Dark Light

In the last couple of years, I’ve got into something of a subgenre. What it’s a subgenre of depends on who you talk to, or which bookshops you visit, but it appears to be the intersection of “Crime”, “Fantasy” and – in some shops – “Horror”. The best inclusive tag I have for it is “The weird shit all around”, but that probably needs work. They sometimes get lumped in with the rest of “Urban Fantasy”.

The format is generally “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio. I, $foo, am one of the few that am part of that world. Here are my stories”.

Storm Front, by Jim Butcher
I first got into them though Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, which I’ve talked about before, they are based on a Chicago Wizard – Harry Dresden – and his attempts first to help his clients, and then over the rest of the series to fight against the rising tide of bad juju.

One Foot in the Grave, by Wm. Mark Simmons
Next was Wm. Mark Simmons‘ Half Life Chronicles starting with “One Foot in the Grave“. The Csejthe books are mostly about vampires to start with, and branch out through werewolves into general horror mythology, and then over the rest of the series to fight against the rising tide of bad juju. They’re a little more pulpy than the Dresden files. Being on Baen, the first six chapters are available for free on the site to see if you like it.

The Devil You Know, by Mike Carey
While staying with Clare at some point last year, I picked up a book by Mike Carey called “The Devil You Know”. I vaguely recognised the name (I should have done, he wrote the comic graphic novel Lucifer and a large swathe of Hellblazer), and shortly afterwards bought the rest of the series. The Felix Castor books start out being about a London-based exorcist/private eye, but shifts over the rest of the series to fight against the rising tide of bad juju. The books are wonderfully written and occasionally truly creepy. The latest book closes out the longest running plot-arc, but since the juju’s still rising I can only hope there’s going to be some more…

Then Mr Cooke lent me “Mean Streets”, which is an anthology of short stories in this genre, primarily because it contained a Dresden Files story I hadn’t read yet. At the same time lending me the first book of one of the other series’ in the anthology. I promptly went out and bought the first couple of books of each. Mr Cooke is occasionally bad for my wallet.

Greywalker, By Kat Richardson
Greywalker was the book Mr Cooke lent me. In it, Harper Blaine is working as a private eye in Seattle until she dies for two minutes, after which she can see into the “Grey”, the layer of reality under this one which ghosts and such inhabit. Afterwards, she works as a private eye in Seattle attempts first to help her clients, and then over the rest of the series to fight against the rising tide of bad juju. I’m guessing about the last bit, as I’ve only read the first couple. She’s also coming to terms with her new status as a “greywalker” and learning how it works. They appear to be very good, with believable characters acting, for the most part, without the idiot ball.

…this is taking longer than I thought it was going to, and I have to go to work now. Part two tomorrow, probably.

  1. Hmm, it’s difficult to define precisely, I agree. The problem is that many fantasy / sf series pay at least lip service to the notion that the occur in the real world, and thus There Are More Things In… etc. Harry Potter, X-files, Buffy and Angel, to name but four of the most pervasive. However, in most of these the “real-world” element is sufficiently pared down that it’s merely a fig leaf.

    Am I correct that the ones you’re interested in are the ones where there’s some kind of in-depth examination of how the fantastic and the real co-exist without the Muggles noticing? Or is it the private-eye type setting that matters, rather than the real / fantasy world collision?

    In either case, for an excellent TV example of the genre, there’s “Ultraviolet” (mini-series that was on Channel 4 in the 90s).

  2. It’s a bit of both. The PI thing tends to give this kind of universe a bit more direction, but the “mortality doesn’t notice” thing is interesting as well, mostly to see at what point the authors stop and realise that they have, for example, just hand their main character ride a reanimated dinosaur down to the university campus, and not expected anyone to notice.

    I have both seen and liked Ultraviolet.

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