This feeling is upon me because I am contemplating two lovely hardback volumes sitting on the shelf together. The one on the left is a Subterranean Press collected edition of Barry Hughart's The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox; the one on the right is John Whitbourn's The Complete Binscombe Tales.
The first is a compendium of alarming novels about a China that never was; the second is a compendium of alarming short stories about an England that could very well be. Both overturn their respective myths with a good shot of common sense and a better shot of humour. Yet both are wildly fantastic.
How else to explain the continued survival of the evil Duke of Chin and assorted awful throwbacks to a distant and possibly imaginary suppressed Chinese past? How else to explain the horrified realisation that the return of Arthur would spell the doom of modern England — the Anglo-Saxons of the day being of course his worst enemies? And so it goes.
But what these two books really have in common is that they cater to the yearning in all of us for pasts that never were but could have been. Humans can't help but wonder about such things.