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“An essential book not only for longtime followers of such intriguing stories but those who thought fantasy only took place in the completely imagined worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien.”
“An excellent collection of stories that showcases the best of urban fantasy (however you define it). Definitely a must-read!”
“Every single story in this collection has been well chosen and polished brightly.... I highly recommend those with even a vague interest in urban fantasy add The Urban Fantasy Anthology to their collection.”
—Green Man Review
“As thought-provoking as it was enjoyable.”
—All Things Urban Fantasy
“This is one of the best reprint anthologies of the year in terms of literary value, and you certainly get more than your money’s worth of good fiction.”
I wish I could remember what writer or politician it was (we used to have remarkably literate politicians, even Republican ones) who said, "I am not an animal-lover. To me, an animal-lover is an animal who is in love with another animal."
In the same way, my main notion of urban fantasy is fantasy that takes place in an urban. Which to my mind—conditioned by years of Pogo and Dr. Seuss—is what's left when your favorite Sunday turban has gone one too many times through the wash.
But more seriously ...
Jacob Weisman, Tachyon's publisher, has selected me to co-edit this book and to write this introduction because I have an affinity for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and because I once wrote a story called "Lila the Werewolf." That story, written long before the term "urban fantasy" would have meant anything to anybody, was about a New York werewolf, and the man who loved the werewolf, pursuing her late at night down mean, moonlit city streets. (I haven't included that story here because it wasn't written in the same spirit as the stories you'll find in this collection. Instead I have chosen to include a somewhat more recent story of my own involving another of that narrator's unusual girlfriends.) But as a subgenre, as a kind, as a trope, I still think that urban fantasy's most important distinction is that it isn't The Lord of the Rings: that is, it doesn't happen in a comfortable rural, pre-industrial setting where people still ride horses, swing swords, quaff ale in variously sinister pubs, and head off apocalypses and Armageddons that would make a Buffy episode look like a tussle in a schoolyard. Not that that's a bad thing ...
What I am clear on is that, while I wasn't looking, urban fantasy has become so vibrant, and has evolved so rapidly, that it has emerged as a distinct marketing category, often with its own section in the bookstore. Because of that rapid growth the term means different things to different generations of readers. There have, in fact, been three distinct subgenres of urban fantasy: mythic fiction, paranormal romance, and noir fantasy. Elsewhere in these pages Charles de Lint, Paula Guran, and Joe R. Lansdale, all greater experts than I, will explain these to you in more depth then I will here.
The first popularization of the term urban fantasy (later rechristened by Charles de Lint and Terri Windling as mythic fiction), appearing in the mid to late 1980s, was used to apply to the work of writers such as de Lint, Emma Bull, Windling, and Will Shetterly, who wrote contemporary stories in which myths and fairy tales intruded into everyday life. Just about every generation of writers with a natural bent for the fantastic vision, from George MacDonald to Robert Nathan to Fritz Leiber, has been redefining fantasy as long as I've been reading the stuff, but there was a more concerted approach employed by the first generation of urban fantasists. Speaking for myself, I've never based whatever it is I do on any particular theoretical structure, other than "it seemed like a good idea at the time." These guys were thinking about it.
And then there was Buffy.
The much-deserved success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer meant that vampires, werewolves, and demons of all varieties—including the sort who were either as tormented about what they were as any teenager or as forlornly anxious to fit in—were suddenly fictional legal tender once again. A second wave of urban fantasy overtook the first: paranormal romance, in all of its dark, tawdry, and dysfunctional glory. These creatures of the night knew exactly what they'd become, and were at least half-aware that they were symbols and metaphors for the American experience. Our heroine, walking through the empty subway station, is no longer the meek shrinking-violet of previous generations. She is precocious, athletic, sexually aware, and regards kicking demonic ass, in Buffy's words, as "comfort food." (Okay, granted, Twilight and its sequels represent a decidedly reactionary backward step into the virgin-perpetually-at-physical-and-sexual-risk mode that began with in the eighteenth century with Samuel Richardson's Clarissa, but this too shall pass...) Around the time you have cheerful werewolf heroines running radio call-in shows—as in Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series—something has definitely changed.
