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Origins and Pigeonholes
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Edmund Schubert, editor of the Intergalactic Medicine Show, is posting brief write-ups from the authors about each story in issue #3. Here's the link to my contribution, where I talk about "Dream Engine" (which is now online here, by the way).

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I was recently invited to join a livejournal community for "urban fantasy" novelists, fangs_fur_fey. Some good people are involved, including Holly Black, Cherie Priest, and Judith Tarr, among others. A pretty broad range of styles and tones are represetend, so it could be interesting. So far people are mostly answering the question "Why Urban Fantasy," and because I'm never too good to cross-post, I'll mirror my post there over here:

Why urban fantasy?

Well, to quibble with the pigeonhole a little, "contemporary fantasy" is probably a better arbitrary line to draw around most of my work. Back in the day, before I ever lived in a city, people would sometimes call my work "urban fantasy," which bewildered me, since my stories back then took place in rural trailer parks, little mountain towns, and among swamps, soybean fields, and tobacco barns all choked with kudzu. Not particularly "urban." Indeed, something like Kim Newman's Anno Dracula could be reasonably called "urban fantasy," since it takes place in London, but since it takes place in the Victorian era, it's more likely to be called "historical fantasy." If you have to get taxonomical on me, I prefer "contemporary fantasy" for describing (the bulk of) my work.

But, to be fair, since I've been living in a city for the past five years or so, my work has become increasingly urban, and I do find contrasting the magical with the urban to be very satisfying. So my kneejerk reaction against the term "urban fantasy" is, perhaps, less relevant than it used to be.

I grew up reading supernatural horror -- my Mom was into Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and I got Clive Barker's Books of Blood from one of my aunts -- and those stories are often "urban fantasy." Once I started writing, that was the stuff I mainly emulated. Eventually my tastes expanded to include more generally-recognized practitioners of urban fantasy, mythic fiction, etc., especially Charles de Lint (really, at his best, there's nobody better), and Pamela Dean, and Emma Bull. From there it was a short hop to reading CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan, Jonathan Carroll, and other people doing deeply weird stuff with magic, the supernatural, or the numinous in contemporary settings. That's still the kind of stuff I love the most, and it's still what I mostly write.

Something about the juxtaposition of the magical and the ordinary has always appealed to me. As for why, I can't answer that. There's just something wonderful about opening a book and finding a scene I can recognize, something I can relate to -- people walking down sidewalks, sitting in coffee shops, drinking on the beach, waiting for buses -- that makes my heart beat in anticipation of the magical. I wait for the magical every day. Often, I find it. Never fairies in trash cans, or angels lounging on fire escapes, but other kinds of magic: mysterious stairways that lead to nothing, but tempt me into climbing them anyway. Abandoned buildings that catch the sunlight just right and seem filled with luminescence. Graffiti in truly remarkable places, like the underside of high train trestles, which seem impossible to reach without recourse to a jetpack. Statues tucked away in corners of parks. Bits of the old city poking up through the current one. Handmade gondolas drifting around the lake near my house. Decaying old theme parks that have seen better days. Old lost friends encountered in the far corners of bookstores.

You know what I mean. Magic. And if, in my stories, I make those magical happenings a bit more grand, a bit more dramatic, a bit more monstrous or harrowing or breathtaking, well, hell. I'm a writer. Exaggeration for effect is part of the job.



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