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February 2, 2010 12:17 PM   Subscribe

SciFiGuy.ca explores the infinite wonder and beauty of the Urban fantasy book cover (youtube, bad music) (via).
posted by Artw (64 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I dunno who LA Banks is, but wow, she cranks 'em out.
posted by GuyZero at 12:35 PM on February 2, 2010


GuyZero : I dunno who LA Banks is, but wow, she cranks 'em out.

Ah, you missed the latest rose-by-another-name here... "Urban fantasy" means "Trashy pulp romance novel with a gothic twist". The authors in that genre mostly pump out huge volumes1 of low-quality boddice-rippers, often one a month (while their popularity lasts) or more - In LA Banks' case, she seems to devote a bit more quality to her work, at a mere one "book" every two months (though she publishes quite a few short stories in between those).

Interesting post, though... In considering the poses, I can't help but speculate - Do they deliberately avoid showing faces so the readers can better imagine themselves in the protagonist's role? And I'd love to see that compared with covers for more male-oriented fantasy, since we supposedly identify more with "visual" oriented content (though offhand, most of the male-targetting covers I can think of also feature scantily clad women).

1: One could probably draw more than a few comparisons between the high volume / low production values of traditional "porn" - Though taking care to avoid stepping on any "porn demeaning, romance empowering" toes ;)
posted by pla at 1:06 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's the proliferation of these semi-sexy urban fantasies that make it so hard to find the books I like, which are pretty much noir adventure stories with a bit of magic/vampires/faeries/ghosts thrown in.

Still, for all the sameness of those covers, they do have a lot more variety than their male equivalents, which pretty much boil down to:

- Dude in a trenchcoat.
- Dude in a greatcoat.
- Dude in an overcoat.

...and that's about it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:12 PM on February 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


Does vampirism cause lower back tattoos?
posted by JHarris at 1:25 PM on February 2, 2010 [22 favorites]


robocop is bleeding: It's the proliferation of these semi-sexy urban fantasies that make it so hard to find the books I like, which are pretty much noir adventure stories with a bit of magic/vampires/faeries/ghosts thrown in.

I had verbalized it, but this describes my tastes exaclty. What are some of the good ones? (The only thing that springs to mind right now is a short story by Gaiman with an angel mystery detective thing going down in heaven.)
posted by edbles at 1:26 PM on February 2, 2010


edbles, George R. R. Martin had a good one about a werewolf private detective.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:27 PM on February 2, 2010


Right, thanks for that, I'm off to knock out a story about vampire/werewolf/other supernatural beasties shagger/slayer hottie who has a moon-shaped shuriken back tattoo and jeans that keep shrinking in the wash.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:32 PM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


The stories written by The Custodian over at Everything2 that were linked from Metafilter a while ago fit the bill perfectly, and are in my opinion quite good. You want the "New York Magician" stories. They suffer a little from guns-and-high-finance libertarian wankery at times, but that's not hard to ignore.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:32 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suddenly have an urge to write a story about a flesh-eating ghoul that gets picked up by News Corp.
posted by JHarris at 1:33 PM on February 2, 2010


edibles, I had some good luck with the recomendations I received in this thread.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:34 PM on February 2, 2010


Otherwise, anything by Neil Gaiman (especially Neverwhere, American Gods and its sequel The Anansi Boys...). If you want slightly heavier on the fantasy, China Mieville's Bas-Lag series is quite good, and some of his other books, like Un Lun Dun and The City & the City are supposed to be more typical urban fantasy, but I haven't read them.

Some of Carlos Ruíz Zafón's stuff qualifies too, like The Club Dumas (basis for the movie The Ninth Gate, but substantially different) and The Shadow of the Wind. They're more slightly postmodernist mysteries, but there's a definite scent of Urban Fantasy on them, and they're very good.

Oh, and Clive Barker is one of the grand old masters of the genre, of course. Especially Imajica, The Great and Secret Show, and Weaveworld. All excellent.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:41 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait a second...are you implying that hastily cranked out dime-a-dozen books seem to sport hastily cranked out dime-a-dozen covers?
posted by Legomancer at 1:42 PM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, sorry about that. I'm a pretty good illustrator, but I can't draw faces.
posted by Ratio at 1:44 PM on February 2, 2010


I would have never noticed where the Tattoos were on the covers if it weren't for that helpful red arrow in the presentation and the big silver box with the word Tattoo in it. After introducing the idea that they were common before showing the covers I suppose the author of this presentation simply feels that none of us would have the where with all to remember that.
posted by juiceCake at 1:57 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does vampirism cause lower back tattoos?

