Tensions between past and present in urban fantasy

Tunnel beneath the city

Tensions between past and present: Exploring the gothic, the liminal and the mythical in the urban fantasy narratives of China Mieville and Charles de Lint.

The concern with unnaturalness and disorder is at the heart of humankind’s monumental triumph over nature—the city. The urban environment is meant to protect, yet, within its walls, people are aware of the threat of that order descending into chaos. This understanding underpins the sense of anxiety that runs throughout urban fantasies. The liminal spaces, city edifice and tensions between past and present all emphasise the anxiety that is already a part of city life. The violation of cultural boundaries within the city—aided by images of disorder, alienation and monstrosity—is unsettling. Yet it is recognisable in a real-world city as the source of anxiety. Urban fantasy (UF) adds a non-rational element to the narrative, but is drawing on anxieties already present in Western cities. At their core, UFs are primarily urban dramas that build on already-present thematic concerns with the incursion of the supernatural.

Read the complete article in Leading Edge Magazine, Issue 73.