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Magical Vancouver

September 7, 2015

There’s this series of posts on Tumblr that list gothic moments in cities or locations, largely tongue-in-cheek. For instance, in Vancouver you might forget the feel of sunlight because it’s rained for four months on end, or at university your profs’ offices all seem to be at the end of dark hallways.

I recently ran across a few urban fantasy wishlists during a web search. When I was more into the urban fantasy internet several years ago, I saw a fair number of those, and I was both heartened and saddened that they’re still out there and haven’t changed much. The basic theme of them is that while urban fantasy is all well and good, it sticks to a small number of plot and character tropes a lot of the time and there’s a lot more potential in the genre beyond what’s getting published—so people list what they’d like to see, in the hopes that others will be inspired to write it.

I’ve always thought it was a shame that Canada, which is as old and Western as America, gets only a handful of urban fantasy series. (Those are the three authors I know of.) Vancouver gets a few series already, but compared to the number set in Seattle, that isn’t enough.

So. I got thinking. How about a mix of the UF wishlist and the “regional gothic” meme, for Canada? Of course, I can’t do it single-handedly because I only have experience with a few Canadian cities and one of those I’m setting my novel in so that’s ruled out. But I know Greater Vancouver because I’ve lived here for over a decade (yikes). Let’s do this.

  • The fae live in West Vancouver mansions that back onto forests. They vacation in Whistler condos and sip ambrosia in the gondolas. They party in the Van Dusen Garden after hours.
  • Vampires live in Coal Harbour, a short walk from both the cruise ships and the Downtown Eastside.
  • UBC is infested with pixies. The Upside-Down Tree hosts a dryad. Several students and a handful of tenured professors are far, far older than they seem.
  • There’s a colony of merfolk off Stanley Park. In the summer, they swim to English Bay and Wreck Beach. They still tell stories of helping smuggling alcohol during Prohibition.
  • The marijuana shops near Gastown are run by leprechauns.
  • International Village Mall was designed by a dark wizard. It’s the only explanation.
  • The people of the Downtown Eastside know what’s up when it comes to demons. So does a large minority of people in Surrey.
  • There’s a coven of witches in Kitsilano who’s constantly at odds with the coven in the West End. The witches of Langley and Coquitlam stay out of it.
  • Werewolves prowl the downtown core on weekends and head to the mountains during full moons. Joining the packs is one of the few ways to get off the streets, once you’re on them. They take care of their own. (The vampires, not so much.)
  • Gastown and Chinatown are thick with ghosts. Several of the mansions in the West End and Point Grey have ghosts as well, but ones by the water have the most character. The McBarge is definitely haunted.
  • One of the mob bosses back in the day had magic in his veins. Nobody can agree on which one.
  • If you step off the path in Stanley Park, Pacific Spirit Park, or Burns Bog, you’re likely to run into a Coast Salish spirit. This is one of the reasons they tell you not to do that.
  • Many Chinese, Japanese, Southeast Asian, and African immigrants practice white magic, though they probably won’t admit it to white people. Enough people stray into dark magic that there’s an inter-city police squad dedicated to the problem.
  • At least one pimp is using sex magic by proxy.
  • The muse of cinema had a daughter. She seems to be PAing every movie set in the city.

There’s more, I’m sure. There’s deep history in Vancouver, even though we don’t see it, and Greater Van has such an immigrant population and a tourist trade that there’s plenty of story fodder, not even going into cold cases and the sordid past … why hasn’t this been done?

If you’re reading this, I challenge you twice. First, write and post a list like this for your own city or area. Second, use a line from your list to write a story. Let’s get more urban fantasy out there, outside the box!

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