Contemporary Speculative Fiction, by which I mean both Urban/Contemporary Fantasy and Present/Near Future Science Fiction, tends to fall into two distinct classes, which I’ll call Covert Counterfactual and Overt Counterfactual.
In Covert Counterfactual worlds, the speculative/fantastic elements are not public knowledge. The Harry Potter novels, for example, or the Harry Dresden novels. Magic, or Vampires, or Werewolves, or Faeries, or what have you are real, but the average human being doesn’t believe in such things–in fact, ordinary people are quite sure that such things don’t exist. Often this involves some sort of organization dedicated to keeping the true nature of reality hidden, such as in the Men In Black films.
Overt Counterfactual is less common, but includes such things as the Sookie Stackhouse novels and the series True Blood, the Kate Daniels novels, the films Alien Nation and Cast A Deadly Spell. In Overt Counterfactual worlds, the ordinary human beings are aware of the existence of other sorts of persons, and the metahumans live openly among them.
There are advantages in terms of storytelling in both types of fiction, and I enjoy them both. However, as I have been working on The Book Of Lost Doors novels, it has occurred to me that series tend to stick to one side of the fence or the other. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any series of books that started as Covert that made the shift to Overt during the course of the series. Often the threat of exposure is present, and frequently individual ordinary humans find out about the fantastic world during the stories, but I can’t think of any that deal with the process of the hidden world becoming common knowledge.
The television shows Heroes and Fringe both dealt with revelatory events as part of the overall story arcs, but both, interestingly enough, also used time travel to undo the changes and put the world back to where it was before it changed.
In The Worms Of Heaven I find myself wrestling with the issue of revelation, and the story may end up going into certain areas that are not going to be easily covered up–in fact, may not be able to cover up at all. I really don’t want to try to force the story into a particular channel just so that the illusion can be maintained, but on the other hand, I’m not sure that a series of books that changes from Covert to Overt in the middle is really going to work. I’m beginning to suspect that there are reasons writers tend to favor one or the other, I’m not quite sure how to handle the actual transition. (And picking up with the next book being ten years in the future and after the transition would totally be cheating.)
Thoughts? I’d like to get some feedback on this.