Urban fantasy(was Charles DeLint (OT))

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Fri Apr 20 13:16:08 EDT 2001


On Mon, 9 Apr 2001 18:35:54 +0100, Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk wrote:


>Melissa, quoting me:
>
>>>As far as I am concerned, no-one has the authority to impose an "official"
>>>definition of a term like "urban fantasy".  For example, a dictionary
>>>definition, to be complete, should normally give all meanings in common use.
>>
>> Oh, bah.  This is not about dictionary definitions.  This is about critical
>> terminology.  Two different beasties.  When you're writing literary
>
>Fine.  But you said nothing about the context.

I realized that afterward.  What nettled me was that you chose to interpret
it in the worst possible light...but you apologized for the condescension,
so I'll apologize for being quick to annoy.  :)  I'm tired and cranky.

>> My point was simply that people like Anita and Jacob (and me) who are
>> arguing for the dark, gritty kind of "urban" are probably doing so because
>> that's what other people have called it...an "official" definition.
>
>Hmm.  I'd rather call that an "accepted" definition.  To me, "official" implies
>the existence of an office.  Or are you now going to give me an "official"
>definition of "official"?

No, I agree with you for the most part.  Rather, I agree that the definition
I gave ought to be called the accepted one, because that implies something
that people know they've agreed on and allows for the existence of other
definitions.  But I stand by "official" because, as I've been trying to say,
every time I hear "urban fantasy" defined in the aforementioned way, it's
had that implication of "this is the only definition, this is what *I've*
been told it is."  In other words, there's no Office of Fantasy Terminology,
but what I hear suggests that people think there might be.

To use the dictionary metaphor further:  A good dictionary absolutely should
collect all the usages of a certain word.  But when people use the
dictionary, often they treat it as an authority on language rather than an
ever-changing source.

>> Philip, if I didn't know you were a genuinely nice person, I would smack you
>> for being condescending.  :)  Or did you not know that I'm a graduate of a
>> literary department that was at war over the idea of canonized literature?
>
>Eek!  I hope you believe me when I say that I had no idea even in what subject
>you graduated, let alone what the department politics were!

That was sort of meant to be rhetorical..."sort of" because I couldn't
remember if I've ever mentioned my status as expatriate postmodern feminist.
:)

>FWIW, I am 100% against the idea of canonised literature - a year or so ago I
>nearly flamed someone on this list for presupposing "a canon of 'must read'"
>books.  I have probably read no more than 5% of the canon.  No, make that 1%...

I have something to say on this topic, but I'm going to save it for that
other thread on Sally's essential list of books, because it's probably going
to be long.  But what else is new?

>(As you will probably have guessed, I am of the school that says literary
>fiction is a genre in its own right, with no more _intrinsic_ merits than any
>other genre)

Did you ever read the essay I posted a long while back by Dave Wolverton?
It's about this exact topic.  I believe the same thing.  But try telling
that to the New Yorker.

>The trouble with you people who are always right is you think you're never
>wrong!

I was under the impression that the trouble was we spend way too much time
re-proving (or is it reproving?) this basic, fundamental, obvious truth.  :)

>My trouble is that I don't see that the fact of you're being always right should
>prevent me from disagreeing with you...

Of course not.  Because being Always Right is a function not only of being
right the first time, but in being able to recognize when one's opinion is
faulty and correct it.  And how is that possible unless people point things
out?

>Philip.  (Who finished reading "Someplace to be Flying" at the weekend [1] and
>thinks that the fantasy is much darker than the urban setting...)

Dang, Philip.  I just remembered that I never actually finished that book.
I just put it down and started reading something else.  Ditto for Tim
Powers' _Declare_.  And I was enjoying both of those, so it's not like I
threw them aside in disgust.

Melissa Proffitt
(apparently riding the fast train to Senility, with stops at Forgetfulness
and NowWhereWasIGoingWithTheseScissors)
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