Nope. But there's this guy in Soho who only tattoos women, and doesn't use disposable needles... and guess where that girl in the first cover got her tattoo?

On her back
posted by qvantamon at 1:57 PM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series.
posted by scrump at 1:57 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm really tired of these stupid-looking things cluttering up my horror section, but I'm a fan of the covers of that series where the chick is a witch or something. Y'know, the redhead? I always presumed she was horribly disfigured in an early adventure.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:04 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


noir adventure stories with a bit of magic/vampires/faeries/ghosts thrown in.

Read Sandman Slim recently. Fun little book. Noir adventure in the angels/devils/homeland security vein.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:13 PM on February 2, 2010


"Urban fantasy" means "Trashy pulp romance novel with a gothic twist"

Yeah, I got that, from:

a) that there were a million of them. Only one genre pumps out that kind of volume.
b) They all had names with minor variations of the three Twilight novels. So. Shameless.
posted by GuyZero at 2:26 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Urban fantasy" means "Trashy pulp romance novel with a gothic twist"

It really doesn't, though. I mean, I'm sorry Twilight is such a horrible crock of shit that it corrupts everything it touches, but the genre existed before Twilight, and Twilight's not even a particularly good example of it (although it borrows some of the now-standard common elements of it).

Specifically, urban fantasy and its twin contemporary fantasy are basically supernatural stories set in a modern and/or urban setting. The theme of a "secret world" where supernatural beings exist hidden in the midst of modern society is a common one.

The Harry Potter books certainly qualify. So do the World of Darkness roleplaying games, the X-Files to an extent, and lots of stuff written as far back as the sixties-seventies. So don't let Twilight and its many, many horrible derivatives spoil a perfectly decent and highly imaginative genre, please.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:40 PM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


noir adventure stories with a bit of magic/vampires/faeries/ghosts thrown in.

I haven't read it yet, but John Shirley's latest novel, Bleak History, seems to be something along the lines of one of these.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:43 PM on February 2, 2010


The only thing that springs to mind right now is a short story by Gaiman with an angel mystery detective thing going down in heaven.

Murder Mysteries is indeed good, illustrated or otherwise.

Yeah, sorry about that. I'm a pretty good illustrator, but I can't draw faces.

You seem to be in league with Rob Liefeld, as neither of you do much with feet, though he does alright with faces.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:46 PM on February 2, 2010


Ah, you missed the latest rose-by-another-name here... "Urban fantasy" means "Trashy pulp romance novel with a gothic twist".

Actually, the name of that genre is paranormal romance. Urban fantasy is "fantasies set on Earth, primarily in urban or suburban settings," though that doesn't mean the protagonists can't visit rural areas on occasion. Unfortunately, thanks to Twilight, Anita Blake, and Sookie Stackhouse (or however you spell the name of the series True Blood is based on), the majority of urban fantasies are also paranormal romance. The other main subgenre of urban fantasy are the books robocop is bleeding talks about above, noir adventure with magic thrown in. (Which are also my favorite kinds of books, which is why I'm bothering to correct the quoted comment.)
posted by Caduceus at 2:51 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Urban Fantasy started to be used in the 80's to describe fantasy that was (usually) modern and urban, in contrast to Tolkien imitators or Celtic myth derived stuff. But around 2005 or so, the term started to be co-opted to mean the tattooed weapon-wielding heroine with her back turned books.

I dipped my toe in the latter a few months ago. Mostly liked Carrie Vaughn's Kitty and the Midnight Hour; didn't much like MLN Hanover's Unclean Spirits (though I credit Daniel Abraham with genius for picking a pseudonym that positioned his book between Laurell K. Hamilton and Charlaine Harris); liked Greg Van Eekhout's Norse Code, which, despite the weapon-wielding heroine cover fits the older definition of urban fantasy more than the newer.
posted by Zed at 2:58 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


China Mieville indeed kicks serious ass, but I couldn't get into Neil Gaiman's work at all. Maybe I just have a thing against Nei(a)ls.
posted by adamdschneider at 3:05 PM on February 2, 2010


Does vampirism cause lower back tattoos?

