Over the years editor Ellen Datlow has won dozens of awards for her horror and fantasy anthologies. Now she's back with two new anthologies, Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy and Supernatural Noir, which consists of, um, supernatural noir stories. The two anthologies, published within a month of each other, share five writers in common: Elizabeth Bear, Richard Bowes, Jeffrey Ford, Caitlin R. Kiernan, and Lucius Shepard. I thought it would be interesting to talk to Datlow about the similarities and differences between "supernatural noir" and "urban fantasy," given the way in which some of these terms have shifted in meaning over the years"¦
Amazon.com: What's the difference between urban fantasy and supernatural noir? Are there any overlaps?
Ellen Datlow: I perceive urban fantasy as generally lighter in tone than supernatural noir. Although some of the stories in Naked City are quite dark, they don't contain the crucial elements of betrayal by an intimate that denotes much of noir fiction. However, an overlap does occur in that many stories in both subgenres crucially take place in cities.
Amazon.com: Can you differentiate the challenges of working on these two anthologies?
Datlow: For Naked City I was intent on putting together an anthology that included new takes on the "classic" urban fantasy of miraculous and/or strange happenings in cities as created and influenced by Charles de Lint, John Crowley, Emma Bull, Mark Helprin, and Terri Windling. But I didn't want to completely ignore the kind of story currently called "urban fantasy""”a somewhat romantic take on supernatural creatures. So the challenge was balancing the two types of urban fantasy in order to engage readers who are attracted to one or the other. The challenge of editing Supernatural Noir was similar to Naked City in that "noir" fiction is very much of its time"”that is it was most popular and perhaps most reflective of post WWII mores and concerns. But unlike urban fantasy, noir fiction and movies are as much a stylistic expression as anything else.
Amazon.com: Why do you think fantasy (or the supernatural) mixed with mystery is such a popular combination for readers?
Datlow: Well, the crime/mystery/thriller genres have exploded in popularity in the past five years (much mystery is now covered by magazines such as Publishers Weekly in their mainstream sections and shelved by bookstores as mainstream fiction. Some writers of supernatural fiction added detectives/crime elements to their mix of dark fantasy--writers such as Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, Mike Carey, Carrie Vaughn, and others. I may be entirely wrong but I think it was the series characters that have attracted the readers. My anthology Supernatural Noir doesn't reflect any of this"¦I would say that the darker stories in Naked City are dark fantasy. Most if not all of the stories in Supernatural Noir are horror.
Amazon.com: Finally, does editing anthologies get easier the more of them you edit?
Datlow: They certainly don't get easier to sell. But as far as the process, I think I've gotten better at nagging the writers I want for stories and following up with them on their progress. But it's never easy to edit the kinds of original anthologies I edit. I always need to be aware of new voices whose work I'd like to solicit or just of the many types of writers out there that I haven't bought stories from in the past. Also, staying open to serendipity is important for me. I like to keep enough room open in an ongoing anthology to acquire something different from what I might usually take. Something really strange that still (in my opinion) fits the theme.