You Can’t Subvert What You Haven’t Built

In case you don’t religiously check my website for updates, I’d like to point out a recent addition to the “True Facts About My Fake World” wing: this explanation of a prevailing in-world historiographic model, complete with illustration.

Cyclical history is great, because it creates expectations. Expectations are great because they allow a storyteller to direct an audience’s attention. And that’s a level of control which comes in real handy when you need to pull off a slight-of-hand maneuver. The missing card can slip invisibly from the sleeve only when everyone’s transfixed by the twirling top hat.

But in order to subvert expectations, you need to have established some in the first place. And that takes work. The bigger the intended surprise, the more work must be invested in the preliminary setup. Not ostentatiously, of course: the conservation of detail allows genre-savvy readers to spot a head-fake coming. A given expectation must fade into the background, becoming the very air the characters breathe, an unseen context that isn’t questioned.

So yeah. Arlam’s historical cycle has a clockface’s worth of epochs, but the hour-hand’s invisible.

That’s not suspicious at all.

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