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Tag Archives: history
Guest Post: Mystery Cults and the Secret World of the Occult in Urban Fantasy by Laurence Raphael Brothers
The premise of magic-done-only-in-secret is not exactly an original conceit, and indeed it has become so familiar over not just years but generations of fantasy literature that it is hardly something to be questioned when it appears. It’s a convenient explanation for how magic can possibly exist in our familiar and ostensibly non-magical world.
Still, the idea of a very widely-kept secret to which thousands of people are privy may seem rather implausible. Surely someone would let the information slip? But as it happens, there are quite a few historical examples of widely-held secrets that were kept so well we aren’t sure what the truth of them was anymore.
One of the things I’ve been trying to do in recent years is look more at the history of the field. In the thrift store, I love finding F&SF anthologies from the 60s and 70s, in part because it’s interesting to see which names kept on going, which faded away. Often the most riveting story in a collection is from a writer whose name I’ll only see that once. In reading anthologies, I find that often one of the most revelatory parts is the introduction, less for anything said about the stories than for clues to the publishing climate at the time.
Recently in the thrift shop, I picked up a couple of paperbacks: two volumes worth of early Hugo winners, edited by Isaac Asimov. Of course I bought them. How could I not, in light of recent controversies? They’ve been an interesting read – particularly when I’m reading the first Nebula volume at the same time — and sometimes illuminating.