The New Trend In Faeries

If, propelled by the expanding magical world on True Blood and the new adaptation of Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely (produced by, of all people, Vince Vaughn), faeries are about to become the next vampires, it’s worth considering that stories about the fey traditionally involve borders. And used intelligently, that’s really fertile territory for all sorts of questions of identity and citizenship.

The experience of faeries in the human world is an interesting reversal of the challenges faced by human immigrants in the U.S., particularly those who don’t come here through legal means: faeries are much more powerful than your standard-issue human of any nationality, giving them significant advantages in conflicts with authority, and they threaten to take people back over the border with them rather than worrying that they’ll be deported. And of course, the prospect of discovering you’re a changeling is a useful metaphor for grappling with all kinds of difference, whether sexual orientation, gender identity, Asperger syndrome (Michael Chabon’s Summerland does a nice job with this in particular), or broader cultural and political alienation from wherever you’re stuck.

I’d love to see someone do some work, whether it’s adaptive or original, along those lines. If people are looking for works to adapt, they might consider the Borderlands series, which I’ve always found interesting for reasons of process as well as content. The series is written collaboratively by a bunch of different authors, usually in short story collections, and they deal with what it would be like if you had a rough-and-tumble, Old-West-but-steampunk-and-magic city at the dividing line between the human and faery realms. The answer, apparently, is that you get fantastic bookstores and pizza, as well as a lot of class conflict. I’m especially fond of Will Shetterly’s two novels, Elsewhere and Nevernever, which deal beautifully with everything from suicide, to disability, to drug addiction, to the challenges of losing your virginity after a vengeful faerie turns you into a werewolf (turns out you get to sing in a band called Sargent Furry and His Howling Commandos, though, so there are compensations).

I’m worried, though, that this new trend (as well as the mini-boom in angels and fallen angels stories) will follow the path of much of the vampire culture of recent years: all surface, no substance. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves, the fact that given the opportunity to work with cool concepts, that people will forfeit the opportunity and get entranced by shiny fangs and glittery wings.