Monday, February 22, 2021

The Catholic Geek Reloaded, God, Guns and Texas, with Denton Salle

Host Declan Finn returns to discuss Texas Urban Fantasy with author Denton Salle. ... during the great Texas freeze, and right before the rolling blackouts started in earnest. Salle's Amazon page:

Monday, February 8, 2021

Dragon (Awards) Rising

Here we are again.

As I said last time, I've had people asking me about what I want to nominate for the Dragon Awards since November.

Yes, really.

And the people asking me aren't writers. They're people who just care a lot about the Dragons.

So, I have a little list.

At the moment, these are what I, personally, am voting for in the Dragons. Full stop. I've read them. I've enjoyed them. If you don't like it, then fine. I'm going to plug in suggestions I have gotten for categories I have no nominees for, but that is IT.

But I am no longer going to solicit suggestions. I'm not even going to try for a discussion this year. Why? Because every time I've done this, almost everyone who comes by drops a link in the comments going ME ME ME, and disappears. When I last tried this, I had people who came by, asking me to to add them to the list ... and they didn't realize they were already on it, because they didn't read it.

So, who's the best of the best this year?

Best Science Fiction

Karl Gallagher, Storm Between the Stars: Book 1 in the Fall of the Censor 

If you haven't read my review of this book, you really should. This book was quite amazing, and blew me away. Right now, the only contender at the moment is the sequel, which I have an advanced copy of. But let's stick with book one for the moment. Since Karl really is a rocket scientist, his physics are awesome. And his worldbuilding is, as always, amazing.

You might want to at least try out book one here.

I am sorely tempted to just nominate Karl Gallagher's second book, but it's probably easier to get book 1 nominated ... besides, the world building along is perfect. 

(At the moment, there is a potential future contender: Richard Paolinelli is working on a MilSF -- and since Escaping Infinity and When the gods Fell were amazing, I'm not betting against him.)

Best Fantasy

I'm going to hold off on this one right now. Why? Because I don't think Jim Butcher wants a third Dragon Award, and I haven't read anything recent in fantasy.

I've also been told to look up Chris Nuttal, and his fantasy ... or military fantasy? Either way, I'll look at it and see if I can fit it in here.

Best Alternate History

Educated Luck, by Mel Todd

I literally reviewed this one yesterday. While it takes place in a fantasy world, there's so much history there that I feel it could hold its own against most of the Alt-History crowd.

Damn sure better than yet another Turtledove. Yes, I am sick of his stuff. So shoot me.

Best Mil SFF

Kai Wai Cheah, Unmasked.  

"But Declan," I hear you say. "That's superhero. Not military!"

Well, if you've read the review, you'd note that there is so much strategy and tactics, the last half of the book, at least, is military. And the front half is building to urban warfare.

Best Horror

I'm going to shoot for it: Hussar, by Declan Finn. (Amazon link here)

.... why? Well, several reasons.

1) I've never fit well into other categories. And after the first hundred zombies, I think I fit.

2) I don't read horror. I don't read horror so much, I had to write my own. So there.

Now, you'll notice, I left out more than a few things.

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel (L. Jagi Lamplighter hasn't written anything in the eligibility window): Chalk by NR La Point has been recommended to me, but I haven't read it yet. 

Also recommended to me is The Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking. 

Best Media Tie-In Novel (I naturally assume Timothy Zahn is going to win this, since he's come out with a Thrawn novel. But I've been wrong before.)

Best Comic Book (Has anyone read a comic book lately?)

Best Graphic Novel (Ibid)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series (I have not seen Mandalorian Season 2. And right now, I don't see a lot on TV right now in SFF. People have told me the Expanse is good, but I can't get into it)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie (There were movies this year? That were good? No, WW84 does not count)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game (I'm sure someone wants to give this to Cyberpunk 2077. Given what I've heard of the game's bugs, I'd bet against it. However, I don't know of any competitors. So it wins by default? Or is the Miles Morales game going to take it?)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game (haven't played a mobile game in years.)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game (Couldn't pick them out of a lineup.)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game (Someone else? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller? )

And the 2021 awards are already open. You can nominate here. But I think it's too early. Too few categories are really worth while right now.

Monday, February 1, 2021

What makes Urban fantasy?

[EDIT: I've been corrected. Anita Blake took place in Saint Louis. Which tells you exactly how little of an impression it made]

What makes Urban fantasy?

