many centuries after the events of the books, named Cadda (pronounced "Katha") Cerrmor.
  • Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire is written by Dr. Charles Kinbote, a man who was friends with the poet who wrote "Pale Fire", John Shade. He also wrote copious endnotes to the poem which detail his friendship with Shade and how Shade is really a genius for including all these nigh-invisible references to a monarch fleeing his own kingdom after a Communist revolution.
    • Nabokov was a master of this trope. Lolita is presented as being the memoirs of a man who had an illicit affair with an underage girl. The foreword is ostensibly by "Humbert"'s own literary agent, who has changed the names to protect those involved.
  • John Ringo's The Last Centurion is written as the title character's memoirs, which allows him to get away with long "digressions" about various subjects, as well as never giving the character's real name.
  • Steve Hockensmith's mystery/Western Holmes on the Range (about a cowboy who is inspired to take up detective work after reading several Sherlock Holmes stories) plays this card twice. First, the story itself is the record of the protagonist's brother, who decides to be the Watson to his brother's Holmes. However, the story itself plays the Literary Agent Hypothesis by setting the book in the Holmes universe. One of the villains is even related to a character from the Holmes story "The Noble Bachelor", and it's eventually revealed that the book is set two years after "The Final Problem".
  • In Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky it is revealed at the end that the strand of the book following events among the alien Spiders was written by the human translators and interpreters who were responsible for following these events. This lampshades the fact that the narrative was written in anthropomorphizing terms, and specifically the influence of twentieth century history, which one of the translators had been reading before being Focused.
  • The Larklight trilogy by Philip Reeve is written as first person narrative by the protagonists, and supposedly prepared for publication by fictional Victorian versions of the real-life author and illustrator.
  • The Ciaphas Cain novels are presented as Cain's unpublished memoirs edited and annotated by Inquisitor Amberly Vail. As such, Cain often downplays his bravery and achievements, contrasted with footnotes from Vail saying he's being too modest. She also adds context and clarity to some of his comments and sometimes notes that he must have been mistaken or mixed up the time of things happening. It's also strongly implied that they were romantically attached, but Vail edits out anything too specific.
  • One of the books of The Stainless Steel Rat series ends with the protagonist deciding to write memoirs. Try to guess what the title is.

Live Action TV
  • Babylon 5 claims, just before the credits of its finale, that the series was a special documentary on the history of the Babylon Stations funded by the Anla-shok Memorial Fund, making it an in-story propaganda piece.
  • For most of the Star Trek's history, this was the authors' explanation for the differing appearance of various things (Klingons in TOS as opposed to everywhere else, Starfleet equipment and uniforms between series and movies, etc.) until "Trials and Tribble-ations" revealed (as a joke) the characters also being able to see them that way. Enterprise took the new approach and ran with it.