Mr. F suggests "vamp stamp" for this phenomenon, JHarris.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:40 PM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, yes, Norse Code is a damn good book despite the cover leading one to believe it's a lot of romance-novel crap with a thin Asgardian gloss over it. Van Eekhout was even honored with a mention on the just-released 2009 Locus Recommended Reading List, along with Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue, another more-noir-than-romance-novel urban fantasy.

There's also Margaret Ronald's Spiral Hunt and its upcoming sequel.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:43 PM on February 2, 2010


I call bullshit.

The first couple of books by Jacqueline Carey are neither urban fantasy nor paranormal romance. If you just throw any book with the same sort of cover into a list and then claim they are paranormal romance, well, of course you'll be able to claim they all have the same cover.

That said, fuck Laurell K. Hamilton and the horse she rode in on for the blight of paranormal romance we now suffer through. Yeah, you can claim the roots are in Anne Rice but that's like blaming Tolkien instead of Shannara for the EFP blight. (Note: I am not comparing Rice to Tolkien in terms of quality). This all started when Hamilton realized she could make a ton more money by having Anita Blake fuck the vampires instead of kill them.

But like I said I would take this video more seriously if the guy who made it actually knew anything about the books he was using.
posted by Justinian at 3:54 PM on February 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


OK. People are being a little unfair here. Yes, the covers are banal and derivative, but while some of those books are crap, more than a few of the books and authors pictured in that video are quite good.

Jacqueline Carey, Patricia Briggs, Libba Bray are EXCELLENT writers. Richelle Mead and Carrie Vaughn have written good books that I have greatly enjoyed. Don't knock them if you haven't read them.

Don't judge a book by its cover.
posted by kyrademon at 3:58 PM on February 2, 2010


(Also agreeing to some extent with Justinian -- what the heck are Jacqueline Carey, who mostly writes novels set in a weird magical Renaissance France, and Libba Bray, whose books are set in Victorian England, doing on a list of Urban Fantasy novels? And for that matter, why are Libba Bray's books being called out for having corsets on the cover when they were set in an era when every woman wore a corset?)
posted by kyrademon at 4:02 PM on February 2, 2010


Also agreeing to some extent with Justinian

Come on, you can agree with me completely! BOOOO Laurell Hamilton! BOOOO!
posted by Justinian at 4:17 PM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Heh. I will certainly admit I stopped reading Laurel Hamilton when her books became:

Plot: 10 pages

Main character goes around having sex with every male character that can be even temporarily held down despite that fact that at this point they are largely interchangeable figures who can be told apart mainly by hair and skin color, much like My Little Ponies: 472 pages

Plot Resolution: 7 pages
posted by kyrademon at 4:22 PM on February 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'll second the suggestion for Rosemary and Rue. I've just started to try this genre, and while I'm not sure it's for me, I enjoyed this one.
posted by bibliowench at 6:41 PM on February 2, 2010


Be Still My Vampire Heart

BE STILL MY VAMPIRE HEART

(aren't vampire hearts always still?)
posted by betweenthebars at 8:04 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that, when I was a fair bit younger, I liked some of the early novels of Charles de Lint.
posted by newdaddy at 8:25 PM on February 2, 2010


Ooh, you're right! Charles de Lint's Newford books are very good. Sometimes I wonder if Gaiman is, um, paying him homage. His southwest books are good too.

No insult to Gaiman. Good Omens is one of my all time favorites.
posted by irisclara at 9:58 PM on February 2, 2010


I'm going to play the role of dissenting voice in this thread and say that "secret world" books kind of turn me off. Harry Potter most of all. I've never been a big fan of secrets, and the idea that there's a whole side of the world that some folk believes is too awesome for me to know about, yeah I hate that. This muggle says Harry Potter and his twee cronies can fuck right the fuck off.

