A Fae Moon Rising

Fairy – "Take the Fair Face of Woman&quot...

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As the vampire’s bite begins to dull, the fair folk ready their advance

On a cold December night in Ann Arbor, Bonnie Fox, Jordy Albert, eight other women, and one lone male sit clustered around a very strange object in an Irish pub. As the waitresses and busboys walk past the table, they give the group strange looks and ask them what that thing is. After explaining that it’s a MacHalo and what it does, Fox convinces one waitress to put it on. It gets passed around and around, as other waitresses try the MacHalo on.

“MACHALO: (mac-hay-lo) for the ultimate in Shade protection, take one hot pink bike helmet, secure blazing LED lights to the surface, strap on, and kick Fae ass!” writes author Karen Marie Moning about her fictional invention for her Fever series.

But then the MacHalo jumped out of the series in 2008, when Moning created a real-life prototype. Her fans demanded to see it, touch it, wear it.

The MacHalo World tour sprang to life in January 2009. Every month, “Moning Maniacs” flock to see the nine pound helmet that protects against Shades, a type of incorporeal monster that thrives in darkness and feasts on human flesh. And when the MacHalo makes its way to their area, the Maniacs meet up for a night of mayhem.

The Fever series stars MacKayla Lane and her new life in Dublin. She moves to Ireland from Ashford, Georgia, to investigate the mysterious death of her older sister. When she arrives, Mac discovers that the city is infested with Sidhe (another word for Fae or faeries), and that her sister had gotten tangled up in a war between the Seelie (the Light court) and the Unseelie (the Dark court). Only a few, including Mac and her sister, have the ability to see through their “glamours”, to the monsters or gods that live beneath the surface.

Moning’s novels represent the increasing presence of the Fae in the urban fantasy genre. As vampires suck their last necks, werewolves howl their last goodbye, and zombies run out of fresh meat, the Fae have arrived to fill the supernatural void.

Fairy, faery, faerie, fay, fae, wee folk, good folk, people of peace, fair folk, Sidhe, Seelie, Unseelie, aos sí… Whatever word comes up they all stand for the same people. The fae are a race of mythological, supernatural beings. Most appear human, but are often exceptionally beautiful. The sparkly wings did not play a role in the original folk lore, most of which descend from Irish, Scottish, German, and Celtic myths. So think Galadriel and Legolas, not Tinker Bell and the Tooth Fairy.

“I’ve been trying to explain them as a race,” Fox says. “Like the term alien. You have aliens like in the movie Alien, aliens like the little green men, and lots of other kinds. It’s not just one, specific kind of alien, but a word that describes a range of beings.”

According to Amazon.com, about 50 fantasy books came out in 2009 that deal with the fae. Of the 2,722 books that Amazon users have tagged as urban fantasy (think True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Charmed), 138 of those books also deal with the fair folk. While this doesn’t quite compare with the over 900 urban fantasy books about vampires, this subject has a growing interest in the underground community. “The increase in the fae and their popularity is not quite common knowledge yet,” says Fox. “But people are getting more and more excited about them.”

And, since the fae defy definition, authors have a much greater freedom in creating original characters. Bestselling urban fantasy author Richelle Mead takes the fae to another world. In this series, Eugenie Markham works as a shaman, or a fae/demon exorcist, and travels between the Human world, the Underworld, and the Otherworld. Because of the extremely low birthrates in Gentry females (a.k.a fae), the males often cross over to the Human world to abduct or seduce human women, until Eugenie steps in and sends the trespassers forcefully back to the Otherworld. But then she realizes she may be less human than she originally thought. Mead explores the humanity of the fae through Eugenie’s discovery of her own Gentry heritage. In these novels, the Gentry live in the Otherworld, with varying degrees of power and elemental affinity.

Patricia Briggs takes a different approach in her award-winning “Mercy Thompson” series. Mechanic by profession and skinwalker from birth, Mercy won’t take crap from anybody, or anything. Her straightforward attitude makes her a refreshing and humorous character, and her unique supernatural powers (she turns into a coyote at will, and without pain) help her survive in a world where vampires, werewolves, witches, and fae battle against human discrimination and fear. The main storyline of Iron Kissed, the third book in the series and a #1 New York Times bestseller, focuses on the fae. In Briggs’ novel, the fae are the real-life characters from mythical folktales. Mercy’s friend Zee, for example, is the living Dark Smith of Drontheim, a character from Norwegian lore that could create a sword strong enough to cut through any material. 50 Canon Entertainment, the production company run by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’s director Mike Newell, bought the film rights for this series in October 2008, and hopes to turn these bestselling books into a blockbuster film franchise.

But Briggs’ fans aren’t the only ones rooting for a good film adaptation of their favorite series. Twentieth Century Fox/New Regency Productions optioned the rights to the Fever series. “I try not to get too excited about it,” says Jordy Albert, a Moning Maniac. “I’m torn. It will be cool to see Mac’s world brought to life, but I want the way Karen writes to be translated well to film. If Karen is okay with the end result, I’ll be happy.” The writing process won’t begin until Moning finishes the fifth, and last, Fever book in 2010.

