Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Secret Sharer

A phrase adopted from "The Secret Sharer" (1910 Harper's Magazine) by Joseph Conrad to describe that Plot Device where a character is either a split personality or has some other secret Invisible Companion (>>> Doppelgänger; Doubles; Identity Exchange; Shadow). Some examples, such as that of Joan of Arc (1412-1431), who heard "voices", may be regarded as either divine intervention or Possession. Other cases – e.g., that of Bridie Murphy – may be seen as Multiple Personalities or Reincarnations. The device is often used in stories featuring Children who have an invisible playmate, of which Drop Dead Fred (1991) is an extreme example. The device can be used for humour, as in Harvey (1950), but is more often either sinister, as in "Cellmate" (1947 WT) by Theodore Sturgeon, where a man is imprisoned with an unseen Siamese twin (> Twins), or sympathetic, as in Kehinde (1994) by Buchi Emecheta (1944-    ), where the protagonist communes with the spirit of her stillborn twin sister, or "The Drawing Lesson" (1987) by Silvina Ocampo (> Adolfo Bioy Casares), where the protagonist discusses her life with her younger self. The term was borrowed by Robert Silverberg for his sf novel The Secret Sharer (1988), in which a starship captain is possessed by a Spirit. Dolls may become tangible projections of an SS, particularly in stories of Ventriloquism. [MA]

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.