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Sunday, August 21, 2011

New Anthology: "Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy"

Editor: Ellen Datlow
Title: Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy
Plot Type: UF
Ratings: Levels of violence and humor vary greatly from story to story, but the level of sensuality is relatively low throughout.
Publisher: St. Martin's (2011)

     The theme of the book is the "urban" part of urban fantasy—the city. As Datlow says in her introduction: "Urban fantasy as we have come to know it today combines the often-dark edge of city living with enticing worlds of magic. Its subgenres include noir crime and paranormal romance. But the urban landscape is what's crucial."  

     I couldn't agree more. The best UF pulls the reader into the bleak and grimy "urban-ness" of contemporary city life, providing a sensory glimpse of the essence of the urban experience: seeing the crumbling buildings and hard, glassy skyscrapers; hearing the traffic sounds and the screams in the night; and smelling the rot and urine in the dumpster-filled alleys. The key words in UF are "dark" and "gritty," and most of the stories in this book, meet that standard.

     Here is a list of the authors and titles that are included in this anthology. I have highlighted my favorites in green:           

     Jim Butcher: "Curses"
    Delia Sherman: "How the Pooka Came To New York City"
    Richard Bowes: "On the Slide"
    Ellen Kushner: "The Duke of Riverside"
    Christopher Fowler: "Oblivion by Calvin Klein"
     Patricia Briggs: "Fairy Gifts"
    Pat Cadigan: "Picking up the Pieces"
     Peter S. Beagle: "Underbridge"
     Naomi Novik: "Priced To Sell" 
    Matthew Kressel: "The Bricks of Gelecek"
    Kit Reed: "Weston Walks"
    Lavie Tidhar: "The Projected Girl"
    Nathan Ballingrud: "The Way Station"
     Melissa Marr: "Guns for the Dead"
    John Crowley: "And Go Like This"
    Holly Black: "Noble Rot"
    Jeffrey Ford: "Daddy Long Legs of the Evening"
    Lucius Shepard: "The Skinny Girl"
    CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan: "The Colliers’ Venus"
    Elizabeth Bear: "King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree"

     Cities in which these stories are set include New York City (with several stories), London, Berlin, New Orleans, Haifa (Israel), Chicago, Seattle, Mexico City, Las Vegas, Asbury Park (NJ), and Cherry Creek (CO). Some stories are much more magical than others. Some are related to series (e.g., Jim Butcher's HARRY DRESDEN, Melissa Marr's GRAVEMINDER).

     I have been frequently disappointed with the short stories in paranormal anthologies, but this book has some good ones. Here are one-line summaries of my favorites:

>  Jim Butcher's "Curses": Harry Dresden is hired to lift the Billy Goat Curse from the Chicago Cubs. (V1; S0; H3)

>  Melissa Marr's "Guns for the Dead": The gun supplier in the land of the dead, Alicia (one of my favorite characters in the GRAVEMINDER series), recruits a new assistant and tries to get the best of Mr. D. (V3; S0; H3)

>  Patricia Briggs's "Fairy Gifts": A Chinese-American vampire comes home to Butte, Montana, to return a fae favor. (V3; S0; H0)

>  Peter S. Beagle's "Underbridge": An English professor gets chummy with Seattle's famous Troll sculpture. (V4; S0; H2)

> Naomi Novik's "Priced to Sell": New York City realtors work hard—hilariously hard—to sell sketchy properties to various supernaturals. (V1; S0; H4)

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