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By "fairies," I'm referring to the eldritch horrors and creepy-crawlies of Celtic folklore, not the glittery pixies with butterfly wings.

My urban fantasy setting puts a sci-fi spin on supernatural creatures. The Good Neighbors of Celtic tradition belong to a hominid subfamily called Externinae, which predates humanity and includes banshees, gancanaghs, dullahans, etc. Early on, they adapted to life in a parallel universe, where they underwent numerous bizarre transformations. They can harness electromagnetic forces through supernatural means, which they use primarily to create illusions and prevent people from noticing or remembering them by disrupting neural activity in humans.

The reason I decided to make them a group of hominids is because there's quite a bit of folklore where the Fair Folk mate and produce fertile offspring with humans, meaning there must be a close genetic relationship. I know both parents usually have to be the same species, but inter-genus hybrids exist in reality and, as evidenced by the wolphin, can be fertile under very rare circumstances. Alternatively, I'm thinking of having the fairies be a genuinely alien group of organisms, some of whom have made themselves genetically similar enough to humans to allow for crossbreeding. Of course, they'd need a reason to do this.

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  • $\begingroup$ I believe when you're talking about the group of Celtic creatures the word to use is faeries. The little flighty pixies are fairies. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Mar 31 '16 at 4:42
  • $\begingroup$ It's not really clear what you're asking. Yes, there could, scientifically, be a hominid subspecies that can interbreed with humans, but since you're throwing magic into their transformation the fairy part doesn't really need to be scientific. $\endgroup$ – IndigoFenix Mar 31 '16 at 6:28
  • $\begingroup$ You mean, like morlocks? $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Apr 6 '16 at 4:18
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    $\begingroup$ Possibly related: Where would fauns/satyrs fit on a taxonomic tree? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Apr 6 '16 at 14:50
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Sure. In fact, in Celtic/Welsh/Irish lore, the "fay" or elves are fairy folk, who don't really look that different from humans, altho perhaps the have an unnatural beauty, with delicate features and perhaps unnaturally fair skin. Obviously (think Morgan le Fay) they can interbreed with humans and produce fertile offspring. Tolkien based his stories on Scandinavian myth, again with elves which are visually similar to humans and fully interfertile with them.

If you want to make things more realistic, it's certainly plausible that these near-human groups are a result of divergent evolution, with humans and fairies having a common genetic ancestor sometime in the past. Perhaps the recent past, where the fay are concerned.

Aliens? Well, it's not at all realistic to think that a product of alien evolution would, by a trillions-upon-trillions to one chance, accidentally produce an alien species that just happens to be a close enough genetic match to be interfertile with humans. But again, if you really want to, since it's your world, you can just wave the wand of magic over it and proclaim them interfertile because magic enables them to be. But divergent evolution in geographically isolated groups, such as /Homo floresiensis/ (so-called "Hobbits"), is much more plausible.

Moving to less human fairy folk, there are an astonishing varity: Brownies, gnomes, goblins, dwarves, nixies, pixies, dryads, mermaids, kobolds, lebrechauns... I have a book entitled THE WORLD GUIDE TO GNOMES, FAIRIES, ELVES, AND OTHER LITTLE PEOPLE. An astonishing variety of elves and "little people" in various cultures around the world; 556 pages.

Bigger differences suggest larger genetic differences, hence lower chances for interbreeding. And if you want to keep things realistic, don't make them as small as pixies (i.e., Tinkerbell). They need to have a large enough brain mass to be intelligent. Some anthropologists argue that /H. floresiensis didn't have a large enough brain to be intelligent, but others argue they were sapient. So if you want to keep things realistic, don't make them smaller than "halflings".

Of course, since it's fantasy, you can simply handwave that restriction away and say "magic lets Tinkerbell be sapient", if you want. It's your world!

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I'm going to avoid categorization and the messy issues of the supernatural (un-explainable), mating, love, lust and other less wholesome alternatives - I'll leave that to those who are more expressive, capable and brave than myself - and go with one of the fundamental tenets of science fiction, Arthur C. Clark's Third Law, which states that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".

A culture that has full competence over genetic engineering would be less encumbered by notions of speciation (thought they may still acknowledge differentiation among groups of organisms) - to a sufficiently advanced culture, a species is nothing more than a blue print with certain characteristics, perhaps unique, but regardless, trivially exploitable. This could perhaps explain your numerous bizarre transformations. In any case, mating would not be a hindrance to any form of recombination with other organisms.

As for the specific question, "could [faeries] be a hominid subfamily" - it's your world, they could be anything you want them to be. I tend to base my creative decisions on what I know is possible first, then deal with details later. This frees me from going down the slippery slope of inventing everything from scratch and trying to make it cohesive, and it is a way of being able to back track later without being distracted in the moment. If there is not enough structure to keep the flow, then I can simply go and read on the topic and what relates to it until pieces start fitting together and everything begins to flow again.

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Maybe you are thinking of the hominids found on the island Flores termed Hobbits in popular literature. It is indeed fully conceivable to have other hominid species coexisting with Home sapiens at the same time.

What supra-natural powers are concerned, I am very skeptical: It is rather safe to assume that other hominids don't acquire powers that no species in the world has ever acquired. Such creatures are always phantasies, I'm afraid.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, this is a fantasy project I'm working on; I know it's not something that would happen in real life. Again, my reasoning for wanting to make them hominids is just because they'd have to be in the same family as humans to create faerie-human hybrid children as they do in mythology. $\endgroup$ – Milk from Mama Mayor Apr 1 '16 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ @MilkfromMamaMayor: Well, interbreeding is not a problem. Recent genetic studies proved interbreeding of modern humans with at least three other strains of humans: The Neanderthaler, the Denisova men, and a yet unknown Asian human race. And the Flores Hobbits show what insular isolation can do. $\endgroup$ – jknappen - Reinstate Monica Apr 1 '16 at 9:25
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I don't see why not. Making fairies is a sub family of humans makes sense. Alternatively you could make them descendants of humans who were genetically mutated by the supernatural energies in this parallel universe.

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