Over the head of the narrator

Okay, here’s a question: I am looking for examples of fictional narrative in which the author and the reader both know and learn more about the world than the narrator/protagonist/viewpoint character(s).

Examples of what I am speaking of, off the top of my head:

  • “Petey” – TED Klein
  • “The Events at Poroth Farm” – TED Klein (I sense a theme)
  • “Fat Face” – Michael Shea
  • that story whose title I can’t remember from the New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird anthology in which the narrator assumes he’s observing the behaviour of crayfish

(The latter three are probably easier to pull off, in that the protagonists discover the facts they are ignorant of before the end of the story. “Petey”, on the other hand, remains a story that in this regard is so beautifully executed I am in awe every time I read it. I will probably be picking it up to look at it, but )

The important thing to note in these stories is that the truth of the fictional narrative is not the reader’s default reality (or, if one of these was set in Regency England or Ancient Egypt, their assumption of what a default reality should be). “Fat Face”, for example, involves shoggoths; assuredly cuddly, but generally not assumed to exist in real life. Contrast this with any one of three dozen narratives in which someone is running around the street seeing ordinary people as “demons”; I am really not hugely interested in examples of the latter, since they are generally a way to tell the reader about the narrator and not about the world.

Finally, I’m looking for text only. This means that things like the I Am Legend movie do not count. It is a wonderful example of how what the viewer can see is really going on (as displayed on film) does not match what the protagonist asserts is going on, but I really want to see how this is made to work in text.



Over the last few years, I’ve been making an effort to log more of my reading on GoodReads. (Lately I’ve also been looking at BookLikes, but that is a bit of an aside.) A fair bit of the stuff I read isn’t already on GoodReads, or has incomplete records there–authors are missing from anthologies, cover photos aren’t provided for books, standalone stories or small epubbed collections aren’t in the system. Usually I grumble about this a little and correct it.

(Someday I’m going to put all the old Hell on Earth stuff into a proper series list, oh yes. Organized by publication number and everything.)

Since I’ve been commuting a lot lately, I’ve been reading a lot more epubs–picking up some old stuff, picking up some new. And one of the things read earlier this week was a collection of draft stories and partials that you could get being a sponsor during the Clarion West Write-a-thon last year.

It’s not for distribution, which is fine; it is something which does not belong in GoodReads at all.

And it feels so weirdly good to read something that I don’t have to track.

(I mean, I don’t have to track what I read in GoodReads, of course. But it’s become an ingrained habit now, and the yearly challenges have a gamified appeal.)

I suspect this is exacerbated because I’m a bit stressed at the moment, and have a lot of things going on. Still, it’s worth keeping in mind, and perhaps I will clear myself a block of time when I can just read and give myself permission to not document it. I am already behind on reviews of books that really deserve it (can I just mention This Strange Way of Dying, which really needs more love), and I don’t imagine it would help with that. But at the same time writing reviews is actually pretty hard for me, and I think the breathing room–official self-given breathing room, rather than falling-behind-and-not-doing it–might feel lovely.