What a beautiful evening it was.
That brilliant sky-cathedral arced overhead like a gateway to eternity, sun sparkling across the waves, igniting them with Nature’s impossible passion for itself. Cascades of colors too rich for words to capture painted that sky and everything beneath it blazing. Some teenagers passed a Frisbee back and forth, their skins orange in the dusklight. A girl about my age did yoga in the sand. A pair of gray-haired dudes meandered like lovers, ankle-deep in surf. Far off, the buoys pitched and rolled, warning off the ships that slid through distant currents. Evening fog drifted in patches on the edges of the scene. That moment, though, burned me with its perfect clarity…
– From Dream Along the Edge, my contribution to the collection Under an Enchanted Skyline (under my pen-name Cedar Blake)
Hola, and Happy Holidays to you all, whoever you might be and whatever you might celebrate!
In the last week of the availability of our collection Under an Enchanted Skyline, I’ve joined my fellow authors as part of a round table discussion about urban fantasy and this limited-edition set – eight novella-length tales for only $.99.
Each one of us has posted a question and the responses from our co-authors. Here’s the one I was given, along with our associated answers. Enjoy!
In Urban Fantasy, the location of the story is often more than just a setting. It’s a character in its own right, and it influences what happens in the story. Does the city in your story have such an impact, and how does it affect your tale?
Django Wexler: I suspect I’m going to be the odd man out here, because my “urban” fantasy actually doesn’t rely too much on its urban setting. John Golden takes place in a kind of alternate universe where the invention of computing led to the rediscovery of faeries, who find the metaphorical worlds inside of computers extremely inviting. So John’s story is less about the physical world than most. It takes place in Seattle, and my background in software development helped set the scene (and set up some really atrocious puns) but the real setting of the story is the faerie burrows and the Wildernet (the dark, faerie-haunted equivalent of the internet) that connects them.
Janine A. Southard: As the compiler for this boxed set, I don’t have a story in it myself… but I do have experience with cities. Over the years, I’ve lived in some of the biggest cities in the world. (Including Los Angeles, New York, and Tokyo which is on the cover of this book.) Urban fantasy brings magic and excitement to the kinds of places I know and love. All modern cities, large and small, have a different flavor from each other, sure, but they’re equally distinct from the medieval settings favored by traditional fantasy novels. You don’t have to go to a deserted rural crossroads at midnight to travel to the otherworld; you can ride the Metro into it!
Doug Blakeslee: My city, Portland Oregon, plays a minor role in the story, but I do use a lot of locations around it. There’s many of interesting places in and around the city, which I’ve leveraged somewhat to try and give a vibrant feel. The seer’s shop in the middle of a gentrified warehouse district, a battle on a beach, and then a Fae invasion in one of the seedier parts of the city. I had a friend read a story and he could envision the location just by the landmarks I gave. He thought it was very cool and creepy at the same time. I’ll call it a good impact.
Jennifer Brozek: In Caller Unknown, the fictional city of Kendrick is set between Port Angeles and Port Townsend on the Olympic peninsula of Washington state. It has a very big impact on the series set within it. You might say that Kendrick is a character in and of itself. This is the first time I’ve done this and I really like how it’s impacted the story. I think there are cities that immediately set expectations for a reader. They have different flavors and tones to them. You understand that a story set in New York City is probably not going to be a quiet one whereas setting one in Haven, Maine will be.
Erik Scott de Bie: Eye for an Eye takes place in the fantastic Cobalt City, a shared setting full of noble heroes, terrible villains, and all sorts of hijinks. As a well-established, storied locale, it brings a huge amount of history to it, and infuses tales set there with powerful local animus. There’s also a scene (and this is my favorite scene in the novella) wherein Lady Vengeance—a projecting empathy who specializes in manipulation of fear—makes her counterpart Stardust’s worst fear come true: that the city will turn upon him. It very literally becomes a character in the story, and quite the scrapper at that.
Phoebe Matthews: The Sunspinners series is set in a wealthy neighborhood where neighbors politely ignore the protagonist’s household. Possibly they assume there is an insane auntie in an upstairs room, complete with a Jane Eyre nurse. This allows the paranormal family to function without interruptions. Across town is the neighborhood setting of the Mudflat Magic series and is the opposite in that all the low income families in Mudflat know everything about each other. This creates totally different plot complications.
Cedar Blake: Oh, yeah. Dream Along the Edge was set in my former Bay Area home town, and although I did not personally live in Half Moon Bay, I spent a lot of time there, especially in the early mornings and at sunset. The physical environment is an accurate reflection of my impressions there, and although I never dove naked in the Pacific Ocean, I did do a lot of swimming in those cold, rough waters and I wrote ‘em like I lived ‘em.
Chalice’s home is essentially a fictionalized version of the house I was staying in back then. Thankfully, I wasn’t based in the living room – I had my own bedroom and bathroom – but the house is very much like the place where I lived, down to the “temple” and the uses to which that room was put. My real housemate/ landlady was much cooler than Chalice is, but her then-boyfriend wasn’t far removed from Luke. The annoying New Age-isms were also very much a part of my Bay Area experience, and although I present a rather sarcastic portrayal of my social environment at the time, it’s also a rather accurate one.