This also pisses me off about Men In Black and other stories of similar bent.
posted by JHarris at 12:59 AM on February 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Simon R. Green's Nightside series is good urban fantasy. Secret city and the magic noir Detective (TM) who searches for Truth in all the wrong dives.
posted by Peztopiary at 1:08 AM on February 3, 2010


I'm going to play the role of dissenting voice in this thread and say that "secret world" books kind of turn me off. Harry Potter most of all.

You know, in general I enjoy (the idea of) urban fantasy and Men in Black and all that stuff, and I do enjoy the Harry Potter movies, but every so often I do get a twinge of repugnance, which was amplified when reading the first book, which is the only one I've read.

The idea that there's a whole invisible society of people with special powers that often look down on me and my kind (and make no distinctions between those of us without such special powers), and more often ignore us completely, and have a cutesy, condescending little name for us, and could do all kinds of great things for us, but they appear to just not give a shit and only care about their own internecine troubles...come to think of it, that sounds uncomfortably like the super rich.

Then I usually go back to thinking about how awesome it would be to have magic powers and wonder if I would feel stupid shouting things like stupefy all day.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:36 AM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's because you haven't inherited magic powers and a special destiny like Harry Potter has, and are therefore his genetic inferior.
posted by Artw at 7:49 AM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


See also: every fantasy novel about how great kings are, ever.
posted by Artw at 7:50 AM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


See also: every fantasy novel about how great kings are, ever.

Another reason I really like Perdido Street Station and The Scar. The Iron Council, on the other hand, just retreaded PSS for half the book, though the other half about Spiral Jacobs was pretty ggood.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:13 AM on February 3, 2010


The Iron Council was just plain not good, I'm afraid. Hearing good things about The City and the City.
posted by Artw at 8:19 AM on February 3, 2010


I've heard his kids book Un Lun Dun is pretty good... I've yet to jump back on the wagon by being burned bad by Iron Council (I could not finish it)

For a brilliant, sort of, Urban Fantasy check out Michael Swanwick's Iron Dragon's Daughter.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:28 AM on February 3, 2010


Well, I liked the Jacobs bits. The train bits were not good, I agree. Iron Dragon's Daughter is pretty great. Dragons of Babel was not as good, though I do like his brand of worldbuilding.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:41 AM on February 3, 2010


It's got a special appearance by the Magic Plot Solving Spider!
posted by Artw at 8:47 AM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's because you haven't inherited magic powers and a special destiny like Harry Potter has, and are therefore his genetic inferior.

I'm sure there's a market for Harry Potter and the Swift Punch to the Face, which details what happens when Harry's bully of a cousin finally takes matters into his own hands, or the much darker Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom's Red Letter Day when the troubled Gryffindor climbs the Hogwarts belltower with a particularly nasty bit of muggle technology (previous title: Harry Potter and the Puff of Fine Red Mist).
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:52 AM on February 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's got a special appearance by the Magic Plot Solving Spider!

I think it was round about that point I ditched it (after checking with someone who had read the whole thing that it didn't get any better)

The realisation of the Magic Plot Solving Spider definitely spoilered a re-read of Ped St St
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:56 AM on February 3, 2010


It doesn;t show up at all in The Scar, which IMHO is the best of the bunch.
posted by Artw at 8:59 AM on February 3, 2010


Ha, I forgot about the Weaver, and I still don't remember what effect it had on either plot. I do agree, however, that The Scar was the best by far.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:17 AM on February 3, 2010


(Each of these paragraphs addresses a different point in this thread; trying to read them as a coherent whole will only make you think I'm crazy and/or a bad writer.)

I really liked the use of the Weaver in Perdido Street Station (particularly its introduction as the measure of last resort if dealing with the Ambassador didn't help -- I thought it was a wonderful moment when you realize what the Ambassador is.) Haven't gotten to the subsequent Miéville yet.

Many, probably most "secret world" fantasies don't follow the Harry Potter mold in which the magic people could seemingly choose easily to do incredible good in the public world. The magic tends to be at some terrible cost that creates sensible internal justification for their limited use of it.

Yeah, it is creepy how the idea of setting the world right by restoring the correct bloodline to the throne is central to so much fantasy (though "urban fantasy", in the older sense I mentioned above, has substantial overlap with the set of fantasy to which this doesn't apply.)

