Except for The Dresden Files and the first Twilight book, which I reviewed here, I haven’t read much urban fantasy. Not out of any dislike of the genre–it’s just how my reading habits have unfolded over the years.
But I think I have a sense of the genre’s possibilities.
I’ve also never seen any dance films like those exemplified by the Step Up series. But after seeing a number of movie trailers, reading various capsule reviews, and consulting learned scholars, I’ve realized something…
Urban fantasy fiction and dance films have a lot in common.
They both tend to depict a hidden world coexisting with our own, where rival factions battle each other for supremacy. In one such world, ancient vampire clans wage war against tribes of shaggy werewolves, armed with guns, fangs, and angst. In another, rival dance gangs prowl the streets in flashy shoes, their pounding boomboxes and “mad whack” moves leaving swaths of humiliation and ruin.
What could be more natural than to fuse these two familiar genres into something new?
Something like urban dance fantasy…
* * *
Ella Swain hesitated outside the alley. The darkness within stretched like a chasm between her and the lonely light flickering over the battered metal door at the far end.
I guess it’s one of those underground dance clubs or something.
She shrugged and let the darkness of the alley devour her. Her heels click-clacked on the pavement. Her fingertips grazed the rough brick on either side, guiding her–reassuring her–as she drew near the light and the door.
The shadows swirled and shifted, and a man flowed out of the darkness to stand in the light before her, blocking the door. He held a black cloak about him so that only his face was visible, impassive and pale, cold and beautiful and glowing like chiseled moonstone.
“W-who are you?” Ella asked.
“Ah…you are beautiful,” he said, his voice as soft as the whisper of half-remembered dreams. “Come closer, my dear. Let me drink you.”
“Who better to slake the thirst of my loneliness?”
“Yeah, well…I don’t think so.”
Ella turned back the way she came. The man chased after her in a rustle of cloth, a swift and hungering presence that threatened to quickly overtake her.
She sprinted toward the street, the click-clack of her heels echoing like machine gun fire.
When she emerged from the alley, something caught her ankle and tripped her. Falling forward, scraping elbows and knees, she cast a frightened glance behind her.
Close now, the man in the black cloak grinned in wicked triumph.
She tried to push herself to her feet, but a firm hand held her down. “Relax, lassie. I’ll take care o’ him.”
“Did you just trip me?” Ella asked.
At first she thought the newcomer was a young boy because of his stature, but his thick red beard betrayed a wild and rugged manliness. He wore a tailored green suit with wide lapels and a giant clover thrust through one of the button-holes. Light from the streetlamp gleamed in the golden buckles adorning his green hat and black, polished shoes.
She blinked in disbelief. “Did you know you’re a leprechaun or something?”
The leprechaun winked and turned to face her pursuer.
“You.” The man halted, his cloak settling around him. “You defy the ancient Vampire-Leprechaun compact? For her?”
“Aye,” the leprechaun said.
The vampire sneered. “Then you know this must be resolved in accordance with the old ways?”
“I do.” The leprechaun’s grin sparkled like a mouthful of good luck charms.
“So be it.”
Sweeping his cloak behind him with pale, delicate hands, the vampire dropped into a crouch, fangs bared and a low growl in his throat. The leprechaun folded his arms across his chest in disdain.
The vampire surged forward. He leaped and spun around the impassive leprechaun, cape flapping like the wings of a great, angst-consumed bat, a whirlwind of intricate dance moves that mesmerized Ella with a fluttering magnificence the likes of which she had never seen.
When he finished, the vampire drew back behind his cloak. “Do you despair before the ultimate power of my moves?”
“Och! My buckled dancing shoes’ll speak for me, they will.” The leprechaun erupted into a frenzy of traditional stepdancing, his feet moving in blurs of black and gold, scattering bits of newspaper like dried leaves blowing in a storm.
Cowering in the face of the leprechaun’s fury, the winds of the dance buffeting him, the vampire tried to shield himself with his hands. The leprechaun’s feet began to glow. A rainbow lashed outward in a tongue of multicolored fire, searing through his enemy’s flesh.
The vampire shrieked and dispersed in a cloud of mist and bats that flapped away in wide-eyed terror.
Ella had to force herself to start breathing again. The leprechaun took her hand, his touch gentle and electric.
“And now, my dear, come with me,” he said. “Fancy a bit o’ dancing?”
“I…think I’ve had enough of dancing for tonight,” Ella said. “How about some dinner instead?”
“Fine, fine…I know a place that serves fantastic leprechaun food…”
* * *
Is “urban dance fantasy” a vast new market waiting to be tapped? Any other genre mash-ups out there waiting to be unleashed? Perhaps romantic horror…
“Oh, no! A creature from another dimension is stalking us one by one! I think I love her…”