Sunday, February 2, 2014

Idea Garage Sale: Urban Fantasy, Squared

So anyway I'm reading this anthology called Weird Detectives, and there's this story in it by Elizabeth Bear that I find uncomfortable for reasons that are neither here nor there at the moment, but when the upper-class white wizard/detective in the story tracks down a lower-class Hispanic supplier to get a specific component needed to deal with the threat, she sizes him up and asks him where he and his were when the threat was confining itself to her neighborhood. A question he acknowledges as valid but which is not followed up in the story. Perhaps it is elsewhere in other works about the same character.

But I was shocked to find that I hadn't noticed before how overwhelmingly true it is that low-fantasy and urban fantasy stories mostly involve white magical people dealing with threats to white mainstream people from white people. Ethnic magic may or may not be used and referenced, and urban fantasy particularly may have lots of people of color in supporting roles, but think about it - when was the last time you saw a black or Hispanic or Asian master vampire or protagonist vampire hunter? (Okay, I can think of one. Plus Blacula.)

Or a white master vampire preying preferentially on lower-class people of color?

Or tribal Little People instead of imported European fey in an American setting?

Yet it is absolutely true that if you live by preying on humanity, you will target (like any predator) the most vulnerable members of a population; and in America, the most vulnerable members are the poor, and the most vulnerable poor are people of color living in large concentrations. Crime, even horrible crime, in those neighborhoods does not attract the mainstream public attention that serves to protect the public. A vampire who preys on people who won't be missed, like the serial killer who does the same, will be operating in low-income neighborhoods and feeding off people of color. Heck, if he's old and rich enough (as so many of them are) he may even regard them as legitimate prey and in no way a stain on his character, whereas he would think less of himself if he went after middle-class high school students or people with ancestors from the Mayflower.

In which case, the independent supernatural task forces would logically be made up primarily of the people who are most invested in those neighborhoods.

Why shouldn't a street gang recognize that a supernatural threat is operating on their turf, and go after it?

Why shouldn't the people operating or using the Salvation Army soup kitchen, or the local Goodwill, or the Planned Parenthood clinic, or the flophouse be the ones noticing that disabled vets are turning up dead with non-needle holes in their veins, that one particular up-and-coming gang only comes out at night, or that recent immigrant single mothers all tell the same weird story of this guy who paralyzed them with his eyes?

Why isn't the curandera operating the botanica as the covert nerve center of the supernatural underground?

Why not?

I'd read any one of those books. I'd watch any one of those series, or at least give it a shot. I'd buy that ticket. Wouldn't you?

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