I'd echo the point about not judging a book by its cover. Some of the urban fantasies with the covers that inspired this thread don't fit the kick-ass heroine who variously kills and has sex with monsters mold -- they just get a cover like that because an art director thinks they'll sell more that way. Some others really are what would have been labelled paranormal romance until very recently. (And don't read that as indictment -- I know some paranormal romance writers, and they take their craft as seriously and work as hard as any other writer I know. Which isn't to say there aren't also hacks, but every genre has hacks.) Most seem to have love & sex subplots, but a hell of a lot of books have love & sex subplots.
posted by Zed at 9:59 AM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The magic tends to be at some terrible cost that creates sensible internal justification for their limited use of it.

Can you give any examples? I'm having a hard time thinking of anything that doesn't sound incredibly paternalistic.

Yeah, it is creepy how the idea of setting the world right by restoring the correct bloodline to the throne is central to so much fantasy

I don't know if I would say "creepy" so much as "Shakespearean," but one thing it definitely is not is modern.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:13 AM on February 3, 2010


Can you give any examples?

Most of the time it's vague what exactly magic can do and what the consequences would be. Few fantasies feature magic as straightforward and well-defined as waving a wand and saying a magic word. There's a consistent implication that magic is dangerous and scary. Part of how you tell the bad guys and the good guys apart is that the bad guys are eager to mess with something so dangerous and scary for personal gain, while the good guys are apprehensive and only desperate enough to mess with it because of how horrible a situation the bad guy is trying to create.

Tim Powers' fantasy tends to be relatively rigorous and explicit about its rules (his fantasy often feels more rigorous and consistent than much science fiction.) But even it has the vagueness I mention above. In Last Call, there's a Fisher King, a person magically connected to the land -- with a good king the land prospers; with a bad one, it suffers. That this arrangement exists isn't of much practical advantage to an individual, save that if you know about it and you're living under a bad king, it would behoove you to end the king's reign. Cartomancy works, but its results are generally vague, and to the degree it's more specific, it's dangerous. We see one Tarot reader horrified to have been sucked into giving a reading that went so deep that "the cards knew where he lived"; he took for granted that he would need to give up Tarot reading, despite it having been his profession. There's a magic rite that allows you to live indefinitely, but it's very, very difficult, requires decades of preparation, and involves, essentially, human sacrifice. It's what the villain is pursuing, of course. It's not clear what practical useful value the world's magic could otherwise be put to. There might be any number of other rites possible, but our characters don't know them, and, if they exist, they probably involve costs as high as human sacrifice.

A common motif is that supernatural beings exist, whether demons, or the Fey, or djinni, or Lovecraftian horrors, or gods, and magic effect is derived from interaction with them. But, at very best, you end up so tied up in rules you have to follow to keep yourself safe in the interaction that it seems of questionable advantage; more typically they prove to be the Faustian bargains they sound like. See John Crowley's Little, Big, Tim Powers' Declare, Charles Stross' "A Colder War", and many more.

If you hear fantasy writers speak of planning the magic system for a work, the first thing they talk about is what the cost of magic is, and the cost is generally dire, to you or others. So far from it being the case that a magician can correct all the world's wrongs, the magician knows that in trying she would die, go insane, damn herself in some literal, direct fashion, or damn herself ethically by having to effect some terrible evil, like, say, committing mass murder as a necessary means to the ends. Wanting to pursue it anyway generally requires the sort of hubris that identifies the villain.
posted by Zed at 11:02 AM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ha, I forgot about the Weaver, and I still don't remember what effect it had on either plot. I do agree, however, that The Scar was the best by far.

Well, it's been a while, but IIRC towards the end the Plot Spider does a lot of teleporting characters in and out of scrapes, and allows a bunch of stuff to be resolved in a really unearned way.
posted by Artw at 11:10 AM on February 3, 2010


Thanks, Zed. I've been meaning to read Tim Powers. Perhaps I will go out and buy Last Call today.

Also, Magical Plot Spider is really fun to say.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:27 AM on February 3, 2010


This joke seriously needs to be brought to the next Metafilter spider-squick-out thread. "But they're beautiful, helpful creatures who only want to solve your plots!"
posted by JHarris at 2:02 PM on February 3, 2010


Can you give any examples?

