Cat Eldridge has done a dangerous thing, asking me to talk about Charles de Lint. That’s like asking W. C. Fields to discuss his favorite whiskey. Tamson House, the Newford stories, all the blendings of myth and magic into our modern world, the art and music mixed with squalor and deadly danger — I devour them as they come out, and wish for more. Fifteen years, twenty years of worlds we can touch and taste and smell, just beyond the edge of what we call the real world. Still not enough — can we go back to Tamson House? Please? What mischief have the Crow Girls stirred up now?
No, he didn’t invent Urban Fantasy as a story niche. It just seems that way. But the genre has been around as long as men have spun tales and built an “urban” to tie those tales to. Gods and demons haunted the dusty mud-brick streets and midnight shadows in Ur of the Chaldees, stalked the mean piss-stinking alleys and genteel wine bars of Nineveh and Tyre, brought Troy down in flaming bloody ruins with their squabbles.
He didn’t invent that. Instead, I think he does something just as important, and just as hard. He takes that and molds it and mixes in our modern fears and wonders and failings, and then peoples it with characters we recognize and love. And, yes, puts those characters through unmitigated hell before bringing them out again. His tales spin magic that redefines our modern world, with strange things peeking out of pictures or slipping through gaps in bookstore basements, with fey electrons infiltrating our computers. In the process, reader by reader, he redefines us when we emerge from the far end of those stories, changed.
On a more personal note, I owe him a drink or two if we ever meet in a bar somewhere. He’s the kind of man who will read an unknown author’s debut novel in electronic form and write an enthusiastic blurb for the “advance reading copy.” That, ladies and gentlemen, qualifies as “service above and beyond the call of duty” to the genre and his fellow writers.