Tuesday night I went to the local Barnes & Noble to see Mur Lafferty, Podcast champion author of The Shambling Guide to New York City and its sequel, the new Ghost Train to New Orleans. I had picked up her first book at The Strand last October when I was reluctant to leave the Big Apple and wanted a little funny escapism.
It’s a wonky, fun read that’s creative in its world-building—Mur was an RPG writer for years and I wonder if building an interactive narrative within a framework aided in her ability to create this underground world. At times, the plot felt a bit forced but I have to give it props for the ingenuity and the plucky heroine Zoë Norris.
In person, Mur was dynamic and funny. She recounted the research trip that she and a friend took to New Orleans, which sounds chock-full of local flavor and side stories. Also amusing: her British publishing house nixed Boston as the sequel city. She speculates that they are still sore about the tea.
When discussing her favorite writers and books (Hitchhiker’s Guide, Nevermore, My Life as a White Trash Zombie, The Girl with All the Gifts, etc.), she noted that she is trying to read more urban fantasy, since technically that’s what she wrote. Like her, I was unaware urban fantasy was even a genre.
Granted, as much as I enjoy sci-fi movies, TV, and pop culture, I am not a sci-fi reader. I find that the genre either lacks depth or is too alien (pardon the pun) to find a foothold. Of course there are exceptions: I love all the Harry Potter books; I found The Sparrow to be as rich as any fiction; and I relished the zany riffs in Slaughterhouse Five. But mostly, I prefer magical realism, dystopians, and fiction with a hint of the bizarre over straight-up sci-fi/fantasy.
Still, when you’re wanting a metropolitan break from the mortal world, take a spin around the urban fantasy scene.