Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cities and mysteries

A recent piece in The Guardian, London: fantasy's capital city, has me thinking about mystery, imagination and cities.

'Mystery is the doorway to fantasy' the writer remarks. Quite so, but then mystery is one of the basic wellsprings of plot and story, as Dickens so often demonstrated. When I wrote The Raven's Seal, I used one of the techniques of fantasy by making my setting, the city of Airenchester, wholly imaginary. In this way, it was the ideal stage on which arrange and play out my mystery.

The urban mystery, the attempt to pose the reality of the city as a mystery and then unpick it, is one of the oldest forms of mystery. I've always been attracted to cities of the imagination, from Italo Calvino's Venice to M. John Harrison's eerie and unforgettable Viriconium.

'Mystery is also the doorway to reality,' the writer concludes. Airenchester has always been a character in The Raven's Seal, as vividly drawn and present. I hope that Airenchester's fictionality, its fantasy, also tempts the reader to look behind the facade and imagine the mechanisms, the subterfuges, social forms, expectations, dreams and ideologies that drive and support it.

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