If you said "It's Fantasy in a city, duh" you'd be right.

Then where's the city?

You see, one of the things I've always taken into account when writing my UF novels is that the city is a character. Like the Enterprise in Star Trek, the city itself plays a significant part in the story. It was one of my big problems with Anita Blake novels -- before they became porn-- I never got a sense that the city was a part of the story. The novels took place in Seattle Saint Louis, but they felt like they could have taken place anywhere. The same with Larry Correia's Monster Hunters or Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series.

They felt like modern fantasy, but not necessarily urban fantasy. 

For example, when I think of a sense of place, Correia's Monster Hunters live in a southern compound. There are forests. There are swamps. There aren't many cities, except in Monster Hunter: Legion, where he trashes Las Vegas, and sections of Siege that took place in Russia. With Carrie Vaughn, Kitty Norville's town could be any town with a radio station on one end, and wilderness on the other... even though it's supposed to be Denver, nothing felt that distinct. My memory may be failing me, but to be honest, if there were distinct elements of each city, they left no impression with me at all.

At the very start of Urban Fantasy, Fred Saberhagen set Dracula in Chicago. Saberhagen's Old Friend of the Family ended with a vampire throwdown, on top of the frozen river running through the city. For Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden, Chicago is deeply relevant for the setting, especially in his most recent novel, Battle Ground.

On the other end of the scale, Urban Fantasy makes the setting seriously matter. 

Correia's Grimnoir series makes each city feel distinct, especially as he trashes it. 

Despite the fact that she's often listed under romance, Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunters world usually did a fairly good job capturing the setting of New Orleans and getting a feel for the city as a whole--from the atmosphere to the accents. 

John Ringo did much the same for Monster Hunter Memoirs, both in New Orleans and the other cities his hero Chad was stationed

Russell Newquist's War Demons gave me a good sense of Georgia--up to and including a final fight in a football stadium.

Even in fictional cities like Silver Empire's superhero novels, each city has a unique tone and feel to it. Morgan Newquist does a great job in building her Serenity city--which feels very corporate, with put-on sophistication that reminds me of Manhattan elitists. Kai Wai Cheah's Hollow City vividly reminds me of San Francisco culture with Chicago corruption. It was much the same in Kim Harrison's Hollows series -- she's altered the world so much that I have not idea how much of her Cincinnati is real and how much is fictional, but it is distinct.

This was very much my own thought process when I wrote Saint Tommy NYPD or Love at First Bite. And they're both less "New York City" novels as they are local neighborhood novels. New York City is made up of local areas that are as distinct from each other as cities are from one another. With Love at First Bite, Manhattan vampire bars feel different than fighting vampires in a Queens cemetery, which feels different than working around San Francisco (even before San Francisco streets turned to feces and needles). The vampire bar near Mount Sinai isn't the bar near Alphabet city. 

For Saint Tommy, he doesn't have to deal with mafiosi or a heavy street gang presence, because they're in different neighborhoods... except for MS-13, which is closing in on several fronts. Heck, even the tactics of fighting in each neighborhood is different. In Brooklyn, you can launch an armed ambush by hiding armies down side streets. In King's Point, individual homes have their own personal docks. When I wrote the books, I was certain that committing a crime in broad daylight would earn the perp a good stomping by a passerby, then move along. (... since then, my faith in the ornery average New Yorker has been massively shaken) In later books, I make use of local geography and sites that you don't have in any tour book. 

Of course, I have a car chase that requires not only knowing traffic patterns, but also ways around them. 

In fact, that's part of what gives many of the above UF novels their feel--the city has an overall feel, and each neighborhood has their own feel. A major plot point of Battle Ground involved a fae army walking into the wrong part of Chicago, as well as local architecture being tactically useful... even Chicago pizza is a plot element. No two parts of Kim Harrison's Cincinnati are alike, but the overall feel of the city is consistent. Monster Hunter Legion could only have taken place in Las Vegas for multiple reasons. The same with Fred Saberhagen and Chicago.

So, TLDR: in Urban Fantasy, the city should be a part of the story, a player in its own right, with its own feel and own distinct areas. Otherwise, it's contemporary fantasy. Don't get me wrong, all but one of the authors mentioned here have written great books. But are they urban fantasy?

I'll make you a challenge. Read any of my UF to get a feel for what I mean, then read the others. Then tell me if I'm wrong.**

**Publisher links below.