The International Society for Tales with Elves

The Rules of the Society:

  • To qualify for membership, your stories must have at least one Elf.
  • Your stories must not contain Laser Blasters or anything else of that sort.
  • There are no other rules.

Dear Diary,

I have been a member in good standing of the ISTE for several years. All my novels and short stories had elves, or in some cases, just one. But then, last week, came a day when the temptation was too strong to resist. I wrote a story with no elves at all.

I know there are plenty of publishers—a majority, even—who don’t care whether I’ve got elves in my stories or not. And the readers mostly don’t care either. But the ISTE does care.

I could get this non-elf story published in a lot of places. I will have to keep looking—I’m sure I’ll find a place to send it.

Still, I tremble to think what could happen if the ISTE found out. They might oust me from their circles and consider me an outsider. Even so, I’m curious. I want to see where this story can go—so my only choice is to use a pseudonym. That’s what I’ll do.

Illustration © Fernando Cortés • Fotolia.com

Illustration © Fernando Cortés • Fotolia.com


Dear Diary,

I did it! I got the non-elf story published in a very classy magazine—and it got some good reviews. I just hope it doesn’t get too much attention, or the ISTE might figure out it was me. I know they mostly don’t read the non-elf mags. Well, it was a fun fling into the world without elves, and I think it was good for me as a writer, but now I have to go back to my sylvan stories. My elf-writing critique partner is already wondering why I haven’t sent her any new work for a while.

Of course now I’m tempted to write more tales with no elves, just as the ladies of the ISTE warned me. But they are my friends, I don’t want to offend them, so I will resist and stay within my chosen genre.

Except for my editor at the non-elf magazine.* She’s really nice and gave me some tips I’d never heard before, and they improved my story a lot. She’s also the only one who knows my real name, and I’ve sworn her to secrecy.

*Isn’t “non-elf” kind of a silly term? The ISTE uses it all the time, but really it’s a non-definition!


Dear Diary,

It’s happened.

A reviewer just straight up posted my real name in her remarks. I have no idea how she found that out, but now it’s there in plain sight for anyone to see, the moment they dig deeper into the list of public reviews. And there’s no use denying it.

I admit I have been growing more distant from the ISTE folks. I haven’t written any new elf stories, my critique partner must surely wonder if I’m backsliding, and perhaps most significantly, their little group discussions interest me less than ever before—their blanket inclusion of elves in absolutely everything, their publishers’ strange ban on anything that might be construed as a laser blaster, and the increasingly precise definition of just what constitutes an elf or a laser blaster.

I may be going crazy, but I’m starting to think all this is rather peculiar.

Still, I haven’t been found out yet. I have to consider it likely in time to come, but for now, I can continue to enjoy the companionship of my elf-writing buddies in the ISTE…while writing a new laser blaster story.


Dear Diary,

Well, it’s over. Someone found me out and reported it to the Board of the ISTE. They requested me to resign—not simply for writing a non-elf story, but for making up things about laser blasters. Upstanding elf writers shouldn’t even think about these things, apparently.

Sure, I knew this was going to happen. It is a strange sense of freedom, though. I can write about anything I like.

And I’ve met a few laser blaster writers online—they are not much like the elf writers at all. They actually talk about how to write better, rather than obsessing about what is or isn’t in the story.

Careful questioning has also led me to discover that the laser blaster writers don’t mind at all if there’s an occasional elf in a story. This is a novel approach to me. I guess it’s how the wider world works—out beyond the circle of elf writers.

They can have their elves, but I didn’t give mine up completely—and now I’ve got laser blasters, too.

Elves with laser blasters, hmmm. There’s a story in that…


gracebridgesGrace Bridges is a dreamer whose muse blows best when it’s fresh from the sea. A graduate of the University of Auckland, she translates German for a living and writes from her hilltop in New Zealand in between projects for her indie publisher, Splashdown Books. Her work appears in various international anthologies and literary magazines, and she is currently working on a series of novels. She is inordinately happy that her hair has started going silver. http://www.gracebridges.kiwi

22 comments on “The International Society for Tales with Elves

  1. Elves with laser blasters. How uncivilized, as the Jedi might put it. 😉

    • Elves doing anything is too spiritually far reaching anyway. Good writing but yes uncivilized and ungodly.
      Good writing style though. If I can get my mind to a higher plane I’ll be off and running.
      Good imagination though.

      • For many writers, including and notably Tolkien (THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS), Elves are not supernatural beings. They are flesh-and-blood, however long-lived. In fact this is true of all the Elf stories I know: they don’t follow the original trope of Elves being supernatural, although they may have paranormal powers by our Human standards.

        • Then why did I ask the questio?n of Mr Stafford and why did he tell me to not be involved in such things. Now you say it is alright? If it is alright, then we’d be writing about them in our story too. Realmwalkers would have been put back on the shelf. I don’t care what the world says is ok. I have to go with what our church says John. Don’t try to make it seem ok with you when you said otherwise. I can’t worry what the world believes to be true and why are you defending it? Make up your mind. For me I respect what God says about such things Fiction or not, I still,must follow God’s instruction not worry what man says is OK. You know that. yisraela

          • The following is most of what I wrote in reply to a similar question you posed on Facebook.

