Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Preliminary List of Urban Fantasy Comics

Browsing through the titles on Comixology the other day, I started to wonder if there were any good UF comics out there. Back in the 90s, when DC's Vertigo imprint was big, there were a number of good books, but what about now? The UF genre in fiction has taken off in recent years, so maybe the same is true of comics?

It doesn't really seem that it has, but then, it's hard to tell just from looking at the little blurbs and cover images. And there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of information online (unless I'm looking in the wrong place).

So I'm starting to put together a list, and if you think of anything I missed (and I know there are some--there's a niggling in the back of my head that tells me I probably left out something important), please leave a comment or shoot me an email. For now, this list will just include North American and European comics available in English, but if you know of some in other languages, let me know and I'll keep track of those, too. I'll also eventually compile a list of manga (but there are so many that could at least marginally qualify as UF that I'm a bit daunted).

Vertigo Books
  • Sandman
  • Death
  • Books of Magic
  • Books of Faerie
  • Lucifer
  • Preacher
  • Hellblazer
  • Fables

Other Publishers
  • The Unwritten
  • Locke & Key
  • Hellboy/BPRD
  • The Good Neighbours trilogy (Kith, Kin and Kind) by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh
  • Foiled by Jane Yolen
  • Courtney Crumrin series by Ted Naifeh (I may be stretching the UF definition a little, but I love this series)
  • Mercy Thompson: Homecoming by Patricia Briggs (I put this here rather than in adaptations because it's a new story)


Adaptations of Novels
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • Dark Swan: Storm Born by Richelle Mead
  • various titles of Anita Blake books by Laurell K. Hamilton
  • Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hurtling Madly Through a Story

So here's the thing, when I write, I tend to hurtle through the story at top speed, figuring it's better to get the story out while it all makes sense, and then fix whatever problems come up later. And when I say top speed, I mean top speed.

I never learned touch-typing in school, and though I've ben able to learn to type pretty fast on my own, I still write faster in longhand. Though my writing does become less legible the longer I write. So I draft in a notebook, with a pen (and owing to a gimpy wrist, I use fat pens, because those thin little elegant things hurt after a fairly short time).

I prefer cheap dollar store notebooks. Not because I don't appreciate good bookbinding--I do, very much. It's because a cheap notebook isn't precious, so it doesn't matter if I write crap in it. And that freedom to write crap is important. It means I'm not held up by insecurities over the quality of my writing, and I can hurtle through the story and maybe, almost keep up with it.

And that's the real reason I write fast. I seldom plan stories at all, except to have a general idea of their trajectory, and maybe a few scenes I know need to happen somewhere along the way. I write to find out what happens, just like a reader reads, and the faster I write, the sooner I know. And the faster I write, the better chance I have to keep up with the story as it spills out of my brain. because I have this weird notion that if it gets away from me, I might never catch up. I might lose the story. And for me, there's no point in starting a story if I'm not going to finish it.

The surprising thing, even to me and I've been at this a while, is how complete the story is when I get to the end. I always think I'm going to have to go back and add all those subtle details and hints that really tie a story together, but when I go start to edit, I very often find my brain was way ahead of my conscious thoughts, and those things are already there.

Vixen for Free, and Cara

Before I completely forget, Vixen (the e-book version) is currently free on the Amazons, and will be for today (March 22, 2012) and tomorrow (March 23, 2012). After Monday, it'll start showing up in non-Amazon venues.

And I just posted a new short story called "Cara" about a new character (though she was briefly seen in Vixen and slightly less briefly in Hexen). It's 99 cents for now, though it will probably get a free promo at some point.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Vixen in Paperback, Plus Odds and Ends

First, because I'm very excited about it, I want to show you this:

Yes, it's the proof for the paperback version of Vixen!

You can get your very own copy from Amazon, in trade pb size (that's the larger 9x6 inch size). So far it only seems to be available in the US Amazon store, but it should show up in the others shortly. We'll also be enabling expanded distribution, so you'll eventually be able to buy it from other stores and even order if from your local bookshop. Updates on that as I have them.

There are a few small differences from the e-book version (aside from the cover). Some typos have been corrected (I'm sure there are still some lurking in there, but I hope we got most of them this time), and a small problem with tenses I discovered in one paragraph have been fixed. There's also a sneak preview of the first chapter from book two, Hexen! We'll be updating the e-book version soon to match, but we want to make the Kindle version, at least, look as nice as the print book, so we have some InDesign plug-in wrangling to do. Updates on that soon, too. And in a couple of weeks, the e-book will also be available on other platforms.

Odds and Ends

I'm swamped with dayjob work this week, so I'll continue my look at defining UF next week. I'm also planning to do more reviewing here. I just finished Patricia Briggs' River Marked, so I'll have a review of that up soonish.

And if you're a writer of UF, PNR, or something similar and you'd like me to review your book, get in touch. You'll find my email on my profile page (link over the the right and down somewhere). I may not be able to get to it quickly, but I will eventually, and any review I write will also get posted to Goodreads and LibraryThing, and maybe also Shelfari (and possibly the Amazons).

