Today, we have Tom Pollock talking about his inspiration for the London and the use of cities of The City's Son.
When you think about it, cities and language have a lot in common. They’re both vast, sprawling artefacts, put together over centuries by the conscious and unconscious collaboration and conflict of thousands of people. They’re both always evolving - carrying the markers of the culture that created them, its climate and its commerce, its aspirations and its fears. They are humanity’s most ancient technologies.
If cities are like languages, then urban fantasy cities are half-encrypted texts, promising revealed secrets with every corner turned. The world of the The Skyscraper Throne is one where decoding the street lamps reveals the glass skinned, tungsten-veined dancers who light them, and where when your train stops on the track for no apparent reason it’s because the Railwraith – the train’s mad spirit -- has slipped the chains of its engine and is stampeding around causing havoc. Epic fantasies, very often are stories of the distant and the renowned – an easy to underestimate underdog treks across a vast world for a showdown that will be immortalized in song. Urban fantasy is opposite of that. The soul of urban fantasy is the secret and the local. These are stories that know where you live.
Cities are crammed with invitations to make things up. They contain such a concentration of people that sooner or later the collisions between their lives will strike sparks that leads to stories. They’re so complex that no one person can fully understand even a tenth of the detail about how they work. In turn, they contain so many mundane mysteries that we can speculate to explain: where did that cul-de-sac originally lead to? What lives on top of those towers, out of sight, looking down on us? And how did Red Serpent Street get its name? Urban fantasy speaks to our inner conspiracy-nut. The core of it is a simple, and very appealing idea:
It was all around you this whole time, and you had no idea. Look a little closer and you’ll see.
Let me slip from simile to metaphor. Cities are built languages. The older and thornier and messier and more complicated they are the more stories are inscribed in the curves and winds of their streets. And so we come at last to London.
London’s been a major port, immigration hub and capital for two thousand years. It was never built to a plan, no one architect ever forced it into the image of her mind. It’s a squabble, a fight a raucous, laughing conversation, a challenge, a prayer and a dirty joke, all in a tongue you walk and live in rather than speak. It’s one of the greatest treasure houses of this kind of story you could ever imagine.
Sorry it took so long to bring this to you! The City's Son and its sequel The Glass Republic are both excellent urban fantasy books, made even better if you have an undying love for London.