Revising, revising, revising, and then a Storytellers essay to finish, but I should be blogging like a crazy fool again sometime next week. In the meantime I leave you with people who said things better than I ever could:
from the blog of the utterly lovely Holly Black:
As a function of to the cool trick of juxtaposing the fantastical with the mundane, most urban fantasy puts the fantastical in the margins and interstitial spaces of life. Therefore, lunatics, drunks and the like–people that are also on the margins–often are portrayed as having greater access and understanding of magic. It’s a short step from there to the criticism leveled–that the convention of “normal” folks as good and “weirdos” as bad is simply and simplistically inverted.
But let’s put that aside for a moment. There is an intrinsic film noir aspect to urban fantasy, which is often set against a backdrop of dark sidewalks, rain-drenched streets, abandoned industrial buildings, and the hostile labyrinth of a city. It, like film noir, is home to flawed and damaged characters and often a troubled loner of a protagonist. But, unlike film noir, urban fantasy is mostly optimistic. People are trapped in unwanted situations which they may well be responsible for exacerbating, but they’re not always doomed. In fact, urban fantasy often uses the existance of magic as device to crack open the claustraphobic world and suggest the possibility of possibility.
But where I think urban fantasy and film noir are interestingly similar is with regards to the question of normalacy. There is a sense that beneath the veneer of “normal” life, there exists another world and that to know its secrets is to sacrifice normalacy. That there is an upside down world where the runaways and the disaffected, the criminals and the drunks know the truth but truth’s price is a kind of exile.
And so, the world gets turned upside down, the fool is king, and the structures of everyday life become unstable. But only in this tiny, marginalized world. And there’s something about that that really speaks to me…
from the blog of the caustic and usually-amusing Tod Goldberg:
When I was a kid, I simply devoured horror fiction. It would be safe to say that I had a closer relationship to Stephen King and Peter Straub’s books than I had with my father — not much of a stretch, I know, but I also found them far more emotionally interesting than my father, if not slightly less horrifying — and have vivid memories of reading The Shining and Ghost Story and their like deep into the night, even though I’d then need to put the book into another room for fear it might attack me in my sleep. If I read these books now, I might not feel the same way, knowing as I do that ghosts and monsters are significantly less frightening than doing quarterly taxes. But what I recall about those books was that I felt most scared not by the ghosts, but by the tension I felt for the people, the lurking sense that they’d be ruined in some way. Death wasn’t my fear for them, because that, at least, is sure-fire stop to things, but instead I feared that lingering sense of being haunted, of being driven mad. That seemed the most scary thing: To be literally scared out of your wits….
People were being haunted not only by the supernatural, but by memory, or life, or the memory of life.
from Joel Holland’s piece ‘Triumph of the Thriller’ in the Feb. 18 NYTBR:
Older readers may remember a time when there existed something called “mainstream” fiction. It consisted of realist novels of varying literary quality but solid 19th-century roots: family chronicles, historical sagas, imperiled-marriage studies, medical dramas, war stories. Those sorts of works, by common accord, made up the broad center of fiction; they dominated the best-seller lists, swept the prizes, were accorded respectful reviews in publications like this one. Mainstream fiction was, so to speak, the city, while beyond lay the outskirts: the suburbs and mill towns and trailer parks of genre. Crime novels, fantasy and science fiction were segregated because they were considered mere entertainment bereft of moral sustenance, also because they were perceived as appealing to non-mainstream citizens: uneducated, working-class, possibly even “ethnic.”
Sometime within the last 30 years or so this hierarchical structure foundered, at least commercially. As Patrick Anderson, weekly thriller reviewer for The Washington Post, points out in his new book, the Top 10 charts these days are stuffed with thrillers, very nearly to the exclusion of anything else. As has also been the case with movies and popular music, the fringes have become the center. (Fantasy and science fiction have also risen mightily, if not to the point of achieving hegemony, but they lie outside Anderson’s purview.) [They have] not been accorded a corresponding measure of respect…