Until then, Moning’s fans will continue to take their devotion to new extremes. In October 2009, Leiha Mann, Moning’s personal assistant, brought the ZLo on a Mexican cruise. Jericho Barrons creates this black fae-fighting helmet in imitation of the MacHalo. Barrons alternates between villain and hero, but always maintains a mysterious, bad-ass persona. And fans think he’s yummy. Mann meets up with a few other Maniacs for the cruise, and they walk the halls wearing the ZLo, despite strange looks from their fellow passengers. The group decides to go to an art auction, since free champagne would be involved, and bring the ZLo with them. They stroll around the room, filled with works of art by Chagall, Rembrandt, Picasso, and Dali, and snap a few photos. The buying begins. Throughout the auction, the staff gives away gifts to the patrons with the most enthusiasm. Maniacs know all about enthusiasm. They turn the ZLo’s lights on, Mann’s friend Su puts the fae-fighting helmet atop her head, stands up, and then begins to jump up and down. She wins…a root-beer flavored, gavel lollipop. “Thanks to the ZLo, I met and talked to people I wouldn’t have necessarily have met otherwise. Another awesome adventure,” writes Mann on her MacHalo World Tour blog.

A number of other movies about the fae are set to come out in the next two years as well, including a couple teen-friendly fae movies. In July 2009, Disney announced that Miley Cyrus would star in a film adaptation of Aprilynne Pike’s Wings.  This novel features 15-year-old Laurel (Miley Cyrus) and her journey from normal high-school student to human-sized fairy. The novel has often been compared to Stephanie Myers’ Twilight series, and Pike can only hope her movie creates as big a stir, and brings in as much money.

A darker young adult novel set to be turned into a film is Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely. This novel, the first of a currently three-book series published by Harper Collins, follows 17-year-old Aislinn. She can see faeries, but her grandma spent her life teaching her how to hide this ability. Faeries dislike when mortals see them, and they bring danger and trouble to those that do. But then the Summer King takes human form, enrolls in her high school, and tries to become her friend. He is unaware that she can see his true form, but he has searched for his queen for nine centuries, and is determined to make her his wife. His mother, the Winter Queen, will lose her crown if her son marries Aislinn, and will do anything in her immense power to keep them apart. Marr sold the rights of her best-selling novel to Universal Pictures and “Edward Scissorhands” writer Caroline Thompson will write the screenplay.

HBO’s True Blood will also receive a fae makeover. The presence of fae has already been hinted at in the second season, but only people who have read Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries can tell. The faeries make their first appearance in the fourth book, Dead to the World, and if the TV series retains its ever-increasing fan base, viewers should start to see a fae influence in 2011. In this series, the fae appear as extremely beautiful humans, with pointed ears and silken skin. They generally stay out of earthly affairs, instead choosing to reside in the fey world. But mind-reading protagonist Sookie Stackhouse has an unfortunate habit of attracting supernatural attention, and the fae won’t be an exception. The third season starts in June 2010.

Urban fantasy readers would prefer Hollywood to move away from vampires. They still love them, but feel the undead have been done to death. “As far as I can tell, many authors are starting to move past vampires and werewolves and into fresher ground,” writes Elyll, a moderator on the Patricia Briggs official forum. “Like Druids, fae of all sorts, pucks, tricksters, and Norse and Aztec gods. I read a book where the main character is a Hound of the Wild Hunt.”

And while many people may think that faeries sound pretty lame and really weak, in nearly all of the series in which the fae have a role, they represent the most powerful, secretive, and unpredictable of the supernatnaturals. Nobody messes with them. “They’re faeries, but they’re not Tinker Bell,” says Albert. Their power has created a very powerful devotion in the Moning Maniacs.

Fox organized the Anne Arbor stop of the MacHalo World tour. Thinking that a few girls from Michigan would show up to see the MacHalo and meet Phil Gigante (the audiobook reader for the Fever series), she picked Anne Arbor as a central point in the state. It ended up being a bigger deal than she thought. “For my gathering, a girl flew in from Pennsylvania, a woman drove from Ohio, and another drove from Missouri. And all because the MacHalo and Phil were going to be there,” she says. “The woman who drove from Missouri actually spent for time driving than she spent in Michigan.”

Fox, Albert, audio book narrator Gigante, and the other women (everywhere from a 19-year-old college student, to a 40-something-year-old lawyer) spent the weekend traipsing around the city, with the MacHalo in tow. When it got too cold, they headed back Gigante’s hotel room. Unfortunately, the heater in their room spewed out cold air. So Fox calls down to the front desk and tells the man on duty their problem. He makes his way up to the suite, armed with blankets. He stops when he sees the MacHalo lying, in all its hot pink glory, on a bed.

“What is that?” he asks. The group explains to him where it comes from, and what it does. By this point in the trip, they have their explanation memorized.

“Well, since you asked, you have to try it on now,” says Albert. He agrees, with no hesitation. He reaches down, picks up the surprisingly heavy helmet, puts it atop his head, and turns on the lights. He is ready to kick some fae ass.

And Albert plans to continue following this ass-kicking device around the country, and even the world. Since the tour started in 2009, she has been to Atlanta, Cincinatti, New York, and Anne Arbor, and has met over 200 other Moning Maniacs. “I just want to follow the MacHalo around and get to meet as many of the maniacs as I can,” she says.

The MacHalo will make an apperance in Chicago, Austin, and Houston in early 2010, but after that there’s no telling where in the world it’ll show up next.

 

*Warning: this story is about a year old. I wrote it as my final project in Magazine Writing my senior year of college.*

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