It occurred to me a couple of days ago that should a young adult who had previously appeared mostly normal turn around to me and inform me that they were a fairy / vampire / werewolf / other supernatural creature, I’d probably just roll with it. Sure, so I might suspect they read too much YA, but if they had any sort of proof (oddly coloured or glowing eyes, weird moving tattoos, fangs, or a series of absences on full moon), I basically wouldn’t freak out.
We’ve generally accepted that the way to deal with a magical creature suddenly appearing is either, “But that’s impossible, they don’t exist!” or, “You mean you’re real?” In other words, either you deny it, or you panic and then accept that the world is odder than you thought it might be.
Now, contrary to popular belief regarding my friends, I’ve never actually been in this situation. I mean, some of those I’ve met online have turned out to be a completely different age or gender to how I initially envisioned them—fun fact, I initially believed Charley to be a boy and it was at least a month before I discovered my mistake—but generally, they seem to be human.
And even the people you meet and consider to be inhumanly attractive always turn out to have a heartbeat, a soul, and a distinct lack of magical powers. I mean, as far as that’s concerned, my life’s been ordinary. Boring, even.
But by this age I’ve read so many YA books in which people turn out to be otherworldly beasties, and written a bunch of them myself, and I genuinely believe that I probably wouldn’t be that surprised.
Why are humans so fascinated by magic? Some people think it’s just because we never used to be able to explain phenomena through science, and in this day and age we’re more enlightened so assume that all of that hocus-pocus is nonsense. Yet what if there’s an older root to it? What if long ago in humanity’s past, magic was everywhere and supernatural beasties walked the streets, and as time moved on and they died out or went into hiding, we fictionalised them?
I don’t believe that. For a start, it kind of contradicts my faith. But if somebody turned up with the power to convince me of it, I think I’d take one look at their glowing eyes (or wings) and nod. “Okay,” I’d say. “You’re a fairy. So when is the Dagda coming to kill me?”
(Because you must understand that in my writing, that’s one of the few reasons you’ll have a visit from the fairy world if you’re human. And generally the fairy visiting you is the advance assassin. So you probably won’t survive to the point of actually having any other contact with the other world but hey, at least your horizons are expanded before you die, right?)
But even while I am more than prepared to accept that there is way more in this world than just what we see—the idea that this is all there is and humanity is alone depresses me—it did also occur to me that most people would probably have the opposite reaction. A hundred years ago, a so-called “vampire” or “fairy” would inspire widespread panic and belief. These days, we have so many books and films that deal with the possibility of the supernatural being all around us that we’d turn around and say, “All right, mate. I think you’ve been reading too much fiction, haven’t you?”
And then they’d be sent to a mental hospital. Even if they turned out to be genuine, most people would think it was some kind of genetic modification and would keep them in labs for testing, believing that they were just an altered human.
Maybe, apart from a few oddballs like myself, the world has become more cynical. Maybe they’re so used to these things in fiction that they would never believe them if they turned up in real life.
I think it’s similar to other ideas like “love at first sight”. It’s so overdone these days, with instalove (or instalust) dominating rom coms and romance novels, so we don’t believe it exists. Most of my generation are incredibly cynical about relationships, except for those who still maintain a childlike and naive idea of Prince Charming.
But see—I judged them there, did you notice? I called them naive, which is as good as stating that I’m as cynical as the rest. Perhaps more. I’m always a mood-killer on St Valentine’s Day.
I often think about what it’d be like to have a fairy turn up on my doorstep. If they were anything like my creations, I’d be mildly terrified, but also fascinated. I don’t know what they’d make of me: amazed by my knowledge, perhaps, or threatened, in which case it’s probably night-night for Miriam.
I do believe, though, that if they could show me a shred of evidence for their magical powers, if they had wings or something, I would accept their story. There is so much to this world and we will never know all of it, so why do we rule things out?
Maybe it is more ‘realistic’ for a teenager in a novel to freak out and have a complete crisis of faith, especially if they live in an alternate world where current fiction trends don’t exist. But I’m pretty sure most of my friends, who grew up reading paranormal romance and urban fantasy, would actually take the news better than the supernatural entity in question would have expected.
What do you think? Has fiction made us more or less likely to accept the existence of paranormal and supernatural creatures?
My favourite urban fantasy novels, for those who are interested:
Tithe by Holly Black and Lament and Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater.
These books were basically the reason I started writing about creepy-ass fairies in modern, urban settings.