            Just above on this NAF blog, I simply pointed out that the “trope” of elves (specifically – leaving aside fairies, etc.) has been reworked by Tolkien and many others so that they are NOT supernatural beings – simply long-lived mortals who might not even have “magical powers”. Even for Tolkien, what might have been seen as “magic” wielded by various characters was simply part of the laws governing his fictional universe – natural, not supernatural. He rewrote the rules, in other words. That’s what speculative fiction authors such as those on NAF DO. The whole idea in this genre of it – fantasy – is to have something NOT like our real world, NOT limited by how supernatural powers operate in reality. If even this is unacceptable to the INFJ conscience (such as yours), or to anyone else’s for that matter (such as mine: ENFP), and especially to the Christian leading of all uses of moral conscience, then such a one shouldn’t be involved in fantasy at all. You and I both need to think about that – together.

            [This goes beyond my Facebook quote: Mr. Stafford understandably addressed fiction treating elves, fairies and the like as supernatural beings, particularly beneficent ones. In the Celtic and other myths from which they come, they are exactly that. Anybody who really wants to believe in such things will find plenty of demons with too much time on their hands, willing to help them do so. He knows this, so do we both. What happens when someone reworks the myths into something else entirely is another question, and one well worth asking.]

            Going to the other extreme from fantasy, that of science fiction, isn’t necessarily a help to you and me because science fiction is essentially godless – atheistic or agnostic at best. How is this better than spiritualism? And then there is the treatment of the Materialist Magician, as C.S. Lewis foresaw – works like STAR WARS which combine science fiction and fantasy as well as both their God-denying core philosophies.

            I wrote an essay concerning these matters on my own writing blog, an essay which is quite lengthy. There will be a guest essay by me on NAF on January 24 as well, in which I use one of Lewis’ most famous fictional writings, THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, as my springboard for discussion of this very issue. Meanwhile, here is my blog.


        • Well I do understand that the rules were changed by a man for the purpose of man wishing something to be in an acceptable realm for man’s purpose. However it doesn’t make it right our church says it isn’t.
          It matters not what man reworks for his purpose despite my not judging those person’s. All it means to me, is that I have to know scripturally and from our ministry what the scripture deems right. Man’s view doesn’t help me. It confuses me.
          So I will pose the question to our church HQ. I’d like to begin actually writing our story if it is ok to do so.

          • I admire every Christian writer who takes the time to search their conscience, search the Scriptures and write what they feel is the most God-honoring stories. I’m glad to hear you questioning these things, Yisraela.

            Having been brought up in a church group that had their own very specific interpretations of many things — which later, by the grace and revelation of God, they recanted — I have learned by experience to be careful about relying on others to tell me what the Scriptures mean.

            Jesus’ biggest conflicts were with “men of God” (Pharisees, Sadducees, etc) who had added their own rules and interpretation to what God actually said. God never said, “Don’t write fiction that includes elves”. Elves aren’t in Scripture at all. God never said, “Thou shalt not make up fictional worlds that are different than the world you live in.” If someone creates a fictional world where “elves” are simply a race of tall, slender human beings who have pointy ears, that is very different than having elves that are creatures of magic, which in our world would likely be demons in disguise.

            Some Christian writers even make up worlds with magic that is not fueled by supernatural/demonic/angelic forces, and “magic” in that world is no different than “physics” in ours. If that bothers your conscience, don’t do it, but here’s my real point:

            You say that you don’t trust it when “the rules were changed by a man for the purpose of man”. That is good. Have you considered that what your church teaches may also contain rules made by men for the purposes of men?

          • Teddi you would be absolutely correct in saying that i believing a man over God would be wrong in any church, religion, or cult whatever it may be. That’s why I appreciate our church, john and I both attend there. Our church insists upon us following the evidence shown us by our pastors by way of the scripture we have in front of us. We are told to not believe them but to prove them wrong if need be by the scripture. It’s not our pastors telling us what to believe, but the scriptures admonishing us. I do not now or ever trust man more than God.. My point through all this was not to point fingers at snyone here. I cannot sit in judgment of anyone here or elsewhere..I was not pointing out what you or anyone else was doing not doing or should be doing. Somehow that seems to be what you all want to think. Based on what it sounds like here. I was only sharing what conclusion I’ve come to in my life for me and me only. I can only speak for me. Scriptures that speak about mediums clairvoyants familiar spirits and such point to me a clear issue which violates my conscience. And that is all I was speaking on. I can’t chsnge rules to suit my fancy knowing what scripture tells me. What you or snyone else does is not my concern or desire to do anything about. Since this I believed was a place we could share our views I simply was sharing my perspective and stated I WAS NOT JUDGING ANYONE! I meant that. And still do. John a commentator here and one who’s guest blog is being put up on the 24th, feels as I do. In fact our church refers questions such as this to him for research and writing commentaries about. I only asked my pastor about writing about fairies elves , gnomes, dragons non humans because john and I would have wanted to use such characters mortal or immortal in out stiory. But it’s more important for me to do what’s right than what’s convenient. That’s me. Not you, Avily Kristen or anybody else. I was only pointing to what I believe and why. Like I said, I don’t care what others do. I only can judge my thoughts and deeds. I agree there are many trolls out there. I dislike the word trolls as for me it denotes a dark demonic energy. And I can only fairly and rightly judge someone as a demon if they are demonic. I am not and was not trying to cause upset to anyone. I hate conflict. I’ve walked away from many people because conflict was not avoidable.
            Know I mean what I say and say what I mean. What others feel and think is not my problem.
            Hope this is clear now yisraela

