Sunday, 3 January 2010

Looking at the Workings- Fey

A few posts back I mentioned the idea of picking things apart, seeing what they were there to do in stories, and working out what they could do. Since I'd like to make the next sequel as good as it possibly can be, I thought I'd have a crack at it with one or two of the more common elements of urban fantasy. For this one- the fey/sidhe/fairy folk/gentry/a dozen other names I can't be bothered with. At least with vampires all you have to put up with is the odd y and an occasional reference to them as nosferatu. So what are fey for? What do they do? What conventions add something, and which ones are just conventions?

  • Generally they're immortal, nearly invulnerable except for cold iron, strong, fast, and clever. From a UF point of view, it helps them keep up. But it's also about them being better than human, superior, and yet very vulnerable.
  • That vulnerability is intriguing, particularly where it expands to a weakness to everything modern. It reinforces the importance of humanity's inventiveness as a major strength, but also links the fey inextricably to a pre-industrial past. It also places them, in a very real sense, outside normal society.
  • There's usually an inability to lie coupled with a tendency to trickery, along with a hatred of being thanked. Both seem to reflect a focus on true essences- on the one hand, the subversion of the essence of the truth without actually lying, on the other, a dislike of empty forms of words.
  • I can't shake the feeling that they are in many ways more us than us. They are so often humans amplified, with larger passions, feelings and concerns, while still being more recognisably human than vampires, werewolves, and the rest. At the same time, there is invariably an alien element that marks them out essentially as personifications of ideas or aspects of nature.
Naturally, I'd be interested to hear any thoughts anyone else has on the subject, not least because there's at least one character I'm trying to pin down without quite managing it.

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