Cities that tower over mountains, ones that float in the sky, are encased in an underwater dome, or hidden in a volcano. I really like fantastical cities. There’s something about a city with surreal or fantasy elements that is so intriguing to me. There are so many ways a magic system can be worked into the intricacies of a bustling society. How does that steampunk technology affect day to day life? How does the average person use all those alchemical ingredients? What does everyone do with those crystals that have little frozen pixies in them?
One of my favourite genres is cyberpunk. I think one of the major aspects of most cyberpunk stories are big, sometimes overcrowded, cities. Stuff that has a neo-noire bend (like Blade Runner) are my particular favourites. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy the Shadowrun game so much (I haven’t had a chance to play the follow-ups). It combines a lot of my favourite things into one neat package. It’s got fantasy races and neon signs in rusty cityscapes. And every part you visit feels like it has a place in the landscape even if the megacorps HQs are so pristine compared to the back alley streets.
A city can be packed with all manner of peoples and places and still have vastly different mindsets, cultures, and settings. The most obvious being the wealthy versus, well, everyone else. There can be cultural pockets that have clustered together, or new subcultures that form from the places that those clusters overlap. It really feels like there are so many possibilities to create stories and characters. I think that's probably why I gravitate towards big city settings.
There's also something really satisfying about slowly populating a city. It starts off with some vague ideas, and those generalities get broken down to a series of intricate parts, until there are subsections within subsections of people all living next to one another affecting each other without even knowing it.
Rolling green hills and lush forests can only go so far. Maybe it's because of how much I love the ideas behind neo-noire themes that I've been inadvertently applying them to my fantasy writing. And a lot of that influence probably comes from the way Shadowrun marries the two so well. I liked both before, but as separate entities, now I want to smoosh them together.
Question to readers: What are some of your favourite genres? They can be super specific, super vague, or even just a particular piece of media that resonated with you but doesn't quite fit any genre.