Five Non-Fiction Books About Fairies in the Real World

Lots of novels, including my Tufa series, deal with fairies. The first stories we hear are usually fairy tales of some sort, whether involving actual fairies or merely set in a world where they’re possible. But fairies aren’t just relegated to fiction; in many places their reality is accepted just like guitars and the internet. These aren’t small chaste creatures flitting between flowers, either: true fairies are often large, warlike, and terrifying. And even when they are small, it’s best to treat them as if they could still kick your ass, which is why they get referred to by euphemisms such as the Good People or (my favorite) the Other Crowd.

As a writer who enjoys diving down research rabbit holes, I’ve read many books about real fairies. Here are five of my favorites.

The earliest major work to describe real encounters with the fairy folk was probably The Secret ...

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Intellect vs Emotion, or, Why I Love 2010 More Than 2001: A Space Odyssey

Everyone agrees that Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is a classic. But I’m here to praise the underrated, even abused sequel, Peter Hyams’ 2010.

There are similarities, of course, as you’d expect from an original and its sequel. The special effects in both films are spectacular, and fairly well grounded in the science of the time. The relevant designs of 2001 are accurately replicated in 2010, so that if you watch them back to back, the continuity is pretty seamless. Both begin in the past, and end with moments of transcendence.

But the tonal difference is total.

In many ways, 2010 is the total antithesis of Kubrick, and I think that accounts for part of its less-than-stellar (no pun intended) critical reputation. Kubrick’s film is all intellect, a cold and sterile depiction of Man (as opposed to a man) journeying into the future with the help of discreet alien ...

Finding the Perfect Monster for Your Fantasy Novel

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I wanted the fifth Tufa novel, Gather Her Round, to be a monster story.

Writing a series is a balancing act between giving your readers what they want, and giving them something new. We’ve all read those series that have gone on too long, and we can tell the authors are just going through the motions. I try very hard not to do that.

With every book in the series, I try to introduce a new broad concept that I haven’t used before. It can be as simple as changing the point of view, as in Chapel of Ease, which was written in first person. It can be as complicated as deciding to spend the first two-thirds of the story following the antagonist around instead of the hero, as in Long Black Curl. So for Gather Her Round, after writing about human monsters, I wanted to have a real monster. ...

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Five Books About the Other Crowd

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Lots of novels, including my Tufa series, deal with fairies. The first stories we hear are usually fairy tales of some sort, whether involving actual fairies or merely set in a world where they’re possible. But fairies aren’t just relegated to fiction; in many places their reality is accepted just like guitars and the internet. These aren’t small chaste creatures flitting between flowers, either: true fairies are often large, warlike, and terrifying. And even when they are small, it’s best to treat them as if they could still kick your ass, which is why they get referred to by euphemisms such as the Good People or (my favorite) the Other Crowd.

As a writer who enjoys diving down research rabbit holes, I’ve read many books about real fairies. Here are five of my favorites.

The earliest major work to describe real encounters with the fairy folk was probably The Secret ...

5-fairy-books
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Gather Her Round

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< p class="frontmatter">Love and tragedy are not strange bedfellows among the Tufa. Young Kera Rogers disappears while hiking in the woods by Needsville. When her half-eaten remains are discovered, the blame falls upon a herd of wild hogs, a serious threat in this rural community. In response, the county’s best trackers, including game warden Jack Cates and ex-military Tufa Bronwyn Chess are assembled to hunt them down.

Kara’s boyfriend Duncan Gowen mourns her death, until he finds evidence she cheated on him with his best friend, Adam Procure. Seeking revenge, Duncan entices Adam to participate in their own boar hunt. Later, Bronwyn and Jack stumble across a devastated Duncan, who claims a giant boar impaled Adam and dragged him off. As this second death rocks the town, people begin to wonder who is really responsible.

Determined hunters pursue the ravenous horde through the Appalachians as other Tufa seek their own answers. Between ...

Grow up to Dream Again: Reading Every Heart a Doorway as a Parent

every-heart-top In Seanan McGuire’s brilliant (and now award-winning) short novel Every Heart a Doorway, teens who’d once escaped reality to various fairytale realms find themselves back in our world, attending a special boarding school to help them re-acclimate to “reality.” They’re all desperate to return to those places where they felt accepted for who and what they were, and one of them wants this badly enough to kill. In structure the story is a murder mystery, but in intent it’s about the way many of us simply don’t feel like we belong in this world. We wish for a doorway, or a portal, or a wardrobe, to take us to another place, where all the things that make us different are normal. McGuire, who can pretty much write anything she puts her cursor to, does a great job conveying the kids’ pain, which of course speaks to the inner ...
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Grow up to Dream Again: Reading Every Heart a Doorway as a Parent

every-heart-top In Seanan McGuire’s brilliant (and now award-winning) short novel Every Heart a Doorway, teens who’d once escaped reality to various fairytale realms find themselves back in our world, attending a special boarding school to help them re-acclimate to “reality.” They’re all desperate to return to those places where they felt accepted for who and what they were, and one of them wants this badly enough to kill. In structure the story is a murder mystery, but in intent it’s about the way many of us simply don’t feel like we belong in this world. We wish for a doorway, or a portal, or a wardrobe, to take us to another place, where all the things that make us different are normal. McGuire, who can pretty much write anything she puts her cursor to, does a great job conveying the kids’ pain, which of course speaks to the inner ...
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The Exorcist III: Legion—William Peter Blatty’s Long-Awaited Director’s Cut

