Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Many fantasy tales are set in more than one world; normally one of these worlds is our own and the other (or others) some form of Secondary World. Time may move at different rates in these different worlds (see Time in Faerie), especially in tales where Thresholds are sharply demarcated; in tales of this sort, though contiguities may exist, there will be little intermixing of Realities between worlds.

However, in many fantasy tales the demarcation line is anything but clearcut, and two or more worlds may simultaneously inhabit the same territory. In tales set in Borderland regions – a well known example is the Borderland sequence created by Terri Windling – this crosshatching of worlds may be more or less restricted to a ribbon-like region, or a Polder within which realities can churn together. But in a novel like M John Harrison's A Storm of Wings (1980 US) the entire landscape is a crosshatch, quandaries of Perception are rife, and anything at all may be a Trompe-L'oeil. In other words, when borderland conventions are absent, there is an inherent and threatening instability (see Wrongness) to regions of crosshatch; a sense of imminent Metamorphosis. Crosshatches invite journeys: Quests lead through them; Edifices found at their heart (as is often the case) may have Portals leading to various realities or worlds; Wainscot societies flourish there; protagonists may find in crosshatch regions echoes and adumbrations of their true nature, and meet their Doubles or their Shadows; Recognition scenes may be expected, and resolutions of Story.

The earliest full crosshatch narrative may be William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (performed circa 1595; 1600). Early crosshatch tales of interest include E T A Hoffmann's The Golden Pot: A Modern Fairy Tale (1815), George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind (1871), Kenneth Morris's The Fates of the Princes of Dyfed (1914) and Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter (1924); examples have become increasingly common. Stories in which crosshatch regions are central include Manuel Mujica Lainez's The Wandering Unicorn (1965), John Gardner's In the Suicide Mountains (1977), John Crowley's Little, Big (1981), Michael Moorcock's The War Hound and the World's Pain (1981) – the Mittelmark borderland featured here boasting a succession of intersections – Diana Wynne Jones's Fire and Hemlock (1984), Emma Bull's War for the Oaks (1987) and many other Urban Fantasies in which Faerie and the City jostle for Lebensraum, Raymond E Feist's Faerie Tale (1988), Tanith Lee's Secret Books of Paradys, Mercedes Lackey's Bedlam's Bard, Gene Wolfe's Castleview (1990), A A Attanasio's The Moon's Wife: A Hystery (1993), C J Cherryh's Faery in Shadow (1993 UK), Lisa Goldstein's Strange Devices of the Sun and Moon (1993), Midori Snyder's The Flight of Michael McBride (1994) and Sean Stewart's Resurrection Man (1995). Movies featuring Toons – like Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and Cool World (1992) – also shuttlecock through crosshatch venues. [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.