The third generation of urban fantasy, noir fantasy, hearkens to a call for more realism, as exemplified by the novels of Charlie Huston, whose private-eye vampire detective is more profoundly worn down and plain weary than anyone Raymond Chandler ever envisioned. Think of one of Jim Thompson's or David Goodis's characters on a bad day, but with fangs. (Regrettably, Charlie Huston doesn't write that sort of material at shorter length, but I can strongly recommend his novels.) Noir fiction has been making inroads into fantasy and horror for many years. One need only look at Joe Lansdale's anthology Crucified Dreams (also published by Tachyon Publications) to see a map of the stories that lead from the works by masters of the craft like Harlan Ellison to the newer writers included here.
Urban fantasy counts on familiarity with mythology, fairy tales, and the earliest horror tropes like vampires, werewolves, and warlocks—in the same way that science fiction relies on faster-than-light drives and sentient robots—as shorthand to pull the reader through familiar territory quickly without wasting precious time. In old horror stories the tension built up slowly as the characters were drawn toward what the reader already knew would happen. A proper urban fantasy hero is always ready to grab a stake or a silver-bullet clip, and stalk down that dark alley, or into that dank sub-basement where red eyes glower from far corners, at a moment's notice. Or, when necessary, to be the thing behind those red eyes ... to be, in the words of the bitter inversion of the 23rd Psalm that came out of the Vietnam War, "the meanest mother" in the Valley of Death.
This is not The Secret History of Fantasy. In that book, the previous anthology I edited for Tachyon, I gathered together a group of writers, all close to my heart, who were at once carving out new directions in fantasy while at the same time following in a tradition that owed little to the specter of J. R. R. Tolkien, or at least to those following slavishly in his footsteps. This was daring, auspicious work that took its joy in the telling, fiction that played with the very underpinnings of our genre, fiction that reveled in its own audacity and took itself seriously, without being ponderous or exclusionary about it.
The stories in this anthology represent the other side of that encampment—raw, consciously commercial fiction, feeding an unquenchable hunger for walks on the wild side, blending and shaking up familiar themes until they are transformed into something new and meaningful.
In this collection you will find a number of wonderful stories, some deeply provocative, others played for camp. You will be purely delighted by some of them and profoundly disturbed by others—I should be rather disappointed if it were otherwise. But you will not be bored.
Excerpted from THE URBAN FANTASY ANTHOLOGY by Joe R. Lansdale Copyright © 2011 by Tachyon Publications. Excerpted by permission of Tachyon Publications. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted August 15, 2011
The Urban Fantasy Anthology is divided into three sections: Mythic Fiction, Paranormal Romance and Noir Fantasy. Each contains an introduction essay defining the section and several stories. -----------
In his essay on Mythical Fiction, Charles De Lint defines the category as having mythological and supernatural beings in modern day society. His entry "Make a Joyful Noise" stars a shapeshifting Native American spirit helping a depressed ghost. "On the Road to Egypt" by Jeffrey Ford has Jesus, smoking a camel, and a companion traveler stopping at MacDonald's for a burger and shake.-------------------
Paula Guran defines Paranormal Romance as key characters possessing special powers; females typically kick butt. Suzy McKee Charnas' "Boobs," stars a teenage girl dealing with the changes of her body due to being a werewolf in puberty. "Farewell, My Zombie" by Francesca Lia Black's protagonist opens with that Attitude when she asks what to call a female investigator if a male is called a private dick. Two lovers, one recently reanimated, star In "She's My Witch" by Norman Partridge.-----------------
In defining Noir Fiction, Joe R, Lansdale states not to categorize tales as a "club", but instead makes the case that the Noir is the link not the fantasy/paranormal background. His short contribution "On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks" stars a bounty hunter working with the reanimated dead. -------------
The essays are interesting attempts to define three subcategories, but come across more like a Venn diagram. The collection includes nineteen reprints and one new tale ("Talking Back to the Moon" by Steven R. Boyett). The anthology is fun to read with no clinkers, but few are excellent; as Ms. Guran says novels are the prime method of Paranormal Romance.------------
Posted September 6, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted November 20, 2011
No text was provided for this review.