Tabletop Games
  • A number of fluff pieces for Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 are written and designed as if the book itself were from the appropriate universe, complete with notes and observations written by previous readers.
    • In that spirit the book The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer deserves mention. It is a guidebook supposedly given to all who enlist in the Imperial Guard, and sold as such by Games Workshop.
    • Similarly, the Gaunt's Ghosts novel series is prefaced by extracts from A History of the Later Imperial Crusades, while the Ciaphas Cain HERO OF THE IMPERIUM! books are supposedly edited versions of the title character's memoirs.
    • The sourcebook Xenology is a particularly good example of this, as the entire book consists completely of notes, data records, transcripts, diaries, diagrams, and pict captures that were apparently collated by the Inquisition following the events recorded in the book.
    • Officially, absolutely everything is said to be like this, to avoid arguments over what is canon (it doesn't tend to work, though).
  • Shadowrun books tend to be written as if they were compilations of various in-universe documents (corporate catalogues, magazine articles, travel guides, etc.) stored in the Matrix — complete with annotational conversations between the hackers who stop by for a look. Interestingly, close reading of the annotations will sometimes reveal tantalizing hints of stories going on just beyond the sight of the reader.
    • Shadowrun's "ancestor" game Earthdawn follows this trope as well, each sourcebook is presented as a series of guides written by adventurers or scholars to pass on their knowledge to other fledgling adventurers. These essays or travelogues are invariably presented to Merrox, Master of the Hall of Records for inclusion in the Great Library of Throal. In fact, any guide that is available to the players is available to their characters to read as well.
    • Paranoia XP, of course, parodies this in its sourcebook, with such commentaries being added to many pages a little too often.
  • Steve Jackson Games published a number of supplements for their Car Wars game as catalogues for "Uncle Albert's Auto Stop and Gunnery Shop". "Uncle Al, the Duellist's Pal!"
    • Considering how many other game lines degenerate into supplements that are nothing but long catalogue lists of overpowered goodies, this seems a more honest approach than most.
  • "Aurora's Whole Realms Catalogue", modelled partly after real 1902 mail-order catalogue. It's an in-universe commercial illustrated catalogue of Aurora's Emporium chain store, complete with foreword and disclaimers ("Of course, though I sell thieving aids, I cannot condone thievery against any but those with ill-gotten goods...") from Aurora herself, and entry for her pal's workshop she included as an appendix. Only with little game information comments after entries.
  • A number of products for the Ravenloft campaign setting follow this model. The "Van Richten's Guides" are books published by Rudolph Van Richten (Ravenloft's Alternate Company Equivalent of Van Helsing), with sidebars containing game information. This was taken to the extreme when the Guides were reprinted as compilations, featuring new forewords by Van Richten's heirs explaining that they had decided to issue reprints following his disappearance. The "Gazetteer" series is presented as a research project by the scholar "S" for a mysterious patron.
  • The Plane Scape setting, in a similar vein, had several expansions written "in character." The Factol's Manifesto was an expose compiled by a mysterious editor of the secrets of the setting's interdimensional political parties, while Faces of Evil was a compendium on demonic psychology recorded by a series of scholars.
  • One of the main Dark Sun supplements was Wanderer's Journalnotes of some Athasian traveler, naturally.
  • Some of the Warcraft and World of Warcraft RPG books (The Alliance and Horde books, the "Lands of" books) are supposed to be written by famed dwarven explorer Brann Bronzebeard.
    • This has created some discussion among the fans whether some of the content within the books can be considered right-out canon or Brann's subjective view of the world.
  • Deadlands did the same with Smith and Robards, the Mad Scientist sourcebook, which is partly a catalogue. And the Hell on Earth line had some books that were credited to a character in the storyline, who goes by only one name...unfortunately, it happens to be Teller. Forgetting something, Pinnacle?
  • Rites of the Dragon, a companion book to White Wolf's Vampire: The Requiem is presented as the in-universe biography of Vlad Dracula, chronicling his time as a Vampire and his founding of the Ordo Dracul.
    • The Requiem clanbooks are presented as this, too, with each clanbook being a compilation of in-universe material about the clan, and game information presented in an appendix at the back.
      • One of the characters in the Gangrel clanbook claims Rites of the Dragon is basically bullshit, the rose-tinted version of Dracula's unlife — and that he's in a position to know, having been sired by one of Dracula's brides.
    • The Horror Recognition Guide for Hunter: The Vigil is presented as the collected files of a missing group of monster hunters.
    • And now there's The Testament of Longinus, the holy book of the Lancea Sanctum.
    • This isn't exclusive to the new World of Darkness; the old World of Darkness did it too. Some are straight-up in-universe books, while others are part compilation of in-universe material, part game information.
  • With the exception of the actual novels, all non-rule-based BattleTech materials are written by someone in the universe. With a specific named author and date. This has allowed the BattleTech line developers to Retcon some older material as well as fix some mistakes and inconsistencies made in older books by calling them in-universe errors or actual misinformation by people with an agenda.
    • to the point when it got a cartoon after the show was done and got a rulebook and stuff for the content of the show it was retconned into being a poorly reviewed propaganda thing in-universe.
  • The Dresden Files tabletop RPG rulebooks are presented as a project one character is working on* , and we're reading an early draft he sent to the main character to review. There's a lot of Painting the Fourth Wall involved, since everyone left comments in the margins.

