How Ya Gonna Keep ‘em Down on the Farm Once They’ve Seen Paree?
Written by Phillipa Bornikova
The lyrics to that old World War I song gave me the idea for a plot point in Box Office Poison, the next installment of my urban fantasy series. My universe has the usual mix of vampires, werewolves, and elves (or, as I call them, Álfar, which is a fun Icelandic word for elves).
This book focuses on the Álfar and their involvement in human society, primarily in the entertainment industry. Seriously, if beautiful elves were real there is no chance that Hollywood and the music industry wouldn’t embrace them. So I postulated a steady stream of Álfar leaving Fey and deciding to live full time in the human world. Many of them choose to marry humans despite our short lifespans because humans tend to live with such passion because of those brief years we are granted.
Legends, fairy tales, and fiction are filled with tales of the dangers and lure of the elven world. When young people sickened it was thought to be because they had joined the sidhe in their revels and danced until they wasted away. Infants were in danger of being stolen by elves, with a changeling left in place of the human child. Which was probably comforting to parents when they were having a particularly bad time with a child throwing a tantrum or a teenager being well… a teenager. I can just hear a frustrated and distracted couple telling each other — “Not our fault, she’s clearly a changeling.”
Often life among the elves was presented as pastoral and idyllic, filled with music and balls and hunts. There was food whose flavor surpassed all human eatables. But all I could think was no toilets — chamber pots, no electricity — candles and fireplaces, no antibiotics, hand written messages delivered by couriers…and that’s when it struck me —
The modern human world would probably be as alluring to the elves as fairyland was to humans. Once my Álfar crossed over into our world they could live in a house with modern conveniences, they could drive fast sports cars or ride in limousines. No longer would there be the tedium of tacking up a horse to ride or to pull your carriage. There are cell phones and computers, instant entertainment on your television, IPad, laptop, or phone. No more negotiating with mummers or musicians over how long they would play or perform and how much you had to pay them.
I decided that the real magic wasn’t in fairyland. It was right here in the first world and it would have a profound impact on Álfar culture. Which might make some elves very unhappy.
From the Tor/Forge August 5th newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
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