Monday, July 06, 2009

Is This Really a Pressing Issue?

I'm currently reading (well, listening to) Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, the 2005 Hugo winner by Susanna Clarke. It's about two magicians in early 19th-century England who aspire to return English magic to its rightful place in the world, and defeat Napoleon in the bargain. I'm not far enough into it to know how it turns out, but it's very cool so far. It's written in the style of a learned treatise on the two men (written by whom, I don't yet know), complete with footnotes explaining various terms, providing dates of the relevant people involved, and, in the spirit of a good law review, providing citations to various books on magic and magicians.

As you might imagine, part of the back story involves fairies and the interaction between them and humans. I'm afraid the verisimilitude of the novel has taken in some particularly susceptible folks (via PZ):

About 250 people came to the Methow Valley June 26 through 28 from as far away as Europe and Hawaii to participate in the ninth annual Fairy and Human Relations Congress, an outdoor festival in a secluded mountain meadow called Skalitude.

* * *

'The purpose of the congress is to encourage communication and cooperation of the fairy realm,' said Michael 'Skeeter' Pilarski, the event's founder and organizer.

The human world is in crisis and can use all the help it can get, Pilarski said, so why not form alliances with those in other realms?
Although I'm not quite halfway through the book, I wonder if alliances with the fairy realm is really that good of an idea? I mean, far be it for be to disagree with Skeeter, but if someone called The Raven King shows up, we're in deep fairy shit.

Ah, but Skeeter does stumble into a bit of truth, completely by accident:
Skeptics might mock the participants or dismiss them as New Age hippies, but they say their belief system is not much different from Native American animists or even Christians who believe in angels.

'We might call (fairies) angels of nature,' said Pilarski, an herb farmer and writer who also founded the annual Okanogan Family Barter Faire in nearby Tonasket.
You're right, Skeeter - they're not so different from angels and the like in that they're equally products of you imagination. Talk about damning with faint praise.

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