Urban Fantasy Authors Serve Up Justice At The 2012 New York Comic Con
A slew of authors made an appearance at this year's New York Comic Con, representing paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, young adult and urban fantasy genres, among many others. Urban fantasy authors gathered during the Thursday panel "Justice is Served" to discuss their otherworldly heroes and heroines that fight crime of the supernatural variety. Authors Amber Benson, Christopher L. Bennett, G.T. Almasi, Jacqueline Carey, Kim Harrison, Myke Cole and Thomas E. Sniegoski made up the panel, which was moderated by fellow author Michael P. Spradlin.
Spradlin started off the panel by mentioning that "our culture is full of people who dispense and seek justice," and asked each author what they felt the supernatural element adds to the search for justice. Mike Cole, who authors the Shadow Ops series about a group of military personnel fighting crime using supernatural powers, began the conversation by pointing out that "justice is relative" and can alter "in the course of your experience in the same institution." Cole used his own military experience serving in the U.S. Coast Guard as an example, and stated that his series explores how people deal with monumental changes in the world "through the lens of the military."
Christopher L. Bennett, who debuted with his first single title release this month, Only Superhuman, answered the question by quoting comic book superstar Stan Lee: "With great power comes great responsibility," stressing that supernatural abilities bring those who possess them great power "to do good and to do harm." Fan favorite Kim Harrison said that the heroine of her Hollows series, Rachel Morgan, started out with a very black and white version of right and wrong. But as the series progresses, she becomes more powerful and develops shades of grey when it comes to good vs. evil. According to Harrison, Rachel's sense of justice "becomes more potent" with the addition of her supernatural abilities.
New author G.T. Almasi brought up that characters in urban fantasy often question whether or not something is just when they're given orders by a higher authority (for example, his heroine Alix from Almasi's debut, Blades of Winter, who wonders if her orders to kill are morally just).
The protagonist of Thomas E. Sniegoski's UF series, Remy Chandler, is a fallen angel PI with a very unique view of justice. According to Sniegoski, he has a more "divine" idea of justice and has to temper that idea on earth, bringing his enemies to justice in a more humane way. Amber Benson added to Sniekgoski's sentiment by pointing out that the sense of justice is malleable for characters who can come back to life and supernaturals often change the playing field of fiction when it comes to justice. And who better to know about death than Benson's own heroine Calliope Reaper-Jones, the daughter of Death himself?
Spradlin followed up his first question with an equally intriguing one: "As writers, has your own sense of justice changed at all?"
Kim Harrison began by saying that her person view of justice hasn't changed from writing the Hollows series, but "... Rachel has gotten a lot smarter … she [has] started listening to me. Characters that make mistakes are a lot more fun to write.”
Myke Cole backed up his earlier statement by re-emphasizing that justice is relative, fluid and always changing second by second and that kind of conflict (internal and external) is something Cole tries to capture in his characters.
Almasi claimed that he uses history to explain the root of how people perceive justice, adding that he often asks himself the question "Am I really making a difference and if I am who [benefits] from it?" while writing. Bennett brought up an interesting analogy, comparing justice to medicine. He argued that justice should not just be about revenge, but also about "healing and protecting" other people when bad things happen. He used Batman as an example, citing that he doesn't just kill bad guys, but he makes sure the bad guys don't kill anyone else, "minimizing the amount of harm that's done in the world."
Fantasy author Jacqueline Carey will be starting her first urban fantasy series this month with Dark Currents, and aligned her own view of justice with that of her new heroine, Daisy. In her new Agent of Hel series, supernatural beings do not have a legal existence and are not held accountable for their actions, which means that justice isn't served for the same reason. Daisy wrestles with issues of justice and as the firt book progresses her sense of responsibility and justice evolves.
Amber Benson wrapped up the panel by adding that characters are often put in a position where they're doing the work of others, who have a "very specific agenda" (for example, many minions do the dirty work of bigger bosses). She raised the question "Are the minions the guy guys or is it the bad guy at the top?" which had other panelists nodding in agreement that this is a question their characters are often faced with.