Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Secret Masters

A potent attraction of Fantasies of History is that they depict the seeming chaos of events as purposeful, often reflecting the guiding will of SMs. Typical "historical" choices of SM include: the Illuminati; the Knights Templar, whose assumed omnipresent influence pervades Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum (1988); followers of Rosicrucianism; the German Vehmgericht or Holy Vehme, as in John Whitbourn's Popes and Phantoms (1993); and Freemasons, like the decaying Masonic splinter-orders guarding Portals to the Universe-spanning Labyrinth in Avram Davidson's Masters of the Maze (1965). Although the SM concept is essentially paranoid, many examples are benevolent: the company of Logres in C S Lewis's That Hideous Strength (1945), the Old Ones of Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising quintet, and the Ring of Witches in Diana Wynne Jones's A Sudden Wild Magic (1992). History may be seen as a by-product of conflicts between rival SMs, like the four animal-coded groups in R A Lafferty's Fourth Mansions (1969). Further examples include: the Noisy Bridge Rod and Gun Club which controls the USA in John Crowley's Little, Big (1981); the History Monks keeping Discworld events on course in Terry Pratchett's Small Gods (1992); and, according to a conspiracy theorist in some of Tom Holt's comic fantasies, the British Milk Marketing Board. [DRL]

see also: Pariah Elite; Secret Guardians; Wainscot.

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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.