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Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy
Edited by Ellen Datlow

Discussed November/December 2011

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  1. In general, do you enjoy “urban fantasy”? Do you feel this anthology features representative works by “some of today’s hottest paranormal authors”? Definition, from Ellen Datlow’s “Introduction” to Naked City: 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.
  2. Do you think all of the stories in this anthology stick to Datlow’ s stated theme? Theme, from Ellen Datlow’s “Introduction” to Naked City: I asked writers to consider all types of locations (as long as the story takes place in a city—existing or made up). I wanted the city to be as important as anything else in the story—in other words, where the story takes place should matter, in some way, to the story.
  3. A frequent comment from readers of anthologies is that the quality of the content tends to be “uneven” (i.e. a mixture of “good stuff” and “ bad stuff”). Did you find that to be the case for Naked City?
  4. What was your favorite Naked City story? Why?
  5. What was your least favorite Naked City story? Why?
  6. Many of the authors in Naked City are also novelists. Have you read novels by any of these authors? How do these short stories compare with their novels?
  7. Two Naked City stories have LGBT content (“The Duke of Riverside” by Ellen Kushner; “King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree” by Elizabeth Bear). Did you find the LGBT content enjoyable? Appropriate to the story?
  8. Four stories are closely connected to other works by the same author. If you haven’t read other related novels/stories by that author, were you able to enjoy these stories without having read the other works? If you have read other related novels/stories by that author, what’s your impression of these stories in comparison?
    • “The Duke of Riverside” by Ellen Kushner (SWORDSPOINT; THE PRIVILEGE OF THE SWORD; THE FALL OF KINGS with Delia Sherman)
    • “Curses” by Jim Butcher (13 “Dresden Files” books – such as GHOST STORY and STORM FRONT)
    • “King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree” by Elizabeth Bear (“One-Eyed Jack and the Suicide King”)
    • “Guns for the Dead” by Melissa Marr (GRAVEMINDER)

Story synopses:

  • “Curses” (Jim Butcher – Chicago): A “Dresden Files” story. Harry Dresden investigates the Curse of the Chicago Cubs.
  • “How the Pooka Came to New York City” (Delia Sherman – NYC): Historical fantasy (1855). A man and his pooka emigrate from The Old Sod to the Big Apple.
  • “On the Slide” (Richard Bowes – NYC): Reality and fantasy collide as a TV actor in a crime drama tries to hide from a disreputable past.
  • “The Duke of Riverside” (Ellen Kushner – fantasy city, Riverside): A new “fantasy of manners” story in the SWORDSPOINT universe, set shortly before and after the events in that novel, highlighting various aspects of the relationship between Richard St. Vier and Alec.
  • “Oblivion by Calvin Klein” (Christopher Fowler – London): A jaded fashionista and shopaholic takes a mysterious young man hostage and touches Fantasy.
  • “Fairy Gifts” (Patricia Briggs – Butte, Montana): A Chinese immigrant-turned-vampire finally resolves a century-old debt to the fae.
  • “Picking Up the Pieces” (Pat Cadigan – Berlin): A no-nonsense woman attempts to bring her younger, free-spirited sister home from a ghostly encounter in Berlin during the days when the Wall came down.
  • “Underbridge” (Peter S. Beagle – Seattle): A frequently-disappointed academic encounters the Aurora Avenue Bridge Troll.
  • “Priced to Sell” (Naomi Novik – Manhattan): Weird real estate tactics and Fantasy clients in modern-day Manhattan.
  • “The Bricks of Gelecek” (Matthew Kressel – fantasy city, Gelecek): One of the demons of dissolution is enthralled by a young girl’s songs, which make him fondly remember the cities he’s destroyed.
  • “Weston Walks” (Kit Reed – NYC): A wealthy recluse leads unique tours through NYC; he falls in love with one of the city’s mysterious “Underworld people.”
  • “The Projected Girl” (Lavie Tidhar – Haifa, Israel): A young boy investigates a decades-old mysterious in modern-day Haifa, a mystery involving a disappearing magic trick.
  • “The Way Station” (Nathan Ballingrud – St. Petersburg FL/New Orleans): A haunted old man, displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, is obsessed with finding his daughter in Florida.
  • “Guns for the Dead” (Melissa Marr – unidentified city): A newly-dead woman runs guns to the dead to oppose an otherworldly gangster kingpin in the afterlife.
  • “And Go Like This” (John Crowley – NYC): A weird tale about moving all the world’s billions of people into New York City.
  • “Noble Rot” (Holly Black – Asbury Park, NJ): A runaway with a dark secret delivers food to an aging, dying, reclusive rock star.
  • “Daddy Longlegs of the Evening” (Jeffrey Ford – Grindley?): A monstrous, murderous creature grows up and menaces the city, the state, the country.
  • “The Skinny Girl” (Lucius Shepard – Mexico City): A homicide photographer meets Santa Muerte.
  • “The Collier’s Venus (1893)” (Caitlin Kiernan – Denver): A steampunkish story involving the unearthing of a powerful, primordial spirit from a coal mine.
  • “King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree” (Elizabeth Bear – Las Vegas): One-Eyed Jack, the genius loci of Las Vegas, (and his boyfriend Stewart) fight to save the mind and memory of their city from supernatural attack.
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