Hello everyone! Today the lovely Rachel Neumeier, author of Black Dogs (click on the link to be taken to my review of the book), writes about secret history and it’s presence in her novel as well as fantasy. Check our Strange Chem for further information on the book or visit Neumeier’s website.
In historical fantasy, an author takes a recognizable period of real history and adds fantasy elements to the world – fantasy elements which are clearly known to exist by the people of the world. Marie Brennen’s A Natural History of Dragons is a good recent example of the form, for example, though her world is more based on ours than an exact copy.
In alternate history, an author takes a point in our history and makes a change, such as having the American south win the civil war, and then writes a story set in the altered world that results. Under the Yoke by SM Stirling is a fine example of an alternate history, although very dark in tone. In order to be alternate history, we expect to see significant changes in the modern world due to an important event that happened differently in that world’s history compared to ours.
Secret history is different from either of those forms. In a secret history, the author takes a world that superficially looks a lot like our contemporary world, but explains some of the events of real history and some features of the contemporary world by adding hidden fantasy elements which people of that world don’t know about.
Black Dog is a secret history – or, to be precise, in Black Dog, hidden supernatural influences have all along been shaping the world, but all those hidden influences have just recently been pulled out into the light of day.
In modern paranormals and urban fantasy, vampires are often just like normal people, only dead and with superpowers – they can dematerialize and walk through walls, for example (PN Elrod). Or they are mostly like normal people, only sexier (Stephanie Meyers). Or many vampires are scary and evil, but some are capable of friendship and loyalty and even love (Patricia Briggs, Robin McKinley).
In the world of Black Dog, vampires are more old fashioned: there is nothing sexy or friendly about any vampire. Vampires are demon-possessed corpses. They are evil, period. They are monsters in the dark and they love killing, but more than death they love corruption. When they take over a city – something they have done repeatedly throughout history – they seek not merely to rule, but to ruin.
Or they used to. Now they are gone, because in a desperate struggle for survival between black dogs and vampires, vampires lost.
Getting rid of the vampires was an unadulterated good for the world – but this particular victory has produced an unanticipated side effect. Because the miasma that used to hide the supernatural from normal people was a vampire miasma, and without the vampires, the miasma, too, has faded. Now ordinary people know all about the monsters in the dark. They know all about the ruinous influence vampires have had on the world for thousands of years, and they know, too, that normal human people have been the prey of black dogs for all that time. And they’re not happy about it.
This newly open world, this world with few remaining secrets, is the backdrop against which the events of Black Dog take place.
And while vampires were fundamentally and entirely evil, the same is not true of black dogs. In Black Dog, we see how Alejandro uses his human love and loyalty for his family to contain his demonic shadow. And we see how Pure girls such as Natividad can help black dogs win that constant struggle. But what is less clear is whether Natividad or Alejandro can do enough to allow the black dogs of their new home not only to defeat their personal enemies, but also to prevent those enemies from catastrophically resuming the war – this time between black dogs and ordinary humans. If that happens, there can be only one outcome: total destruction of all black dogs everywhere.