As a professor who teaches, amongst other things, popular fiction, I’m very much aware of the debates surrounding urban fantasy. What does this term mean, exactly? For example, my books are about a girl living in a tiny village in Maine. Not very urban. But there is magic, so that’s fantasy. But there’s no map or funny languages, since it is set in “our” world.
Over the years I’ve watched the genre of UF evolve, and I’m now lucky enough to take part in this process, as an author of my own books. But I’ve always thought that one of the most fascinating and fun versions of urban fantasy is, undoubtedly, Jen Rardin’s.
In Once Bitten, Twice Shy, Vayl almost immediately makes a joke about James Bond. And this is, in a fabulously parodied way, exactly the world Jen created. It’s James Bond, only made more believable, paradoxically, by its connection to magic, vampires, and the supernatural. In other words, while I never once believed James Bond could get away with any of his absurd, if entertaining, shenanigans, I can believe they’d be possible in a world that contains CIA-agent vampires.
Jen wrote some of the most “real” urban fantasies on the market today, not least because of her world’s reliance on science as much as technology. While Vayl may work his vampire mojo, Jaz relies on Grief, as well as other deliciously wacky and brutal weapons made by Jen’s Q, Bergman. I can’t think of another character like Bergman out there, in Urban Fantasy: someone who, despite there being magic in the world, relies on the cold steel of wonderfully absurd gadgetry.
Meanwhile, who doesn’t love a gadget? And imagine how hard it is to make these things up? I avoid such things because I’m not really sure, to be frank, exactly how something as straightforward as my vacuum cleaner works. For all I know, there is magic at the heart of a Dyson. So for a writer who has that chance to “opt out” of the physics-ruled realm of science, but refuses, is brave, indeed.
And Jen never opted out. There was always the frighteningly detailed Grief, throughout the series. Then there was Bergman’s flying, credit-card-bug-detector in Biting the Bullet. And who could forget One More Bite’s ominously foaming “Mongoose”?
The world of urban fantasy is a darker place without Jen. As a woman, she brought much joy and light. And as a writer, she brought her shiny, shiny gadgets. We will miss her, and everything she created.