content by

Laura Anne Gilman

The One Book That Piqued My Creative Fury

In the mid 1980s, I was a teenager, discovering that my mother and I actually have weirdly overlapping tastes (weird because she’s all about literary fiction and the depressing Russians, and I’m all about genre fiction and funky Latin Americans). But there is some overlap, and for a year or so, it fell square on the shoulders of John Irving.

Which, when I think back on it, isn’t all that surprising. He’s depressing and literary and slightly funky and pushed social borders, and occasionally dipped his toes into the out-and-out Weird.

And wow, did he piss me off.

[Wait, let me back up.]

The Lasting Appeal of Urban Fantasy

I’m not an academic or a critic, and the thought of writing an essay about genre filled me with a sense of…not exactly dread, but hesitation. I have opinions, sure, but they’re mine, not something I’m going to insist everyone else take as any kind of gospel (see: not an academic or critic).

But I have been mucking about with fantasy—and specifically urban fantasy—since back when the calendar still started with “19” rather than “20,”—so I do have a few thoughts on the genre.

First is that, despite all the press around this generation of writers, urban fantasy is not “new.” We can point to Charles DeLint as the “father” of UF, with his fantastical Ontario, or Emma Bull’s seminal War for the Oaks, but my classic example is Peter Beagle, and my favorite book of all times, A Fine and Private Place, which is set in then-modern (late 1950’s) NYC. So yeah, we’ve been writing, and reading, “urban fantasy” for a while.

And there’s a reason for that and why, even when other sub-genres eclipse it in sales, it remains.

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Series: Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Month

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