Finding Magic in the Metropolis
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“Los Angeles burns, a dying city, the last embers of life and light on a dark, dead planet. It is here, in the City of Angels, that the last pocket of survivors remain, the final feeble remnants of the once great human race.”
So Afterlight, End of the World, the first book in the Time of the Faeries mythology begins — in 2078, with the human race nearly extinct after a third world war, and caught amidst a fourth with those who once sought to protect them: the angels.
Time of the Faeries occupies a 10,000 year time span, in which the world and the fate of humanity is pulled every which way by the four dominant species that occupy it — humans, faeries, angels, and vampires. They all thrive off the same life force, of which humans are the source — Kai — the energy that man generates through his or her productivity and power to inspire. It joins them all to one planet, each species vying to exert a measure of influence over the one that sustains their livelihood.
“In my world, the faeries and the vampires and the angels are kind of at war not necessarily for their souls, as for their destiny,” fantasy artist Joseph Corsentino says. “Angels want to control humans and you have a bit of a slave race going on. Faeries want to inspire. Like go be free. Go live life to your own potential. And vampires want to take their potential.”
In book one of Afterlight, Corsentino imagines a third world war that devastates humanity once left to their own devices. The faeries had abandoned Earth long ago, when a bloody battle severed their ties. Eventually, a subset of faeries migrated closer to Earth — to a place christened E’ven — where they turned into angels. As the angels attempt to preserve their lifeblood by inspiring human civilization’s resurrection after the third world war, temples of angelic worship are constructed instead of schools and hospitals. People spend their days praying instead of thinking. Meanwhile, the Kai Lyning — a function of man’s cumulative creative and intellectual impact or Kai — dwindles. For the first time, angels start to die.
Fearful for their longevity, the desperate angels rest their faith in an old myth that says once the last human is wiped from the earth, the angels will return to their former kingdom in renewed health and prosperity. The fourth world war takes off in book one of Afterlight.
“This is the bottom. A bottom,” Corsentino says. “But there are definitely other layers of hell that we plan to put the characters through. You start with the apocalypse, so where else are you going to go?”
The details of the entire Time of the Faeries universe which Corsentino has preconceived along with his wife Donny, whom he married in a faerie-fantasy style wedding, are imbibed in a 500-page “bible” — the backbone of a mythology spanning 10,000 years, to unfold in several phases: Afterlight, Fae Noire, Quixotica, Embers, and Kailand. It grew over an eight-year time span, from a project executed only in images at its inception in New York, when Corsentino began photographing some of his friends — many of them punks and ravers who inspired the premise for his faeries who return to Earth when humanity is given a second chance after the great apocalypse.
Once creatures of exuberance and spontaneity, thriving in a Garden of Eden type environment, the faeries find themselves summoned back to a world they left 2,000 years ago (now a concrete jungle clogged with machinery, pollution, and advertising); a world crying out for a bit of faerie magic — the magic of random chance and fresh possibilities.
“If you were miserable at your job and a faerie picked up on that, she could cut your brakes and you’d be late at work, and you’d be forced to fight your way — or be like, you know it’s not worth it,” Corsentino says.
“Maybe they put your soul mate in your way. You can choose one — this miserable job that you hate or this woman who you might marry in two years. What are you going to do? Are you really going to go back to this job and keep doing the thing that makes you miserable all the time? With faeries, it’s about rolling the dice, starting the reaction, and not knowing where it goes.”
The faeries first undergo a painful assimilation process back into human society — a social experiment that rolls the dice in an attempt to circumvent the apocalyptic future that manifested itself before the world was given a second chance at a previous time.
“What happens if you take someone who is 20 seconds ago living in this beautiful forest garden of Eden type environment, running around, tree dwelling innocently, interacting with humanity, in a very classical faerie kind of way — and then, suddenly, you’re in New York City in 1978?” Corsentino says. “What are you gonna do?”
They waste away, hide, and work in brothels. You can see it in the shell-shocked eyes, abandoned expressions, broken poises, and crumpled wings of these so-called street faeries — played by real life models, chosen because of their “spark,” as Corsentino calls it. And that so-called “spark” burns brightly in the gnitty-gritty settings in which Corsentino shoots. The emotive potency and the digitally implanted sparkles and orbs lend a mysticism and luminosity to the otherwise dark and dreary backdrops.
For Corsentino, it’s a delicate balance to strike, considering the street faeries eventually evolve into the more well-adapted modern faeries, who take on work where they can interact with and inspire people in their own mischievous ways — as cab drivers or toll booth operators, etc. They work their magic on and off the job — out at the bars or clubs, at raves — wherever it’s 3 AM and still going strong.
“You want her sad, but not too sad. She still has to borderline look like she can be a modern faerie,” Corsentino says. “She might work at a brothel, but three frames later, we still want her to be able to be confident and watch that transition of her getting out of that situation and growing into her own — finding that confidence and making her own choice about what she wants.”
Modern faeries have embraced the darkness and developed an edge. You see it in the pizzazz of how they dress, their kick-ass poises, and fierce faces. Due to this transformation, the city becomes a more magical place for faeries and humans.
“In Time of the Faeries, faeries represent possibilities and the kind of people you meet at two in the morning after a few too many drinks, and conversations keep getting poured and you just keep drinking them up,” Corsentino says.
“You find yourself in the most amazing situations that make you say — ‘oh I’m going to change my life tomorrow. I’m going to do something I didn’t do. I’m gonna go on an adventure. Oh, it’s 3 o’ clock in the morning — it’s early. I’m going to go watch the sunrise!’ It’s those possibilities.”
The city may be a cutthroat and threatening place at times, but as the faeries prove, it lurks with magical possibilities.
“I think anyone who lives in the city and lets themselves be open to the possibilities of what might happen tonight, or tomorrow, or the next day — that’s where the magic is at. It’s not necessarily — oh, there’s an ancient tree that you go and you put a wish upon. No. It’s about finding those moments for yourself.”
Exclusively for GALO, Joseph Corsentino discusses the suffocating and magic inducing effects of our contemporary culture.