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The Folk of the Air

The Folk of the Air
by Peter S. Beagle
Published by Ballantine Del Rey, Headline

Folk stars our good friend Joe Farrell (and his ancient Volkswagon van, Madame Schumann-Heink), last seen in Lila the Werewolf and later to be featured in Julie's Unicorn. All is not as it seems at the local West Coast medieval times reenactment club, or maybe it's too much what it seems. People dressing up as witches are suddenly casting spells and summoning really bad things from elsewhere, people dressed in chain mail suddenly have really bad teeth and speak kind of Middle-Ages-like. What's a slacker to do? Well, if you're Joe Farrell, you find an old girlfriend, cook a lot of really good food, and generally find yourself in the middle of Really Big Things.

Folk features some of Beagle's best technical writing. His metaphors are so powerful and descriptive that they leave you almost breathless, such as this description of the Avienne scenery: "The Bay took up half the horizon, rumpled and dingy as a motel bedspread, with a few sails frozen under the bridge and San Francisco behind, slipping like soap through a dishwater mist."

I love it.



I came across this description of Folk on a website: "...a fantasy novel set in a thinly-disguised Berkeley, about a thinly-disguised Society of Creative Anachronism..." The SCA folks have been alternatively amused and annoyed by Folk over the years, and some insiders swear that Beagle must have been part of the organization for years to paint such an accurate portrait of the group. Beagle himself says that he only attended a few events, and then stayed away to think about what he was going to write. This is corroborated by a posting by Hal Ravn, Province of the Mists, West Kingdom:

Beagle -- by repute -- encountered the SCA at Baycon (1968?) and then studiously avoided us for the ensuing 20 years while he mulled over what he wanted to write. He didn't want to "contaminate" his ideas with the reality. As Hilary has remarked on occasion -- "Folk of the Air is what the Society might have become." (It is a logical result from what he saw then--but it isn't the way we wound up going. . . .)




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