The Exorcist III director's cut Home video has brought about some great restorations of horror films previously available only in incomplete or mangled forms: the uncut version of The Wicker Man; the director’s cut of Guillermo del Toro’s first American film, Mimic; and even 1931’s Frankenstein, which had a supposedly blasphemous line of dialogue restored. But the one on my cinematic bucket list has always been William Peter Blatty’s original version of The Exorcist III. The Exorcist series (which includes either four films or seven, depending on how you count) has been rich in competing cuts and suppressed versions. The original film’s theatrical cut is right up there with The Godfather and Citizen Kane as being pretty much perfect; Roger Ebert even used to teach a shot-by-shot breakdown of it. And yet, screenwriter and producer Blatty always felt that the original version didn’t quite capture his vision. So in 2000, he and director William Friedkin put ...
Brad Dourif in the original version of the film; this is the best quality footage of these scenes available.
The second freakiest moment in the film.
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Three Perfect Moments in Star Trek III

trek3-saavikcrew Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, as an odd-numbered franchise entry, is often cited as proof of the “even=good, odd=bad” pattern. Certainly it’s the first film in the series made primarily for a specific marketing reason (“We have to get Nimoy back! It doesn’t matter if Spock’s dead!”). It’s a movie that has neither a real beginning or ending. But, given those caveats, I maintain that the film is still a surprising and powerful experience. There will be spoilers. I had the pleasure of seeing it on its original run, when we didn’t know there would be Trek movies 4-13, let alone four new TV series. For all we did know, this would be the final Trek movie ever. It certainly drew some hard lines: Kirk and his command crew abandoning their Starfleet careers, David Marcus dying, and the destruction of the Enterprise itself. Unlike most current movie series, ...
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Reframing Fantasy Tropes: The Startling Originality of Last Song Before Night

Last Song Before Night epic songs archetypes characters Ilana C. Myer An interesting perk of being published is that you get requests to do blurbs for upcoming books. The catch is, you’re usually asked because the new book in some way resembles what you’ve written. The two dangers of this are (a) this book is so much worse than mine, I’ll lose all credibility if I say something good, or (b) this is so good I may never write again. When I was asked to blurb Ilana Myer’s Last Song Before Night, it was clear why: it’s a fantasy that revolves around music, just as my Tufa novels do. It’s been done before (most influentially in Emma Bulls War for the Oaks, which invented urban fantasy), but it’s still a fairly unexploited subgenre compared to, say, dragons or vampires. When I started reading Last Song, though, I quickly grasped that this was actually nothing like my work. It’s ...
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The Key to the Coward’s Spell

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< p class="frontmatter">Nursing an injured arm while on the job searching for a missing kid is bad enough for sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse. But when he discovers a smuggling ring rumored to be protected by powerful magic, he seeks out old friends and new to lend a hand. A tale set in Alex Bledsoe’s popular medieval noir world.

Please be warned that this story deals with difficult content and themes involving children.

  “That’s it,” Jane Argo insisted. As always, her girlish voice contrasted with her height, her broad shoulders, and her aggressively strong but no less feminine physique. She was a woman and a half, no matter how you sliced her. And if you tried to slice her, you better not miss, because she would most definitely slice you back. Which is exactly why I brought her with me. The building she indicated was almost aggressively nondescript. In the darkness, squeezed ...

Chapel of Ease

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< p class="frontmatter">When Matt Johanssen, a young New York actor, auditions for “Chapel of Ease,” an off-Broadway musical, he is instantly charmed by Ray Parrish, the show’s writer and composer. They soon become friends; Matt learns that Ray’s people call themselves the Tufa and that the musical is based on the history of his isolated home town. But there is one question in the show’s script that Ray refuses to answer: what is buried in the ruins of the chapel of ease?

As opening night approaches, strange things begin to happen. A dreadlocked girl follows Ray and spies on him. At the press preview, a strange Tufa woman warns him to stop the show. Then, as the rave reviews arrive, Ray dies in his sleep. Matt and the cast are distraught, but there’s no question of shutting down: the run quickly sells out. They postpone opening night for a week and Matt ...

Midsummer’s Music and Magic

Oberon, Titania, and Puck with Fairies Dancing William Blake

“We danced all night to a soul fairy band.”

—Bruce Springsteen, “Spirit in the Night”

When Shakespeare wrote about fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he didn’t just imagine a lone sprite wreaking havoc, or a handful of meddlesome goblins. He created a whole fae society, with a king and queen, politics, and an ongoing disagreement between the rulers. Their interaction with humanity was a combination of enchantments, mistakes, and frantic attempts to put things right.

He also indirectly gave them music.

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