Where did that come from?

Last night, when I should have been writing this post instead, I was finishing a chapter on what was supposed to be a short story but isn’t anymore. At least I declared it a short after I’d given up on it being a scrap of a vignette that was unrelated to anything while I tried to get my brain back into the Work-No-Longer-In-Progress.

The W(NL)IP is on the back burner, and this thing is now 7 chapters in. Sigh. It is also affected by the imp of the perverse, because when I looked at what I had in the first 6 chapters, I thought “So this started as potentially a Urban Fantasy, but now it looks like a PNR. Or a satire of PNR, really, because I’m playing certain tropes straight, and others I’m playing as what they’d actually be like with real people in reality. All right, I’ll roll with that.”

…So of course the next chapter hewed back hard to Urban fantasy, and the misdirection of police procedural that it started with.

I’m not terribly upset by this because I don’t think this will even be publishable, it’s more “get it out of my brain so I can go back to what I wanted to do”. Also, because I grew up cutting my teeth on Charles DeLint, and on the shared world of Bordertown, with the anthologies by Terri Wendling and the stand-alone books by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly… which was urban fantasy before the genre existed, much less was codified and troped. So if it doesn’t hue to modern genre demands, well, neither did Svaha or War for the Oaks.

But what was mildly frustrating to wake up to this morning was half the alpha readers loving it, and half the alpha readers, as I made the politics obvious instead of glancing references, going “Wait, there did that come from?”

The last thing I want is to lose and confuse my alphas – especially because I’m only putting this one up to amuse them, and therefore, they need to be amused, not frustrated or lost!

So, back to looking at the first six chapters, and noting I didn’t ever sit the reader down and go “hey, this isn’t a modern-day US city with revelation of were-folk among us, this is a city set in a fantasy kingdom where the werefolk rule.” …Which, if they’d been picking it up off the shelves *mumble* years ago, might not have been needed, but these days, the readers are going “Is this NYC plus monsters, or Chicago plus monsters?” because that’s where the genre has moved on to.

This is actually a good reminder for the W(NL)IP, because that one’s influences are straight out of writers that these days are best known as “Appendix N”, and so mixing alien ruins and psychic abilities and hard scifi and military operations with realpolitik is… going to be a harder thing for people who didn’t grow up to Leigh Brackett, CL Moore, H Rider Haggard, Jack Vance…

Side note: if you like the idea of jerry-rigging things to solve problems and brave new worlds, but don’t like the modern hard-scifi subgenre? Read Jack Vance’s The Blue World. Is awesome.

Right. So less unfolding as we go, and more “Hi. This isn’t walking in and ordering The Usual from your normal waitress. You’ve just walked through the bead curtain into a shop full of scents you’ve never smelled before, and the menu not only isn’t in English, it’s handwritten on a chalkboard… if that’s the menu, because there are no prices. The people around you are speaking in six languages, none of which are yours. It smells amazing. Do you want to join the queue and have an adventure?”

9 thoughts on “Where did that come from?

  1. On the bright side, you have the advantage of Being New And Original!

    (Which is more annoying than you would think. Being flattered for your originality instead of being praised for your adept use of old tropes is not really flattering.)

  2. Agree on Charles de Lint. Svaha was sooooo different from most of what was running around. Greenmantle I recognized the ideas he was drawing from, even if I didn’t really like where he went with some of them. Svaha . . . totally off-kilter from what was around it. Very cool.

  3. The Appendix N contents are largely what was available circa 1958-1970 in paperback, the fuel of my youth. That’s not to say there weren’t other greats not mentioned that came out (or were reissued) during that same effort. I remember the rise vividly — the paper sacks full of books from the bookstore run — and I remember the fall, when it felt like you couldn’t find a damn thing worth reading. Not entirely true, of course, but the falloff was notable.

  4. Do you remember what happened to Ringo when he put out a couple of chapters saying not publishable, just to get this out of my head?…?…? Not saying that this is the case here but…tagging the muse and Murphy at the same time is always problematic.

  5. There’s nothing wrong with heinleining in the environment and nothing wrong with the background, the audience just needs enough of a hint at the front that this isn’t Sparkly Vampires in Chicago or Cuddly Werewolves of London.

    Take, for example, Larry’s Monster Hunter books. We know from the second or third paragraph that were-critters are bad and not cuddly and can shortly figure out that the only time the vampires sparkle is when they are on fire.

    Same here. A wee bit of throwaway about how the humans have been gradually getting more rights from their Were masters is all that is required so that the reader knows what he’s not reading and can adjust appropriately

  6. I certainly admire War for the Oaks / Bordertown / etc — WftO is, I believe, one of the finest fantasy novels of its era.

    But I’d place urban fantasy in a much older genre — arguably going back for Leiber’s Lankhmar stories (the city plays a really important role there, as it does in WftO). But, even if you don’t want to count those (which I do), then you get to trace it back to his Conjure Wife (Unknown, 1943). Since marketing categories didn’t exist then, it’s clearly Urban Fantasy, or Horror, or Paranormal Romance, or Gothic Romance, or … — it’s been marketed as all of those).

    Of course, since I did grow up with the influences you mentioned, I’m looking forward to reading
    the work, whatever genre you market it in.

    1. I haven’t read Leiber in longer than I want to admit, but now that you mention it, you are, unsurprisingly, absolutely correct. I found WftO before I found Fritz Leiber by at least ten years, which not only shows my age rather neatly, it also admits which was my formative impression vs. which was written first.

      (Oddly, I actually bounced hard off Fafhrd and Grey Mouser the first few times I tried it, and the next thing of Lieber’s I tried was horror. I should try again. Right now, I’m reading through Emma Bull & Will Shetterly’s Double Feature, thank you, but he’s on the list of “just because I bounced off this in my 20’s doesn’t mean it won’t be different now that I am different.”)

      Ah, for the time to finish my To Be Read stack! The heat death of the universe, or my small biological part of it, will likely happen first, alas.

  7. Ah yes, the ‘joys’ of dealing with a muse who’s on a roll. Go wherever it takes you and enjoy the ride!

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