You mentioned that you wanted to know more about majors like engineering to get a feel for how the Fair Folk would interact with them. I have no idea if this is useful on that front, but, there’s a thing in Canada called The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer. There’s a ceremony when you graduate with your degree, with the ritual words all written out by a poet, and you swear to have humility and take responsibility in your work, and are given an iron ring to wear on the pinky finger of your dominant hand. The ring has flat facets, so it will scrape across a page as you write or draw, to remind you you are wearing it. Optionally, a ring can be passed down from a mentor to a student.
The practice was started after a catastrophic collapse of a railway bridge due to a failure of oversight - something the engineers should have noticed, but overlooked. At the heart of it is a promise and an understanding that the work an engineer does - as dry and technical and by-the-book as it sometimes seems - holds human lives in balance. It is the work of taking scientific discovery and carving it into something useful, building out of all these separate pieces the accomplishments that change the world. There is a rush to having that kind of power, to holding the scope of human accomplishment in your hands. But you have to be careful. To not promise more than you can safely deliver, or pay a price.
I think there is something there that would be very appealing to the fae, though also terrifying to them, as these are the people who build fire and iron into every part of the world and make it inhospitable to them. The parallel of temptation and fear is so strong that the text of the ceremony could be a pledge to avoid deals with the fae literally without changing a word: the first line of the pledge is “I, [name], in the presence of these my betters and my equals in my Calling, bind myself upon my Honour and Cold Iron, that … I will not henceforward suffer or pass… Bad Workmanship or Faulty Material in aught that concerns my works before mankind as an Engineer, or in my dealings with my own Soul before my Maker.”
A deal with the fae is nothing if not shoddy workmanship.
[a note - this is really mostly about structural and mechanical engineering. Skyscrapers and airplanes and bridges so long they have to bend to follow the curve of the Earth. Other kinds of engineering - electrical and chemical and bio and nanotech and so on - have different things going on.
And there is also the lightheartedness, the endless bureaucracy and contradictory regulations, the desperate light-night coffee-fueled fighting with a 3D printer that only squiggles out incomprehensible plastic monstrosities. There are the weird moments of the unreal hanging around daily life, like the way a layer of ordinary blue masking tape on the tray helps the 3D print go smoothly. Or the odd regulations in the safety codes that make you wonder if this system was even designed by humans. The person in the computer lab who untangles your desperate mess of a spreadsheet without even saying a full sentence to you. Or even the way so many experiments have to be run at night and underground - even if you know it’s because of background vibrations, it still feels a little bit magic.]
Thank you so much! This is exactly the kind of thing I meant - I had absolutely no idea and it would have been such a terrible missed opportunity to write anything about engineering without knowing things like this! (Also wow this is as much a love letter to engineering as canadianwheatpirates’s piece about statistics, and just as beautiful)
So - engineers are concerned above all else with the real, with the concrete and logical. There’s room in it for the fantastic, absolutely, for the beautiful, even; things that seem to defy what should be. But at the heart of it it’s iron and fire, like you said above - break it down, piece by piece, and you’ve got something constructed painstakingly from the bottom up by people aware of the weight this holds in every sense of the word. There’s no room in that for magic, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that magic has less than no value here.
(But of course, being drawn to the incomprehensible is not solely a human trait.)