Summer classes—Urban Fantasy

The second class I teach this summer will be Urban Fantasy, June 22-July 23, Monday-Thursday, 10:30 am-12:45 pm.  I use the term loosely to mean fantasy in a contemporary setting, rather than the narrow marketing niche which seems to be all about sexy vampires and werewolves, neither of which interest me much, except that book Wilderness, but I can’t teach my own stuff.  There has been a growing interest from students in years past to look at some of the earlier incarnations of the form in fiction and film, so hugely influential on guys like Gaiman (and myself).  So the biggest change here is in the starting point.  The reading list—

Thorne Smith.  Topper.  (Modern Library.  ISBN: 0375753052)
Neil Gaiman.  Anansi Boys.  (Harper Torch. ISBN: 0060515198)
Sean Stewart.  Perfect Circle.  (Small Beer Press. ISBN: 1931520119)
Jeffrey Ford.  The Empire of Ice Cream.  (Golden Gryphon. ISBN: 1930846584)
Haruki Murakami.  Kafka on the Shore.  (Vintage. ISBN: 1400079276)

The films will be Harvey, Pan’s Labyrinth, Sixth Sense, Being John Malkovich, and Donnie Darko.

I’ll probably show a few clips from the film version of Topper as well.  The novel is quite charming and seductive and an acknowledged influence on Gaiman.  If I can only show one classic film fantasy, it will have to be Harvey.  The pairing of Sean Stewart and Sixth Sense, both non-horror ghost stories, is always popular.  Both Anansi Boys and Pan’s Labyrinth embed conventional mythologies to tell a modern story.  Jeff Ford and Malkovich are my favorite representative of the wacky weird.  I would like to find a shorter Murakami (or his equal) to manage the magic Kafka on the Shore conveys, but so far I haven’t found it.  Darko‘s destiny driven pseudo-science and adolescent edge make it a suitable companion.  I’ve cut Kelly Link for now and am giving Edward Scissorhands a rest.

2 thoughts on “Summer classes—Urban Fantasy

  1. If you want to talk old, influential, and weird, how about H.P. Lovecraft? You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting some piece of Cthuliana.

  2. I certainly agree, but someone else will have to swing that deceased feline. I just don’t find his stuff that engaging. Students deserve someone who will swirl tabby with enthusiasm.

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