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November 11th, 2007

writing one-eyed jack

There's a guy works down the chip shop swears he's Elvish--

Over at Kate Elliott's lj, where she asked for urban fantasy recommendations (and do go give her some), fjm and I have gotten into a discussion of what, exactly, if anything, urban fantasy is.

And I wound up writing a little essay I wanted to tidy slightly and put here for future reference, because otherwise it will be gone like the five and dime. And I can see future situations where it would be useful....



In the US, it's usually used for what seem to be two or three distinctly different marketing categories. Which is to say: (1) books such as War for the Oaks, the sort of classical urban fantasy, which involves modern everyday persons in a city setting in sudden contact with the numinous; (2) modern-day fantasy noir detective novels, a la Jim Butcher; (3) romance (or smut) in a fantasy suit, a la Keri Arthur, aka "Paranormal Romance," which I guess is a term the Romance genre hates to have us appropriate, because they have their own uses for it.

Low fantasy is a term I more often hear used for books such as Leiber and Pratchett, which are second-world fantasy but *not* concerned with the doings of the great and noble saving the world.

The identifying facet of "urban" fantasy, as we know it (as the term is used in the US today) seems to be about the infringement of magic on a mundane world recognizably our own--or very close to it: the world of Sunshine isn't quite our world, but it's a world where our basic assumptions about how the world works still hold (even when that makes the worldbuilding kind of wonky, because it's both a city under seige and a completely mundane setting)--rather than the necessity of an "urban" setting.

In other words, as its used, the "urban" in "urban" fantasy seems to be a code word meaning "Our real world right here or one much like it" rather than, as would seem logical, a code word meaning "takes place in a city."

The code word for "takes place in a city and features non-noble characters and everyday concerns" seems to be "low fantasy." (As opposed to high or quest fantasy.)

And then you can bring in "fantasy of manners" and have the argument about how Swordspoint is not like Jhereg.

I'm not a big believer in categorization, my own self, except in the sense of "I read a book (x--let's pick War for the Oaks, as for many people it's *the* type example of what they mean when they say "urban fantasy")and I loved it; what else can I read that's like War for the Oaks?"

And I might say, well, you could read Gael Baudino's Gossamer Axe, or Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, or Megan Lindholm's Wizard of the Pigeons, or Jim Butcher's Storm Front, or Keri Arthur's Full Moon Rising, or Robin McKinley's Sunshine, or my own Whiskey & Water, or Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume, or Tim Powers' Last Call--what was it you liked about War for the Oaks? Because all these other books have some similar type characteristics.

And all have some major differences, of course. But I'm a descriptivist rather than a prescriptionist, and the thing they all have in common--the only thing that all books I've generally seen categorized/understood as as "urban fantasy" have in common--is that intersection of (or trangression of) the numinous with (upon) the mundane world.

In urban fantasy you don't leave the chip shop and go to another world to find the unicorn. Rather, the unicorn shows up at the chip shop and orders the cod.



And now, a shower and tea and work. Because today is my day to WORK.
sf doctor who meant to be?

all is forgiven. mad dog, surrender.

Hi, new folks! I imagine some of you found your way here from Tammy Pierce's blog, and others from dog knows where. 

I'm Bear. Or Ebear.

I write books and short stories and Other Things. (I would call myself a writer of Stuff, but Peter David got there first, and writes more Stuff than I do anyway.) I talk about my job, here, and also my cat, and my hobbies, and books I read, and TV shows I watch. Also, I engage in shameless self-promotion.

Come in, sit down.

Feel free to introduce yourselves, comment, ask questions, hang out, help yourself to the snacks.

I can't actually answer all the comments (I have deadlines!) but I do read them all. And you're welcome to have side conversations in the comment threads, and make yourselves at home, as long as you can be polite to each other.

And now I have to go start a short story that just finally gave me its first line*, and start two three articles, and work on a novel revision, and wonder what the heck the last scene of this other novelette is so I can finish the bloody thing, because it's been sitting on my desk partially written for MONTHS now. Oh, Jackie, give me some sugar, man. How does the story end?



*"I think--now--I've finally met all of Annie Webber."
writing gorey earbrass unspeakable horro

baby can't be broken, because you see, she had the finest teacher. that was me.

I could write you a long post on why I support the WGA strike, and why you should too.

Or I can just link you to posts by writer-producers Doris Egan (House) and Edward Bernero (Criminal Minds) explaining exactly what's at stake, and what's going on, and why the strike is on.

The difference between this time, and the last time, is the internet. Fans--the consumers of scripted entertainment--can support the strike in ways that were unfeasible twenty years ago. There are a bunch of ideas on how in the comments of those posts.
lion in winter broken because you're bri

like a castle in a corner in a medieval game

book report #78, Tamora Pierce, Beka Cooper: Terrier.

This is the first book I have read for pleasure since September. Which kind of horrifies me, but there you go. I've actually started several, but mostly they haven't been singing to me.

This is a clever, plotty YA fantasy/mystery/adventure, unflinching about nasty realities of life on the street, full of juicy worldbuilding, engaging, fast-paced, with an outstanding heroine. I really enjoyed it a lot.

Also, pigeons.