Feb 17, 2010

Indianapolis: Broaddus Strikes Back

A few weeks ago I brought up the topic of setting in Urban Fantasy, namely the choice of picking the fairly unfamiliar city (particulary on the global stage) of Indianapolis as the setting for the very intriguing Angry Robot title, King Maker. Somewhere along the line, Maurice Broaddus, King Maker's author, read my post and responded over on the Apex Book Company blog saying:
I understand this book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, after all, what’s a few pimps, trolls, drug dealers, elementals, homeless teenagers, and the occasional dragon between friends? However, that was the element of disbelief said blog writer couldn’t suspend. His issue was the setting. Indianapolis, specifically selling Indianapolis to British readers.
"Indianapolis is actually a perfect place to set the story. It’s a blank enough canvas that I’m betting even native readers will have their eyes opened by much of the story’s locales. And frankly, be it Indianapolis, The Shire, or Gallifrey, the important isn’t how familiar the world is to us, but how real the author makes it to us. Here’s hoping I made the Indianapolis haunting, real, and terrifying. If not, you at least have a gorgeous cover to enjoy."
While I think Marcus might have been misintrepeting my curiosity driven first post a bit harshly, he is definitely spot on with that second quote. Indianapolis is a bold choice for a setting and one that is going to demand more work than one set in a more recognizable locale such as New York or London.  I responded with something similar over in the comments.
I’m not necessarily questioning your choice to use Indianapolis. It was more a commentary that you chose to forego the benefits of using an established city which I found unusual particularly when the book is being released internationally. Obviously setting each volume in a large well-known metropolitan city is a way to ground the story in reality and reduce the amount of writing devoted to the setting.

By setting King Maker in Indianapolis you do have the benefit of a clean slate (as you stated) but you lack the head-start that can sometimes benefit a fast paced novel (which is typical in Urban Fantasy). It’s not a bad move per se, just a bold one as you now have to convey a sense of the mundane along with the weird. For the majority of international readers (and a frightening ammount of US readers) setting the book Indianapolis is the equivalent of setting it in a fully fictional metropolis.
Basically, I wasn't critiquing Broaddus's choice as much as I was curious about how locations I would take for granted would play out overseas. If you think that setting is the kiss-of-death for books, look no further than Stephen King. Rural Maine is even less recognizable than Indianapolis and that doesn't stop King from being a global phenomenon. Regardless, I've been very interested in this Arthurian retelling since I first learned of it last year and it's definitely on my to read list regardless of whether or not the average UK blogger knows where it's set. King Maker comes out on March 4th in the UK and August 31st in the US. I'll send a book or two to the first person to take a picture holding King Maker and a British flag in a recognizable location in Indy. That is, if one exists...


  1. "Frightening amount of Americans". Really, most Americans are very familiar with Indianapolis. I understand the author's issue with your condescension on his choice of Indianapolis. You come off as a little pompous.

  2. @Anonymous - If that is your real name...

    "Very familiar with Indianapolis" - what does that mean? Yes the majority of Americans have heard of Indianapolis, they may be familiar with the Indy 500 or be fans of the Manning and the Colts. But the vast majority of Americans have not been to Indianapolis, have no idea of the layout of the city, it's history, etc.

    The same goes for most American cities. I am not trying to single out Indy. Nor was I trying to suggest that Broaddus made a bad decision. I was merely noting that in the eyes of a lot of people (both Americans and foreigners) Indy is essentially a blank slate when it comes to setting. This is a deviation from the normal Urban Fantasy setting.

    Broaddus himself admitted that this was one of the reason he choose Indy in the first place.

  3. You'll have to edit again, Patrick! It's *Maurice* Broaddus, *not* Marcus! I've never met him and I know that! And he doesn't even really like me - yet. Now: I'm not taking issue with you for subjecting his ideas to a bit of critical scrutiny - I know him well enough from afar to know he needs that! But I also think you should cool it a bit: the idea of criticising a guy's home town, just because it doesn't happen to be your favourite! Whenever Ann Robinson or someone does that over here, the BBC gets snowed under in hate mail! Just saying.


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