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Entry updated 10 July 2023. Tagged: Theme.

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According to Brian Stableford, a term apparently first used in a sense relevant to the study of the literatures of the fantastic by Alexander Baumgarten (1714-1762), to distinguish between the primary universe created by God and the secondary universes created by mortals. Any difference between the two – difference being understood as inevitable – could be described as heterocosmic; and every work of imagination was therefore a heterocosm. More usefully, Stableford prefers to apply the term, for which the Oxford English Dictionary fails to supply a definition, to the sustained and deliberate creation of worlds of the fantastic, where the delineating of heterocosm is a central accomplishment rather than a consequence of mortal frailty. The challenge and stress involved in such exposed acts of the imagination is central, in Stableford's view, to any understanding of works of the fantastic up to (at the very least) the beginning of the nineteenth century (see Proto SF), by which time writers and readers were becoming significantly more accustomed to heterocosmic transgressions of God's world. As this encyclopedia's emphasis is mainly focused on work since 1800, the term is infrequently used here, without any intentional impugning of its more liberal use by others. The term has also been used by (chiefly non-genre) critics to describe the concept of an isolated, artificial universe, as discussed in this encyclopedia's entry Pocket Universe. [JC]

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