Month: June 2016

Introducing the Urban Fantasy Gazetteer

gazetteer map

Click through for an interactive map of contemporary fantasy by state at

One of the pleasures of reading contemporary or urban fantasy, as opposed to epic fantasy, is the fact that it is set in our own world. The intersection of magic and the mundane can be hugely appealing. If a novel is set in an imaginary land, you know to expect magical things on the page. But crack open an urban fantasy set in Chicago or Atlanta and you don’t know what to expect. Wizards? Werewolves? Vampires? Dragons in disguise? Maybe some or all of these, maybe something even more unexpected. There is always a bit of narrative distance when you place a story in a fictional land. While the reader can bond with any well-written character, it take a little more effort to put yourself in the shoes of an epic fantasy character, whether they be pig-farming peasants or high-born nobles. On the other hand, urban fantasy characters inhabit lives and landscapes that resemble our own — they own houses or rent apartments, they eat at restaurants, hold down jobs, and walk city streets.

When you are reading any kind of book set in the real world, it is especially fun to read one set in your own hometown. If the author has done his or her job well, you can walk the same streets and see the same sights in books that you see when you walk to work. Maybe the characters eat at your favorite deli or BBQ joint, hang out in the park down the street, or work in an office building you’ve walked past a million times. They talk like you, and drink that weird soda that no one else drinks (what the hell is cheerwine, anyway?). And every time you have that moment of “hey! I know that place!” it can bond you to the story, as long as the author gets it right (I haven’t read all of these, so forgive me if they don’t, in fact, get it right). Readers who live in big cities like Chicago or San Francisco get this treat all the time, but I’ve searched for urban fantasy set in every state.  I got close, with only a couple of voids. I didn’t do any international urban fantasies (I’ll do those in a future post), no YA,  and I didn’t include any historical fantasies, despite there being quite a few great ones set in cities like Chicago, LA, and SF. I did, however, dip into paranormal romance and supernatural mysteries when I needed something for a state. The image of a map at the top of the post takes you to an interactive map showing my pick for the urban fantasy that best represents each state (or sometimes just my favorite, if there were many to choose from).  Because some places like New York has had a lot of books set on its streets, I’ll list some of the other novels set in the state in the full gazetteer below.

Urban Fantasy by Setting






rosemaryandrueSan Francisco

Los Angelessandmanslim











[How is it possible there isn’t an urban fantasy set in Hawaii? I would read the hell out of that.]









New Orleans
















New York Cityalreadydead






















Anticipated Science Fiction and Fantasy for late 2016

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be able to attend BookExpo in Chicago, where I saw the books that publishers are excited about for fall. I came away with a huge list of books for my own TBR pile. It also reminded me that while I did a list of anticipated books in the science fiction and fantasy genres for 2016, I only went through July. Now there are lots of new titles appearing on publishers’ schedules and a ton books I hadn’t even dreamt of when I made my first list for the year, in January. So, I decided I would round up my anticipated SFF reads for the second half of 2016. I’ll try and update this list as new titles are announced. These are things I’m personally looking forward to, but what looks good to you?









  • Crosstalk by Connie Willis
    [Always fabulous Willis takes a break from time traveling historian for a near future romance]
  • Firewalk by Chris Roberson
    [Interesting sounding supernatural crime thriller]
  • The Wall of Storms (The Dandelion Dynasty) by Ken Liu
    [Grace of Kings, was a little slow and could have had more interesting women characters, but it was ambitious and different. High hopes for book 2! ]
  • Conspiracy of Ravens (The Shadow) by Lila Bowen
    [Sequel to the great weird west debut Wake of Vultures]
  • Certain Dark Things by Silvia Garcia-Moreno
    [I really liked Signal to Noise and this novel of ‘noir-punk’ Mexico City vampires looks great]
  • The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue
    [Donohoe does literary horror, and this one is about creepy puppets. I’m scared already.]
  • Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
    [While I’d like another Shambling Guide, I’ll happily take this SF mystery with clones.]
  • The Cold Eye (The Devil’s West Book 2) by Laura Anne Gilman
    [I loved The Silver on the Road so I can’t wait for this one]
  • Remnants of Trust (Central Corps) by Elizabeth Bonesteel
    [Another anticipated sequel. Cold Between was a SF/mystery/romance blend, but this one looks more political ]
  • Feedback (Newsflesh) by Mira Grant
    [Another perspective on the events of the fantastic first Newsflesh novel, Feed.]




Updates to the Blender

blenderApologies up front how long it has been since the blender last got an update. I had a hell of a year last year, and had to focus on my work and my health. I hope to be much better going forward about making regular updates to the blender, to make sure that not only do new titles get added but I continue to add older titles that exemplify interesting blends.

Since the last update, I have added over 200 titles, mostly published in 2015 and 2016. Here are some of my favorite titles among those newly added to the database. The bulk of what I tend to add seems to trend toward science fiction and fantasy blends. One reason for this bias is that I read those genres for review, and just come across the blends most often. But I also think some of the most interest blends are happening in the speculative fiction genres. These are genres that just naturally like to take narrative risks. But there are plenty of blends of all genres that are new to the blender.


Historical mystery is one of the most popular blends, to the point where it is usually considered a genre of its own. There are plenty of historical mysteries published every year, but I have included a few that were very well-reviewed and brought something new to the genre. Two that I would draw attention to are The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter, set in 1930s India, and Girl Waits with Gun set in 1914 New Jersey. There’s also the bonus blend of A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain, which adds a time-traveling FBI agent.



Another blend that takes up a sizable market share of its genre is historical romance. Regencies still dominate the historical romance scene, and I’ve added a few great ones, including The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean. But there are other eras to explore, like the Gilded Age New York setting of Joanna Shupe’s Magnate. I also beefed up Romance/Adrenaline (aka romantic suspense) with titles like Virtue Falls by Christina Dodd, an example of a book that is not new, but new to the blender.



Horror edges into other genres in interesting ways, bringing its monsters and its sense of dread. A couple of good historical horror novels got added, notably Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff that looks at a family in the Jim Crow-era South and their encounters with the occult. And If you like your horror with the excitement of a heist thriller, I offer up The Fifth House of the Heart by Ben Tripp and promise you will thank me.


sleepinggiantsScience Fiction

There’s a lot of ways to mix it up in SF. One of my favorite ways is to add a mystery, and there are a few new SF/Mystery blends in the blender, including The Ark by Patrick S. Tomlinson (locked room-type mystery on a generation ship). Depth, by Lev A.C. Rosen brings the noir to a drowned New York, and The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel offers a murder on a colony with a bonus romance. If you want SF with the pacing of a thriller, I highly recommend The Fold by Peter Cline about a man looking into a research team who claim to have figured out teleportation or Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel about the discovery of an alien artifact.



Oh so many fantasy blends. If you like it historical, try the regency set Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho or Prohibition era A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly. A bumper crop of weird west have been added like Silver on the Road by Laura Ann Gilman. And if you want mystery mixed in (and it is my biggest category), you could sample some great urban fantasies like Borderline by Mishell Baker or a rural take on an urban fantasy with Charlaine Harris’s Midnight Crossroad. Epic fantasy can get blendy too, as evidenced by the terrific City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, which combines great worldbuilding and a mystery.

Of course there is plenty more to explore, with the blender now topping 725 titles. I hope it continues to be of use to those who like their fiction mixed, crossed, bended, and blended. Enjoy!