Our Beautiful Dark Fantasy

Faeries, elves and unicorns, at once my least favorite fantastical tropes and the inspiration for some of the best books, movies and costumes I can think of. The anti-girly tomboy in me wants to roll her eyes at the gossamer wings and sparkly unicorn horns that are the clichés of the genre, but ultimately can’t deny the appeal.

One step up from the Pretty Pretty Princess trope, the Fairy Princess at least has the excuse of being properly fantastical and with at least a hint of danger. Fairies and Elves are otherworldly after all, and like Angels were quite a bit less twee and cuddly before the Victorians got a hold of them, when the nights were longer and the woods reached closer to the front door than they do today.

The fascination with what are essentially terrestrial species of aliens, native to our own world but just as alien as anything Arthur C. Clarke ever wrote about is as comforting in it’s own way as religion or the fervent belief in extraterrestrial life, the idea that we are not alone and the universe is far larger and stranger than our mundane existence can encompass. So, pastel wings or not, I have to admit that I too feel the allure of the fantastical.

And to be fair, once you scratch the surface the world of fantasy costuming is as big and diverse as any other. The clichés are there of course, where furs have the jeans-and-tail and anime have the Naruto-headband, the faerie crowd have the hastily-constructed wings and reliance on glitter.

But it turns out there is a whole world of events dedicated to Faeries and Fantasy, parallel but only sometimes intersecting with the fannish circles I generally move in; Faerie Worlds, Faerie Con, Mythic Faire, Labyrinth of Jareth, Avalon Faerie Ball and myriad others all over the US and UK. And some of them attract thousands of attendees. Beyond that there are faerie magazines, websites, a whole subgenre of music and who knows what else. So I guess it should come as no surprise that there are also costumers of every level and people doing all sorts of creative things not just with wings and flowy gowns but cosmetics, wigs, prosthetics and all sorts of fun stuff. Honestly, after looking at some of the even photos I’m now rather looking forward to making it to one of these shindigs. Well, one of the nighttime indoor ones, anyway.

And, full disclosure-although it honestly didn’t even occur to me as we put together this issue I’m working on a fantasy themed event of my own, in the form of the Two Moons Inn party at Worldcon later this month. The party is in honor of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and takes place in the magical real of Fillory; there should be all manner of fantastical folk and my specific costume is The Watcherwoman a veiled character all in grey. While she doesn’t have wings, she is decidedly a magical persona so once again I have costumed myself into an unexpected place and found my assumptions not quite as correct as I had previously though. Perhaps Fairy Princesses aren’t so bad after all.

~España Sheriff

Volume 3, Issue 8 August, 2011