Fantasy is usually segregated; compartmentalized into some far away world with weird places and otherworldly people. It’s almost as if the classic authors thought their fantasies were too bold to fit in the real world, so they spun realms more suitable. The old books, the ones wrought with mechanical typewriters and ink ribbons, are all the same. There’s usually a hand drawn map on the first page with randomly placed mountains and a compass rose. Then comes the narrative or the action or the dialogue but there’s always one constant: the story is somewhere else.
That’s why I’m reading more and more urban fantasy. I just sobered up from a Jim Butcher bender, every second of which I loved, and I’ve been looking for other authors that can offer the same type of fix. I guess I like my wizards with a side of Burger King; my werewolves on Main Street. There’s nothing wrong with juxtaposing fantasy against the mundane of the here and now.
I understand that some of us prefer a complete departure, a mental escape into Mordor, but why not Chicago? I think reality blends seamlessly with fantasy, and if you find an author that does it well, I’d argue that it’s more enjoyable. Urban fantasy isn’t as new as Steampunk (the genre from last week) or as flash fiction (next week), but it’s still a burgeoning style that deserves attention. And I’ve found an absolute ninja of an author to highlight as an example.
Part 2: Urban Fantasy, and Patrick O’Duffy
It takes balls to write exclusively in the narrative. Paragraphs uninterrupted by the artifice of dialogue, with block after block of black words, scare the shit out of most of us. You’ve got to have serious chops to pull it off, and O’Duffy does. He’s like the dark offspring of Ian McEwan and Justin Cronin (but with more parentheses). When I first downloaded his book and started clicking through it on my Kindle, I got a bit worried because there weren’t any quotes in sight, but his intelligent style more than made up for it. His descriptions are only bested by his imagination, and the dude does vocabularic plyometrics without coming across as pompous. The result is a novella full of decadent prose that I read in two sittings.
O’Duffy is prolific (fifteen different titles are available via his Amazon author page) and I can’t speak for all of his work, but Hotel Flamingo is a simply awesome book. I had one of those “ah shit; why didn’t I think of that?” moments when I started reading it because the premise is truly original and it stands out. Compared to the other self published authors I’ve found, O’Duffy is doing jumping jacks in a field of authors doing sit-ups. The setting of Hotel Flamingo is obviously a hotel, but the work itself is a grouping of small but connected vignettes that are separated by room: 22 characters, 22 rooms. Man that’s cool.
When I asked Patrick about the book, he said he wrote it as an online serial piece. He came up with the idea for a new character in a new room each week, and then he’d write it and post it. He said it was “an attempt to kind of write around a story, rather than straight at it, making a mosaic out of character studies and vignettes that added up to more than the sum of its parts.” That’s a bit hard to believe after reading the piece because it’s all just so fluid.
I’ll finish by saying that Patrick O’Duffy knows what art is; he even comes right out and says it in the middle of his work: “Art achieves its purpose without audience. It’s meaningful even if unacknowledged.” “Art” is one of those terms thrown around far too often, but to Hotel Flamingo, it applies. O’Duffy’s work is meaningful, and it deserves the acknowledgment. Please buy it, please read it.
You can find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Hotel-Flamingo-ebook/dp/B004XQVOZ2/
Patrick’s other works can be found via his author page here: http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-ODuffy/e/B0034NKLV8
For more, please visit his site here: http://patrickoduffy.com/
The cleaning lady eats time. The manager mourns his multi-gendered parent. A pirate radio DJ listens for God. An accountant prepares to kill again. And that’s only in four rooms of the Hotel Flamingo, where the room service is terrible and reality flakes and crumbles around the edges.
There’s a part of town where the dealers meet, where the forgotten people hide, where reality cracks and peels like cheap wallpaper. Where normal is a dirty word. If you’re in this part of town, maybe you might stay at the Hotel Flamingo – a refuge for resentful angels, feral symbols, disgraced magicians, broken-hearted foundlings, bad dreams, and many others.
22 rooms. 22 characters. One mosaic novella following a tangle of destinies through a hotel packed with weirdness, coincidence, and impossibility.