Blog Post: Cursed Relics and Urban Fantasy

Cursed Relics and Urban Fantasy by Gail Z. Martin

What is it about cursed objects that sparks our imagination? And why do they show up so much in urban fantasy?

Cursed and magically malicious objects play a central role in my Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series. My main character, Cassidy Kincaide, is a psychometric who can read the history or magic of an object by touching it—and she can also pick up on strong emotional resonance as well. Trifles and Folly, the antique store that has been in her family for over three hundred years, exists to get dangerous magical items off the market and out of the wrong hands. Set in a city like Charleston, SC that takes huge pride in his history (and is one of the most haunted cities in America), there’s no danger that my fictional crew will run out of supernatural threats to counter.

But the idea of cursed relics or haunted objects runs deep, and it shows up in plenty of books, TV shows and movies, from Needful Things to Dr. Who. In epic fantasy, cursed objects are often swords or amulets. We’re not really surprised to find out some museum artifact/Indiana Jones relic has bad juju. But in urban fantasy, the item can be anything—and that’s what makes it so scary.

The truth is, we invest the ‘things’ in our lives with a lot of power. We pick up small treasures from our vacations and keepsakes from the big moments in our lives. We fill display cases and curio cabinets with bric-a-brac that we inherited or received as gifts or purchased for a special occasion. And as anyone who has ever tried to purge closets knows, it can be wrenching to get rid of things to which we attach emotional significance. Throwing out a piece of your child’s grade-school art work (long after said child graduated from college) feels like divesting yourself of their childhood. Letting go of an inherited brooch (even if you think it’s ugly and would never wear it) seems like a betrayal of the dearly departed’s memory. We depend on our mementos to tie us to our past.

My father loved antique stores. I grew up going to big antique shows and flea markets, following him around as he looked for hidden treasure. After he died, I realized as we cleaned out his over-stuffed house just how many of his collections were an attempt to hold onto a memory. All those Baby Ben alarm clocks? Just like the ones in the guest bedroom at his grandmother’s house where he used to sleep when he visited as a kid. Those Singer treadle sewing machines were the same model as the ones his mother used back during the Depression. It was poignant, sad and desperate, but he had invested those and other common objects with the power to be emotional touchstones to a long-vanished past.

He wasn’t alone in his obsession. Talk to any antiques dealer, and he or she will tell you that outside of the very expensive ‘art’ level collectibles (Chippendale furniture, famous paintings, etc.) the fads in collecting trend with the childhood memories of the age cohort reaching middle-age affluence. Didn’t have the hot rod you saw the older teens driving when you were a kid in the 1960s? Now that you’re over fifty with some money to spend, you can buy one and reclaim your lost youth. Feeling nostalgic for the furniture you grew up with? Mid-century Modern is hot again. The caveat is, that these trends last from the time a group with shared generational memories hits middle-age affluence until they die or have to divest to go into a nursing home. Then the value of the collectibles plummets, because there’s no longer a group out there with strong memories attached to the objects. It’s a limited-edition memory time-machine.

And of course, there are the spooky items. Dolls that are rumored to be possessed or evil. Gems like the Hope Diamond rumored to harbor a curse. Lava rock souvenirs brought back from Hawaii that cause bad luck. (Seriously—it’s a thing. People mail the rocks back all the time to get rid of bad mojo.) Any common item can harbor a hint of haunt. I remember that even as a kid, there were some things in those antique shops I just instinctively didn’t want to handle.

But don’t take my word for it. Stop in an antique show or cruise through a flea market and turn on your intuition. Which objects draw you closer? Which ones make you smile? And which ones tempt you to take them home--in that same little voice that whispers ‘jump’ when you’re at an overlook.

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here:

Trick or Treat! Read an excerpt from my newest epic fantasy novel War Of Shadows
Treats not Tricks!  Looking for some creepy-good reads? Follow me on Wattpad 2 complete novellas + lots of excerpts. #Haunted 
Days Of The Dead Trick Or Treat w excerpt from my friend Faith Hunter’s Blood Of The Earth
Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors before 11/1

About the Author
Gail Z. Martin is the author of the upcoming novel Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Dec. 2015, Solaris Books) as well as the epic fantasy novel Shadow and Flame (March, 2016 Orbit Books) which is the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Shadowed Path, an anthology of Jonmarc Vahanian short stories set in the world of The Summoner, debuts from Solaris books in June, 2016.

Other books include The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) from Orbit Books and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities from Solaris Books.

Gail writes four series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures, The King’s Convicts series, and together with Larry N. Martin, The Storm and Fury Adventures. Her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Realms of Imagination, Heroes, With Great Power, and (co-authored with Larry N. Martin) Space, Contact Light, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.


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