March 15, 2012

Overthrowing Tolkien: a guest post by DJ Jaco (subbing for Suzanne Johnson)

 I've enjoyed reading Suzanne Johnson's Preternatura blog for quite some time now, with it's reviews, giveaways, and book club posts on various titles she's reading. And now that she has her own novel due for release through Tor, I figured she would be a great person to cajole in to offering a guest post--though it seems it's been hijacked by someone else. Have a look and see for yourself.

Urban Fantasy: From the Inside Overthrowing Tolkien
by Suzanne Johnson DJ Jaco 

So, here we have a whole month dedicated to urban fantasy, a genre that has gained a huge following since the early days when radicals like Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton were shaking up the fantasy-reading public by—

*shuffling noises when a fight ensues over control of the keyboard, followed by a loud crash as an author hits the hardwood floor after being zapped with magic*

Let’s start over, shall we? My name is DJ Jaco (don’t call me Drusilla or I’ll get testy), and I’m a wizard. I work in New Orleans for the Congress of Elders as a sentinel, or gatekeeper between the modern world and the preternatural world Beyond.

What, you didn’t realize women could be wizards? You thought women could only be witches? *huffs* Wrong wrong wrong.

Those of us who aren’t technically human have finally realized it’s time to rise up and kick aside the immortal coils of J.R.R. Tolkien and bring fantasy into the real world.

Welcome to urban fantasy, where (mostly) human authors have managed to scratch beneath the surface of their mundane reality and see what actually exists in your world—but still leave you the option of pretending it’s only fiction. We’re pulling the strings, of course—all of us with fur or fins or fangs, alive and undead, wielding a wand or pouring a potion.

The authors think they’re making us up. * Leans over and checks to make sure author is still breathing and doesn’t need a resurrection potion* Some are so deluded as to think their “muses” plant our existence in their imaginations. We planned it that way.

We had to do something. Tolkien tried to set the bar outside our reach, the old git, and fantasy literature fell right in line. What do you humans believe? That all non-humans live in bucolic imaginary worlds? That wizards must be old and male and wear pointy hats? That elves are always tall and pretty and ethereal? That trees talk and walk? That dwarves are short and ill-tempered and violent?

Which is why urban fantasy came to be. (Maybe you better sit down for this.) Sometimes elves are dark, vertically challenged jerks. Wizards can be young and female and eschew all hat-wearing. Trees are wood, bark, and chlorophyll, for the love of all that’s scary.

Sadly, the bit about dwarves is pretty accurate.

And the world we all live in? It’s yours. You’re just too unenlightened to see it, and we let you continue fumbling in the dark because we figure you won’t take the news well that you are not, after all, the center and epitome of all life forms.

So, my factotum, er, author, Suzanne Johnson, was going to write this dry, boring blog post about how urban fantasy is exciting because it stands at the crossroads of reality and fantasy. She was going to point out how urban fantasy could dance closer to the fantasy side, with imaginary cities in real states or countries, or it could muscle its way into the mundane world. (Maybe next door to you. How well do you really know your neighbors?)

She was going to rattle on about how she used the events around Hurricane Katrina in Royal Street to bring fantasy into collision with the brutal reality of life in New Orleans in August and September 2005.

Like she knows. I mean, she might have lived through it, but so did I. Me—a wizard who is not an old long-bearded dude. I was the one who had to deal with all the crap from preternaturals who came prancing across the temporal boundaries between New Orleans and the Beyond when the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds.

I was the one who had to deal with flooded streets and moldy houses and a crazy serial killer. Not to mention Marie Laveau.

And who had to fend off the grabby advances of the undead pirate Jean Lafitte? That would be me, not her. But I digress.

* Scrambling in background as author manages to steal wizard’s staff and hit her with it. Tug-of-war ensues. Author absconds with keyboard and hides in closet, typing furiously. *

Sorry folks. You see what urban fantasy authors have to deal with? We can’t just lock ourselves in our garrets with apples and honey, making up bright, shining kingdoms filled with princes and faeries and sweetness and light. Our faeries (and wizards) can be prickly and untrustworthy. *feels tingle of magic being used on door of closet and types faster* Okay, wizards are sort of trustworthy but, God, are they pushy!

We have to live with the real things that go bump in the night, in our world, in our time, and tell their stories. Sure, we pretend it’s all fiction, because you really, really aren’t ready to know what walks among you.

Be very, very careful out there.


Suzanne Johnson is the author of the new Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series that kicks off April 10 with the release of book one, Royal Street. A longtime resident of New Orleans, she used her experiences during Hurricane Katrina as a backdrop for the story of wizard sentinel DJ Jaco, who finds herself up to her assets in alligators (figuratively speaking) and one persistent undead pirate after the hurricane destroys the barriers between the modern city and the preternatural Beyond. 
Royal Street is available for preorder at Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes & Noble, or find a local independent bookstore at IndieBound.


  1. Posting again here for an extra chance to win FAIR COIN!

  2. This is hilarious!!

    I love DJ's voice (and the squabbles with Suzanne:)