          • Thanks for sharing your heart, Yisraela. I didn’t think you were pointing fingers, and don’t feel that you’re judging anyone here. Just wanted to share a thought about letting “men” determine for you what the Scriptures are saying.

            I respect that some folks will see things differently than I do, and am happy when Christian writers follow their consciences. God bless you!

  2. Well, I’ve done an elf an a robot…it’s only a matter of time before I put a laser blaster into the mix. 🙂

  3. Some of my elves navigate starships and are cybernetically enhanced. “If Thine Eye Offends Thee” and “Triptych: We of Starlight Ships” have been published, and I’m currently working on a full cycle of stories about the elves of this milieu.
    So there, ISTE! 😉
    (Fun post, Grace! Made me laugh.

    • Agreed. The Diary by Grace was fun to read, and what you do sounds very interesting. My Four Species of Man – which indeed use starships and lasers – are parallel to, although not identical with, the classic fantasy tropes of Elves, Half-Elves, Dwarves and Men. (Maybe I should contribute a guest post thereon.) So ISTE would consider my work anathema too. 🙂

  4. This is beautifully done, Grace. I was reading through, enjoying the story, savoring the satire and wondering who had written it, because it didn’t “sound” like writing I recognized. And it was you!

    I look forward to the day that I know your style well enough to recognize it. This is a piece that can be linked to again and again in the course of discussions on Christian vs. non-Christian stories.

    • Incidentally, “non-Elf” IS a perfectly logical and therefore legitimate definition. Consider set theory, for example. Or consider the apparent rule that STAR WARS’ Empire has such a bias against non-humans (this shows up more in the print derivatives). One has to know what makes for a non-human before one levels a blaster at it. 🎯🎯🎯

  5. LOVE the analogy, Grace! So well done! Also, very cute story in its own right. 🙂

  6. Wow!! MS Grace, that is so powerful!! The Christian society says I can’t write about a pastor falling or about a person struggling with a sin (I remember one person told me, why don’t you just write about Jesus? Well, I do, but I do it through the characters. That’s not the same thing.) Sigh …. I’ve learned I’d rather be kicked out of Christian society b/c I”m not writing what they want as opposed to disappointing God.

    • If you all will pardon the deliberate tactic of citing one of my favorite long passages from the version I grew up with:

      (1 John 1:5 RSV) This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all.
      (1 John 1:6 RSV) If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth;
      (1 John 1:7 RSV) but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
      (1 John 1:8 RSV) If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
      (1 John 1:9 RSV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
      (1 John 1:10 RSV) If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
      (1 John 2:1 RSV) My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
      (1 John 2:2 RSV) and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
      (1 John 2:3 RSV) And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
      (1 John 2:4 RSV) He who says “I know him” but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him;
      (1 John 2:5 RSV) but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him:
      (1 John 2:6 RSV) he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

      And some claim that one cannot write about temptation, even apostasy, from a genuinely Christian perspective? Seriously? The aim is not to sin, but the reality is we all do – and some of us make ourselves and Jesus Christ liars in the process.

  7. Still chuckling over this, Grace. I didn’t realize you had such a knack for satire. 🙂

  8. Thanks, everyone! Really glad you enjoyed it.

  9. Yisraela, in my reply to you way up near the top of these comments, I’m sorry if I misunderstood or misrepresented what you knew and what you were trying to say. My intent was not to *defend what is done by certain authors – simply to *say what is done. Whether it is *right in Christian terms, in truth, to do so is another question (at least to me). But that question also leads me to a bigger question, one I discuss on my own blog: is *any change of the logical framework of “the way the world works” biblically legitimate? The more I think about it, the more I believe the answer – for my own conscience and knowledge – is NO. If reworking elves-as-spirits into elves-as-mortals is biblically wrong, why not any other change of logical framework involved in spec-fic? In principle, there is no difference. It’s time I personally started facing what that means.

    Like you, I’m not trying to argue anybody here into agreeing with me. But the only other choice I have is to leave here, peacefully, which I will do after my guest essay already accepted by Kristen is published.

    • Thank you John. A reply here wasn’t needful but I appreciate your confidence in me again where my heart lies. Given this is not a private forum, I only wish to say thank you for those who were kind and wise enough to perceive that I was t here to neither endorse my beliefs or judge anyone else’s.
      Blessings to you all yisraela

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