Thursday, November 15, 2012

Urban fantasy

I am exploring a new literary genre.

New to me, anyway.  As in it's my first time reading something of its kind.
I am reading Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey.  The novel takes place in contemporary Los Angeles and centers around a man named James Stark.  Stark, being dead for the past 11 years, has recently escaped from Hell.  Yes, you read that correctly.  What ensues is a book filled with magic, love, and vengeance...and is just one exceptionally fun read.  But that is a topic for another time as I wish to recapitulate the book as well as write a full review when I'm finished (about halfway through right now.)

This has made me want to explore the wider territory of the genre.  As is the case with many literary classifications, there are numerous definitions for just what makes "urban fantasy"and the writers and readers of the genre can get quite contentious over the particulars.  After cobbling together a few different viewpoints, I have what I think is a very broad description of the term.  Here goes.

Urban fantasy takes place in a city.  Duh.  Within this setting can be people who use magic, mythological creatures or beings, or paranormal entities.  More often than not, all of it operates outside of the realm of the "normal," just beyond the goings on of the everyday. What exactly is transpiring does not seem to matter as much as the setting of the city.  The story must take place where people pay taxes, take trains to work, have cars that breakdown, get divorces, et. al.  This is not to say that an urban fantasy could not take place in a city in a different historical period.  In fact, there are examples of such tales, as with author Marie Brennan who sets her books in London during Elizabethan times.

Other examples of the genre, besides Kadrey that is, are book series such as the Anita Blake books of Laurell K. Hamilton, Women of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong, The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, Zodiac by Vicki Petterson, and the Magic series by Devon Monk.  Also archetypal of the genre are Neil Gaiman's American Gods which I thought was amazing and Neverwhere which I have yet to read.  

Never the ones to miss cashing in on a trend, television and film are replete with examples of urban fantasy.  Lost Girl is a fine example, Grimm is another entry, and there are those who would classify Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this category.  Personally, I would count Being Human amongst the titles as it seems to smoothly dovetail with the genre.

Meanwhile, I shall return to enjoying Sandman Slim...and perhaps a few other urban fantasy titles in the future.  In good news, I see that Sandman Slim has been optioned for a movie.  For once, I think this should translate just fine.

My e-novella, Hound of Winter is available for only 99 cents 

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