Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Alterity

In some critical discourses on the nature of Fantasy, this term is used to designate the sense of "otherness" consequent upon the fact that fantasy texts – as Gary K Wolfe makes clear in Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy (1986) – violate the "ground rules" of the mundane world, becoming "dependent on the internal consistency of their own ground rules". But the term describes that otherness of the text from a cognitive remove; it does not describe the experience of reading a fantasy text. In a properly engrossing example, alterity may be sensed as a threshold experience, but not as an ongoing response to innovations within that text: for those innovations will be internally consistent, and when understood will be recognized. In Supernatural Fiction there is no alterity, because those elements in the tale which violate the ground rules of mundane Reality remain contingent upon those rules. [JC]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.