When magic starts to return to the modern world, barely anyone notices. It doesn’t look anything like what we imagine. People don’t suddenly start developing magic powers, casting spells, or turning into elves and dwarves. In fact, people don’t really change at all, not at first. It turns out that the magic isn’t even here for us. It’s here for what we’ve built.
The change is slow, and subtle, and strange, as the magic works its way into our institutions. You mail letters to dead relatives, and the post office starts delivering their replies. Late-night bus routes stop at places never seen on any atlas. Libraries suddenly include subterranean archives where you can look anything you’ve ever forgotten, from the names of your favorite childhood books to the precise flavor of your first-ever chocolate chip cookie.
The people working at these places take the changes in stride. The letters from the dead just show up every morning, sorted and stamped and ready for delivery, so why not carry them? Bus drivers follow the maps they’re given without trouble, and learn to accept even small gold coins as more than adequate fare. Electricians get used to seeing warding symbols in circuit diagrams, while clerks at the DMV find a stack of forms for registering ghostly steeds as personal vehicles, and sigh in relief at finally having that particular bureaucratic headache solved. The firefighters are shocked the first time they see a giant of living water burst out from a hydrant, but after it rescues several of them from a burning building, they decide not to ask questions. They tell their stories to others, though, and soon word of the changes is spreading.
There’s no single moment of realization where everyone discovers that magic is real; the knowledge just creeps into day to day life a bit at a time, and society adapts. Cyber-safety programs teach people to never accept a file from the electric fairies without sharing one in return, and to never accept their Terms and Conditions without searching for the subsection on Souls, Forfeiture Thereof. Students leave offerings of coffee and boxed wine to petition the School Spirit for lower tuition or exam deferrals. Nurses learn the hours when Death stalks the hospital hallways, and keep bedside vigils in the children’s ward. They bring board games and cards for when the reaper is feeling playful, and well-worn baseball bats for when he isn’t.
There are problems, of course, like the vicious monsters of blood and fire spawned from age-old hate groups, or infestations of the writing many-mouthed worms that literally feed on governmental corruption, but really, they were already there before the change. Magic only elaborates on what we’ve made, good or ill, manifesting the latent modern mythology underpinning our society. It doesn’t offer solutions to all of life’s problem, but for a few hurting people, guarded by the concrete arms of a neighborhood come to life to protect its community, or flying away on wings of copper wire and fiber-optic cable, it’s exactly the change they needed.
Okay if someone is heat intolerant and they’re really upset and miserable because they’re outside or without air conditioning when it’s really hot they’re not “having a fit” or being a baby. The heat is making them violently ill and putting them in danger. It’s a dangerous health concern and you’re a huge dick if you’re minimizing that and laughing at them.
I’ve talked about the Purity Disk Horse until I’m blue in the face, even knowing it’s futile, and sometimes I question why I care so much or why I put so much effort in or why it bothers me so immensely when someone is Wrong On The Internet, and I think it boils down to this.
Fiction does not exist to sanitize the human condition into digestible chunks of happiness and warm fuzzy feelings. Fiction exists to expose the human condition right down to its marrow, to peel back all the layers of niceity and civilization that we have built for ourselves so we can live comfortably in human company and get to the animal root of our nature. Fiction exists to be a release valve for the necessary repression of our darker instincts, our intrusive thoughts, the fantasies that horrify us or titillate us or sometimes do both at the same time. Fiction exists as the safe environment where the deep, festering parts of our soul are laid bare in a way that is sometimes terrifyingly intimate. Fiction exists to tell stories that are gruesome, disturbing, visceral – the stories that make you question your complacency in a society where these things really happen, to make you engage with your own human condition in a state of self-reflection and examination.
When our children encounter something new and scary that they don’t understand, when they find out about the dark horrors of the world and that the layer of candyfloss we coat things in when they’re younger is fabricated out of a desire not to see them hurt, we have a responsibility to make them engage with it. Avoiding the darkness will only make them fearful and ignorant. You must look the beast in the eye. You must say, “I know you, you live in my heart, I have seen you, and I cannot let you out in my reality, so I will let you out in my fantasy instead.”