Simon Green's Nightside series justifies the setting, a hidden area in the heart of London full of magic and other weirdness, as being a necessary place to keep that weirdness out of everywhere else. When that weirdness threatens anywhere outside the Nightside, there's a family of adventurers/protectors called the Droods (who are the subject of his "James Bond With Magic"* spin-off series) that beat it up. The Droods have a reason for doing that, but it's spoilery so I'll hold off.

But as a personal cost, magic doesn't seem to have much in Green's setting. Sure, it hurts for the main character, John Taylor, to use his gift a lot, and there may or may not be Bad Things tracking him based on his use of the gift, but there doesn't seem to be a constant "this spell will cost you ____" rate. Half the time, Taylor's gift is just used as a macguffin or ex machina to move the plot along. Any time Taylor says that "it was the easiest thing in the world to..." you know Green is done with the scene and wants to move on.

But then again, for a noir adventure story, you don't need there to be a set cost for magic. It's a given that the hero is going to have the stuffing beat out of him by the end of the book and will emerge victorious despite the long odds. That beating can come from anywhere, cost of magic or a troll with a tommygun, and it makes for a more exciting story when it comes from the latter.

*The Drood series is the Roger Moore to Stross's Connery Archives. Not bad by any stretch, but more fun escapism than a deconstruction of the Bond mythos.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:06 PM on February 3, 2010


All y'all who are hating on the plot conceits of "secret history" worlds like the Harry Potter books should give Lev Grossman's The Magicians a try. It's sorta a deconstruction of various fantasy tropes (with Potter the main target and Narnia the secondary one) in which our alienated, lonely, fucked up kid discovers that despite discovering that he really is special and there really is a Hogwartsesque school for wizards, he's still just an alienated, lonely, fucked up kid. And always will be.
posted by Justinian at 2:22 PM on February 3, 2010


Comicswise "The Unwritten" by Mike Carey is doing some fun things with a Potter-like character at the moment. Well, he's actually the "real world" version of a Potter-alike in a fictional smash hit kids book. From the excerpts of the book it seems like Mike Carey would actually be fairly good at writing a straight-up Potter clone.
posted by Artw at 2:29 PM on February 3, 2010


adamdschneider : Can you give any examples? I'm having a hard time thinking of anything that doesn't sound incredibly paternalistic.

Others have answered this, but IMO not directly enough.

How about:
*Mostly uncontrollable (Butterfly effect, though that didn't really stop him from abusing it like a junkie)
*Only have so much (ever/at a time), so save it for when it matters (Vance's Dying Earth)
*Using too much will burn you out (LeGuin's Earthsea)
*Weakens every time you use it (Anthony's Adept)
*Even learning it weakens it (Eddings' Casement)
*It hurts (King's firestarter)
*The energy has to come from somewhere (A show a few years ago about temporarily raising the dead, can't recall the name)


And sometimes, you just can't avoid the paternalistic part. Buddhist monks can do a few tricks we'd almost call superpowers, but attaining the mental state required to do them precludes using them for personal aggrandizement (extinguishing desire and the ego and all that).
posted by pla at 7:19 PM on February 3, 2010


I was talking more about "secret world" fantasies than fantasy in general, but thanks anyway for all the great suggestions.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:56 PM on February 3, 2010


Part of how you tell the bad guys and the good guys apart is that the bad guys are eager to mess with something so dangerous and scary for personal gain, while the good guys are apprehensive and only desperate enough to mess with it because of how horrible a situation the bad guy is trying to create.

Unless you're reading Hellblazer, which is decidedly high-grit urban fantasy and pretty steadfastly refuses the trope, especially in the hands of Jamie Delano, Warren Ellis, and Andy Diggle.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:36 PM on February 3, 2010


Peter Milligan is doing a not-bad job of it at the moment.
posted by Artw at 12:08 AM on February 4, 2010


My reading of Hellblazer has been intermittent, but I'm not sure I'd count that as a counter-example. Constantine isn't exactly a good guy, is hubristic, and knows well that magic is dangerous, though he's apt to mess with it anyway. If you meant just that it doesn't present a clear good guy who only uses magic as an absolute last resort, then point granted.
posted by Zed at 9:22 AM on February 4, 2010


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