04:07:40 AM Jul 24th 2012
edited by DaibhidC
Yeah. As the troper who added Deverry, I would say in my defence that Cadda Cerrmor is clearly meant to be Kerr's Deverrian counterpart. But that's not the same thing.
09:03:17 PM Nov 7th 2011
I don't think these are examples. They're cases where the original work never claims to be this trope, it's an External Retcon by a different author.

  • Mentioned in Hook, the film "sequel" to Peter Pan. Wendy Darling and Peter Pan had adventures that Wendy later told to J.M. Barrie who, we presume, made a few changes, which accounts for the inconsistencies between the book and film. For example, Captain Hook is eaten by the crocodile in the book whereas in the film, Hook escaped the crocodile and killed it instead.

  • Note that this is hardly a new concept to Sherlockians: it's traditional for Sherlock Holmes pastiches to contain a lengthy introduction explaining in detail the bizarre and mysterious circumstances under which an "authentic manuscript of Dr. Watson's writings" came into the "editor's" possession. References by the characters to Watson's literary agent Conan Doyle are also common in pastiches and fanfics.
    • Nicholas Meyer adopted the same model for his pastiche The Seven-Percent Solution (which is actually a Sigmund Freud novel guest-starring Holmes & Watson...)
  • Some works claim that H.P. Lovecraft lived through all his stories himself and simply fictionalized them.
  • In his novels Tarzan Alive and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, Philip Josť Farmer purports to tell the 'real life' stories of Tarzan and Doc Savage. He claims that Edgar Rice Burroughs and Lester Dent were just the biographers of their books, which were highly fictionalized and sensationalized and presents somewhat more mundane, but still sensational versions of the stories that correct various factual inaccuracies and continuity errors. For example, he explains that whenever Tarzan encountered a lion, a plains dwelling animal, in the jungle, it was actually a leopard and Burroughs exaggerated because lions were bigger and more dangerous looking. He also tries to explain away both characters' great strength and intelligence by claiming their ancestors were irradiated by a meteor, and that other relatives of Tarzan and Savage whose ancestors were exposed to that radiation include Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Sherlock Holmes, Fu Manchu, and Bulldog Drummond. Philip Josť Farmer is in a class of his own.
  • Wimsey Family: A Fragmentary History Compiled from Correspondence With Dorothy L. Sayers used this trope as regards to the Lord Peter Wimsey series, and traced the bloodline of the Wimseys throughout English history.

Live Action TV
  • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike bitterly explains that Dracula hired Bram Stoker to write that book about him, because Dracula's more than a bit of a show-off. Spike goes on to complain that the book did more damage to vampirekind than any Slayer, because it included all the information a would-be vampire killer would need (the mirrors, the crosses, the stakes...)
  • In Jekyll, the 2007 update of The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson's original novel was based on actual events that happened to a close friend of his, and the main character is suspected to be Jekyll's descendant. and the novel was actually commissioned by Dr Jekyll in an attempt to mislead people attempting to recreate the Jekyll/Hyde transformation.

08:54:18 PM Nov 7th 2011
I don't think this is an example. As written, it sounds more like audience speculation. If it's made clear in the actual story, that needs to be described better.

08:56:17 PM Nov 7th 2011
edited by PaulA
[didn't mean this to be a reply]
09:01:30 PM Nov 7th 2011
edited by PaulA
[didn't mean this to be a reply]
05:15:06 AM Nov 16th 2011
edited by Hadashi
Ok, it seems like a few may have slipped through due to my trying to fix Literary Agent Hypothesis all on my own. If anyone would like to help me the tropes are now split as follows:

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