If you like free books and haven't tried Vixen yet, it'll be free on Amazon Kindle March 22 and 23 (I'll post a reminder next week here and on Twitter). Also, sign up for my newsletter (form in the top of the right hand column), and be the first to read an upcoming short story about Cara, a witch Su meets in Charleston's research complex. Finally, I'll be doing a giveaway for a paperback of Vixen sometime soonish, so if you want to make sure you hear about it, sign up for my newsletter, follow me on Twitter (link over there to the right somewhere), or follow this blog via Google.

I'm pretty sure there was something else I was going to say, but I've forgotten what it was.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Defining UF: It's the "Urban"

A recent post on Fangs for the Fantasy got me thinking about my quest to define "urban fantasy" and its related terminology.
Now, I’m actually go out on a limb here and say that the “urban” part of Urban Fantasy is actually a misnomer – since urban merely suggests the presence of a city and a lot of Urban Fantasy does not contain an Urban setting while a lot of Classic or High Fantasy can, indeed, be city based.
I think this has been the core of the problem with the label "urban fantasy" right from the beginning (yes, even back in my day, when Charles deLint was UF). It is also, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, the main problem with the phrase "urban legend" (I mentioned this interesting parallel in folklore/fiction labelling a couple of posts ago).

In both cases, the word "urban" was chosen for its connotations of modern, new, having to do with the here-and-now. And in both cases, it doesn't fit because neither urban fantasy nor urban legend necessarily occurs in an urban (which is to say "city") setting. And in both folklore and fiction, the word "contemporary" was suggested to replace "urban."

So we end up with "contemporary fantasy" and "contemporary legend." Neither of these is in much use among the general populace. Folklorists prefer "contemporary legend" to the more common-in-popular-use "urban legend" (at least people aren't saying "urban myth" any more). And some writers and readers, realizing that for many people "urban fantasy" is tough women (or sometimes men) fighting vampires and werewolves, have adopted "contemporary fantasy" as something that includes both that and something that maybe could be called "magic realism" (which is a genre with its own rich history, and thus a term that maybe should not be appropriated to a new use--but more on that in a future post).

The issue with using "contemporary fantasy" to refer to this kind of fiction (urban fantasy + magic realism + whatever else) is in the meaning of "contemporary." When someone says "contemporary literature," doesn't it make you think of literature written recently, as opposed to literature set recently? So for someone not familiar with genre distinctions, "contemporary fantasy" probably carries strong connotations of something written by a contemporary author, and not necessarily something with a contemporary setting. And the other issue is that some works that could be included in the same genre (or sub-genre) aren't set in the here-and-now, but may be set in the recent past or the recent future (or possibly even the not-so-recent).

Then there is the whole other issue of overlap with the horror genre (not to mention paranormal romance). Another term I'll look at in a future post is "mythic fiction," but for now I'll leave this here. I hope by the time I've looked at all the various terms and words and sub-sub genres surrounding this type of book I like so much, I'll have come to some sort of conclusion. Or at least organized my thoughts into a less rambling form.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

On The Mechanics of Writing

Instead of the post I intended to write, continuing my quest to define this genre I write in, I'm giving you this one: a thing about why I write longhand. It's because I haven't had enough sleep, and I have to teach later, so my brain is a bit rambling.

I once wrote an article about longhand versus typing for composing creative writing. It presented both sides of the issue (if you can call it an issue), and had examples from actual writers that people have heard of, and it was all very neat and organized. This one is going to be less organized (and mercifully not as long) and is not about other writers at all, but only about me.

So, a confession: I write longhand.

Actually that's not entirely true. I freelance a variety of non-fictional stuff as my "dayjob" and that I pretty much always type right into a word processor, though I may make longhand notes. And some of my fiction I do compose on my computer, in Word, or more recently in Scrivener (if you write, you should get the trial version and check it out). But writing as Nic Silver, I compose longhand.

I've thought a lot about why (I think, a lot, which is why I often don't have enough sleep--my brain just won't shut off). I don't really write any differently when I write longhand, and I don't really write any better. I could argue that the longhand version is a draft, and then I'm sort of doing a not-quite-second draft as I transcribe, which improves the flow a little and lets mecorrect minor problems as I go. And that would be true.

But it's not the real reason. The real reason I compose longhand is much simpler. It's less precious. And it's easier to get myself to curl up on the couch with a notebook and pen at the end of the day than it is to sit for another couple of hours at the computer.

Yes, I still have to do the sitting at the computer later, but by then I have something I'm excited about, and I want to know how many words I've actually written, so it's not that hard to get myself to work.

But some days, no matter how much I love writing, I just don't want to face the blank page. But scribbling in a dollar-store notebook while sipping tea with my cat purring at my feet is relaxing.

Plus, I write a lot faster longhand than I type, and most of the time it's hard enough to keep up with the story as it is.