Thursday, November 08, 2007

Signs and Omens and Same Old


The Terrace at Meric ( Les Lauriers Roses)
Frederic Bazille,
oil on canvas ( unfinished), 1867.
Cincinnati Art Museum.

When writing urban fantasy, one need not neglect the existing superstitions of our normal world in favour of an entirely new cosmology.

I think that faint familiarity is part of the charm of the genre -- when the paranormal becomes mundane -- and when human nature proves persistent.

As Lillie observes in Malignity:

Ghosts were almost as profitable for entrepreneurial psychics as zombies - and considerably safer, obviously.

Ancestral ghosts were no longer the providence of old money and old families, but available to social climbers and the nouveau riche. Lots of people decided they wanted a resident ghost. At first.

Ghosts were also imported to supply cache to historic buildings and tourist spots that had previously been bereft of spectral endorsement.

Ghost walks proliferated and became perversely popular for a time. The more outre advertised them as Death Walks.

Ghost raising also avoided the messy ethical problems associated with animation: the blood rites.

Which was another thing I had against animators -- animal sacrifice. If animators needed fresh blood, they or their clients should supply it, not some dumb animal.

I avoided the whole animation thing. I would have nothing to do with them or zombies. It was in my contract.

A fact which made me a sitting duck if someone decided to sic one on me.

I didn't know the rules.


The paranormal may also perform according to type in urban fantasy.

Later, after surveying a desecrated grave -- one where the tombstone unaccountably bears her name -- Lillie encounters a typical death omen.


The sound of hooves and carriages on the avenue alerted me; and I automatically veered to the edge of the gravel drive to wait for the pale cortege to pass.

A fancy affair with silver harness and sable plumes on a horse-drawn hearse. A shadowy driver hunched on the forward box. In the next carriage a male mourner rode in sombre, solitary state. Misty weedy females in the third. The suggestion of fluttering crepe. No wailing though, only the rolling wheels and clop-clop of hooves. A restrained, impersonal apparition.

A gust of cold wind splattered rain drops from the trees above. The moisture collected, ran down, and fell off the wide sleeves of my plastic cape, like tears.
Urban fantasy is so much fun.

26 comments:

moonrat said...

great painting, too.

can you do "bernita's favorite urban fantasy" books suggestion? i can't do a top 3 because i think the only one i've ever read is winter's tale.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Moonmouse.
Hmmm.It's an elastic term, actually.
I shall think on it.

writtenwyrdd said...

Lately, there have been a few discussions about what is and is not urban fantasy. Reading your post, it occurs to me that urban fantasy is fantasy that occurs in/close to our present day, and is similar enough in texture to-- mostly-- be mistaken for the 'real' world.

Lovely excerpts. You might be writing Anita Blake's more erudite and cultured counterpart. She comes from the down-and-dirty mean streets, Lillie drinks tea at 4 with Miss Marple...yet still kicks derrier!

Lovely painting. I find it interesting to see how others paint. Finishing the background before adding the seated woman, you'd have to cope with the existing brush strokes from the underlayment. I always found that unsightly and irritating, and would even sand the old paint to smooth it out.

Which makes an odd metaphore for writing, too, now that I think about it... I'm nothing if not more than a little obsessive-compulsive!

writtenwyrdd said...

PS for moonie, I'll repost my urban fantasy favorites, too.

Jaye Wells said...

I agree UF is fun. And so is your book, from what I've seen so far.

Carla said...

"I think that faint familiarity is part of the charm of the genre -- when the paranormal becomes mundane -- and when human nature proves persistent."
Interesting point. I wonder if it also applies to fantasy, in some ways? It needs to have some level of recognition to work.

Ello said...

Very cool! I'm always left panting for more after you give us a taste of Lillie. The whole concept of raising ghosts for profit is very cool - the world you created sounds so fascinating. I'm like a broken record, but I can't wait to read Malignity!

December/Stacia said...

Testify! Urban fantasy is the most fun ever.
I'd love to see your recommendations, Bernita!

Bernita said...

That's the way I see it, Written. If not, then one is more into alternate history/universe, etc.
A overly-flattering comparison. I shall have to make Lillie seem a little less prim, methinks.
But maybe it's a good thing - anything gritty will have an extra shock/twist effect.

Thank you, Jaye. Certainly it's fun to construct and explore.

I think so, Carla. Though the degree ofnecessary recognition may vary, according to taste and talent.

Bless you, El.
I must admit to a certain humble astonishment that you feel that way about lillie.

Bernita said...

Especially, December, when a writer like you takes that over-wrought cliche (which litters far too many queries)- "personal demons"- and turns them into actual demons.

StarvingWriteNow said...

A market for ghosts. Excellent!

Robyn said...

I'm totally printing bumper stickers: "The I Heart Lillie fanclub."

I appreciate the way you can keep the chilly, spooky atmosphere without going all the way into horror. Malignity would be a delicious read on a cold rainy day, tea and fluffy blanket at hand.

writtenwyrdd said...

All I'm saying is Lilly seems better mannered and more cultured than Anita Blake. Don't go changing her because of an off-the-cuff remark! so far, I like her! Grrr.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds like you're having fun. Great writing days when that happens.

Bernita said...

Seems logical, Starving, once they became readily available.

"appreciate the way you can keep the chilly, spooky atmosphere without going all the way into horror. Malignity would be a delicious read on a cold rainy day, tea and fluffy blanket at hand."

Oh, I hope so, Robyn...
And have I ever said that I love you dearly?

I understood, Written. Thank you.
Just the same, it's a valid worry that I have that she might strike readers as too well-manered.

Great fun, Charles!
Right now I'm wrestling with the best way for her to extinquish a pedophile ghost.

writtenwyrdd said...

Extinguish a pedophile ghost? Oooh, something appropriately sick and cruel, I hope!

raine said...

Thank you, Bernita.
More of Lillie to make my day. :)

Love the idea of ghosts as a status symbol, and being used as economic attractions, lol.

I would have nothing to do with them or zombies. It was in my contract.

I am SO posting this on my desk at work...

Bernita said...

I think oblivion, Written, to wipe them out as if they had never been, without compunction,is her preferred method.

Raine, from what little I know of societal impulse/fads/trends I can well imagine ghosts becoming the latest decor thing.

"I am SO posting this on my desk at work..."
That should lead to some interesting eyebrows and comments!

The Anti-Wife said...

Love the painting and your excerpt is very interesting.

Bernita said...

Thank you, AW.
Still draft, like the painting.

Jon M said...

I love ghosts, they can seep into your everyday life and pop up when least expected. I love the English Ghost stories, MR James comes to mind. Quite creepy stuff!

Shauna Roberts said...

Intriguing excerpt. Just that little bit made me eager to read the book.

I think part of the pull of urban fantasy is that coexisting with the boring mundane world we know is a hidden exciting world filled with wonders. Usually, this world is a secret, but the protagonist (and the reader, vicariously) is or becomes one of those in the know.

Although from your excerpt, it sounds as if the world of ghosts is accepted as part of everyday existence.

Sam said...

Gorgeous painting, and prose!
Urban fanstasy is FUN.

Bernita said...

And fascinating, Jon.

A good description.Thank you, Shauna.

Thank you, Sam.
Indeed it is.

Billy said...

I think Carla has hit the nail on the head: a faint familiarity, or some level of recognition.

Bernita said...

A particular necessity for fantasy, I think, Billy, which - unlike other fiction - is overtly "impossible."