When I first watched Showcase’s series LOST GIRL, it sort of bothered me at first that the fae in it weren’t the traditional fae. For starters, the heroine is termed a succubus. To survive, she needs to have sex with someone and drain their life essence during sex. (That’s why the show is on basic cable!) Of course, traditional succubi are demons out of Christian folklore, not fairy folk.
For another example, in an early episode, she runs into a “fury,” who in the show is a sort of badass vengeance demon. Traditionally the Furies are not fae, but ancient goddesses out of Greek mythology. They pursue mortals for the unforgivable crime of kinslaying.
In fact there are very few traditional British Isles fae in LOST GIRL. Though the Seelie and Unseelie Courts exist (called “Light” and “Dark” fae), there are no selkies or hobgoblins. No kelpies, pixies, duergars, coblynaus, brownies or water horses. There are also no worldwide traditional fae: no Norns, no Yunwi Tsunsdi, no Anansi or Legba, no Baba Yaga. No Chinese dragons, no Washer at the Ford, no ogres, nixies, kachinas, manitous, Tunghat, Yaqui little people, Numuzh’ho, Pu’gwis, Inuas, gremlins, sluaghs, pookas or ifrits. (So far as I know, anyway; I’m a few weeks behind in my viewing.) As a fan of trad folklore, and a guy who developed a series and then a feature script involving traditional fae, I was kind of disappointed at first not to see redcaps, dybbuks or rakshasas.
But having pondered this lately, I am coming around to the opposite notion. I think LOST GIRL has it right after all. The fae exist within their stories. The traditional Irish and German fairy stories make sense within their Old World context. But a selkie needs a fisherman to steal her sealskin coat and make her marry him. A troll needs travelers to cross his bridge on foot so he can confront them.
The purist in me wants to bring the fae into the modern world unscathed, but that’s sort of backwards. If the fairies exist within their stories, then rather than trying to bring the old fae into modern stories, we need new fae that belong in modern stories. We need fairy stories that make sense in our moderns world ... and then we need to create fae to populate them. So LOST GIRL makes sense: in a sex-obsessed society we need a sex-driven fairy. She’s not a succubus in the traditional sense (a Christian demon that seduced me to steal their seed), but the traditional sense doesn’t really make sense in our world.
So I guess I’m resigning from the purist club after all...
Apparently, the old lady who swallowed a fly is no longer in danger of dying, because that would be scary to kids.
But some classic children's books are kind of alarming. Take GOODNIGHT MOON, which Jesse can't stand.
When you think about it, there is something disturbing about the pictures. Has anyone else noticed the following odd things in the child bunny's bedroom:
a. a fireplace b. a telephone c. an expensive clock d. a bookshelf full of hardbound books of various editions
Who puts a telephone in a child's bedroom? It would just wake him up. Who gives a child a room this large? With a fireplace? With burning logs? And two clocks?
There's another clue: the "quiet old lady ... whispering hush."
What I get out of this setup is that she is the child's grandmother. And she is putting up the child bunny in a bedroom meant for adults because those adults are not there.
The parents are not there. And the child is terrified of everything. "Goodnight nobody... goodnight noises everywhere."
The child bunny isn't just visiting. The room has been turned into a child's bedroom. There are now paintings of the cow jumping over the moon and the three little bears. There's a red balloon and a doll's house (with, curiously, the lights on inside.)
I don't think the parents are coming back.
And then, of course, there's the deeply abusive relationship in Shel Silverstein's THE GIVING TREE. Fortunately, Sassy Gay Friend has some dating advice for the tree:
I'll go with Neil Gaiman's BLUEBERRY GIRL, even if the language is far beyond kids. Jesse loves it.
Having finished Tim Powers' DECLARE: it's worth it. The book delivers on its mystery.
There's a fascinating epilog, too. The book creates a whole mythology around the British spy turncoat Kim Philby. It was interesting to read how Powers came up with the story. He was reading biographies of Philby, and kept running across events that suggested a much more interesting story hidden just behind what was written. Why did Philby weep for two days when his pet fox died -- when he had only wept so much for the death of his father? Why did a Saudi sheik give Philby, as a child, a twenty carat diamond? And what was the real meaning between Solomon's offer to split the baby in two?
Powers set himself a rule, as he constructed the story of DECLARE, to abide by all the historical facts, and only conjure up what was behind them.
If you happen to be in Fredericton, NB tonight, my short film, YOU ARE SO UNDEAD is playing at the midnight (well, 11:45 pm) screening of shorts -- "B Movies, Bad Behavior and Blood" at Tilley Hall on the UNB campus.
I'm reading Tim Powers' DECLARE, a strange fantasy novel about shifting alliances among spies in a world where supernatural entities exist. It's interesting to think about because it's generally hard to figure out what the hero wants. There's a love story. And he's a dedicated spy trying to infiltrate ... something ... but the story unfolds in back-and-forth time -- 1948, then 1963, then 1941, then 1945, then 1963 again. And it changes main characters halfway through. I don't know what the stakes are.The hero is a bit of cipher, as spies sometimes are. What am I rooting for?
In other words it bends all sorts of narrative rules and even arguably breaks some.
Somehow it gets away with it. I'm not sure why I keep reading it, but I do. Maybe because I want to find out what the supernatural powers are, and what exactly happened on Mount Ararat in 1948.
I want to get to the bottom of the mystery. That must be it.
I started Charles Stross's MERCHANT PRINCES series but got bored halfway through book one. I'm a big fan of his SF work, but this was cheesy fantasy. Not for lack of story elements. The heroine was clearly drawn. I knew what she wanted. I knew what danger she was in. There was an interesting parallel universe story going. But there was nothing mysterious about it; unlike in Roger Zelazny's AMBER series, by which the Merchant Princes series is loosely inspired. So I didn't care.
I tries to give THE CIRCLE CAST both: a coherent story, and a mystery. You may judge how well I did.