The beast lives within all of us. Fiction is the way we tame it, and by taming it we learn how to fight the beasts that are let out into reality, the big ones that seem too massive to take on alone. Without the beast, without seeing it and knowing it and walking into its lair to learn what makes it tick, we never grow beyond the point in our lives when we truly believe that ignoring something horrible will make it go away.
Sometimes fiction can also be the balm that eases our spirit instead of the draught we take to purge the poison. Sometimes fiction can exist to give us hope, or to show us a world that really is coated with candyfloss, to give us a small amount of joy and an uplifting narrative in a place where it seems like the beast is all that rules. Those stories are also important, and are no less necessary to our human condition than the stories where we let the beast out to play. They cannot, however, be the only stories that exist. As long as the beast lives within us, we must let it feed, or it will feed on us instead.
What people say:
"My niece's nephew's grandson was attacked and mauled by a dog without warning!"
What people mean:
"I am ignorant of dog body language and uneducated on dog behavior and I don't know how to read a dog's stress signals to see the subtle warnings that a dog is getting uncomfortable and reaching its threshold and about to lash out aggressively."
“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded ua to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.” - Stephen Colbert
How on earth did you guys survive summers without air conditioning? Mine went out two days ago and I'm about five minutes away from giving myself an ice cube enema just to make it through the heat.
it wasnt fun, thats for sure. though i’ll admit i never quite got to the point where that sounded like a good idea.
mostly we acclimated–humans do this neat thing where our bodies can adapt to hot environments, but nowadays people just jump from air conditioned environment to air conditioned environment and dont build up that tolerance by staying in the heat. but back then, we just got used to it. that only goes so far though.
the summer of 1936 was a nasty one. i mean, horribly, terribly, melt your bones hot. nobody wanted to do anything, it was just so hot. the whole city just wanted to find a shady spot and lie still until the heatwave passed. people who had fire escapes off their apartments would sleep on them at night, so they wouldn’t have to be indoors, where it was even hotter and there was no moving air. neighborhoods broke open fire hydrants and cooled off that way–i once saw a man in a three piece business suit walk right into the spray from a hydrant, looking blissful as anything. some people carried umbrellas or parasols. people found bodies of water and got in them–rivers, ponds, public fountains, which was neither safe nor sanitary. places that sold cold drinks were packed, and vendors selling shaved ice on the streets sold out.
but the best thing was the pools. that summer, the WPA opened 11 enormous new public outdoor swimming pools across the city. back then, they were the peak of technology. four of them were in brooklyn, and stevie and i tried out all of them. it was the social site of the season, so i was in fine form.
it was great–stevie could swim pretty well, despite not having much muscle mass, and the chemicals didnt bother his asthma too much. whenever the two of us werent working, we were at one of those pools. really, it seemed like most of the city was in the water trying to cool off.
one thing we didn’t have? sunscreen. that wasn’t really around until the war. im a bit darker than steve, and even i was lobster red after the first few days. i made it work–red is my color.
stevie, though. steve was so red he could stop traffic.
→ Elizabeth I of Russia nursing Sophia Frederike back to health: “Her doctors failed to diagnose her illness and became alarmed by her condition, but the princess of Zerbst (Sophia’s mother) seemed unconcerned, when Sophia’s condition worsened, she refused to help the nurse who was attending her, lest the girl were suffering from smallpox (…). Sophia became so ill that a message was sent to inform the Empress of the princess’ condition. Without a moment of hesitation or a thought for her own health and appearance, the empress hastened back to Moscow. Her swiftest horses were harnessed to her carriage, Elizabeth drove back there at break-neck speed. On arrival she sprang from the carriaged and hurried to Sophia’s bedside. She found the girl unconscious, though alive. taking her in her arms, she ordered Lestocq to examine and bleed her. The treatement answered. On regaining consciousness, sophia was astonished to find herself held by the Empress. Her life remained in danger for seventeen more days. During her recovery, Elizabeth scarcely left her. Her devoted nursing undoubtedly saved Sophia’s life. The incident increased the Empress’s affection for the girl”. Elizabeth, Empress of Russia, Tamara Talbot Rice.