Urban fantasy(was Charles DeLint (OT))

Paul Andinach pandinac at tartarus.uwa.edu.au
Wed Apr 4 12:54:05 EDT 2001


On Wed, 4 Apr 2001 Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk wrote:

> Ania, quoting me:
>
> > > To me, "urban fantasy" means that the fantasy world system
> > > (there's probably a term for this, but I don't know it) depends
> > > on the city.  Like, say, Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber. 
> > > There's another example I'm thinking of, but I can't remember
> > > author or title.  Suffice it to say that New York City mapped
> > > onto the fantasy world, and the fantasy world was under threat
> > > from development projects in NYC. 
> >
> > This made me think of a book called Downtown, by someone whose
> > name I can't remember. It was brilliant, though. Two successive
> > copies of it have gone walkabouts so far... Maybe I'll get another
> > one in a charity shop again. But I digress. It was an urban
> > fantasy, with a subterranean "otherworld", set in NY, and there
> > was some threat from developers, possibly to Central Park. The
> > tube (or rather, subway) train was like a black metal monster, I
> > recall.
>
> This sounds just like the book I was thinking of!  I don't remember
> the train, but there was a taxi that kept metamorphosing depending
> on the period of the various period settings in the fantasy world. 
> Does this tally with your memory?

Yup, that's _Downtown_.


> > When I saw Neverwhere, it reminded me v. much of Downtown. Anyone
> > else read it?
>
> Sorry, never heard of Neverwhere.  What is it - TV?  Film? 
> Something else?

Originally a TV series, scripted by Neil Gaiman, then a novel, written
by Neil Gaiman. There may be a film version at some future point.

It's an urban fantasy, set in a sort of otherworld that inhabits the
dark and forgotten recesses of London; forgotten tube stations, old
buildings, and a bunch of locations that don't appear on any map.
Like Night's Bridge, and the monastery of the Black Friars, and the
home of the angel Islington.

Every time I watch or read it, I thank the powers for the fact that we
had the UK edition of Monopoly when we were kids. :)


> Never come aross "Downsiders" either but Sarah's description reminds
> me of a book I just read, "Song of Orpheus" by Barbara Hambly.  This
> is a novelisation of part of (presumably) a TV series called "Beauty
> and the Beast".

Yes, _Beauty and the Beast_ is a TV series; I've never seen it myself,
but I've heard about it, and seen a Hambly tie-in novel lying about
somewhere.


> And finally, Jacob:
> 
> > Sorry, that's not my definition of Urban Fantasy at all.  Urban is
> > the setting, Fantasy is the elements that contrast to the setting. 

> > Urban Fantasy is elves living in a homeless shelter or the Oak
> > King opening an art gallery.  It is flights of fancy set in a
> > technologized world.

> No.  I can accept "urban fantasy" = fantasy in urban setting,
> although I don't like it.
> 
> I emphatically _do not_ accept the idea, which to me is totally
> confused, that "urban fantasy" = fantasy in a technological setting. 
> Technology does not imply urban, or vice versa.

Agreement from me.

Although I note with interest that right up until that last sentence,
Jacob was basically describing the same concept of urban fantasy as
you were.


> Closer to home, is Fire and Hemlock "urban fantasy"?  For that
> matter, is Hexwood?  Time City is, even almost by my definition,
> though...

Fire and Hemlock -- I think not. It's modern-day fantasy, but not
urban in any significant sense. It's not noticeably influenced by
being set in a city -- inasmuch as it *is* set in a city, which isn't
all that much.

Hexwood and Time City are both science fiction, not fantasy. :)
But if they were, neither would be urban fantasy.

Paul
-- 
"Hold fast to the one noble thing."

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