Monday, March 29, 2010

Is Urban Fantasy the New “It” Genre?

Today I'd like to welcome my buddy CC from CC Chronicles with her take on urban fantasy!

Is Urban Fantasy the New “It” Genre?

What exactly is Urban Fantasy? That is the question of the day, because the lines have become blurred and so many authors want to jump on this new gravy train. Urban fantasy is becoming one of the most popular genres and that is partly because of those fuzzy lines. Before we look at why it’s growing in popularity, let’s get back to the original question – What is Urban Fantasy?

Technically, Urban Fantasy is a fantasy set in a city. Sounds pretty vague. The original Urban fantasy plots were borrowed from Noir. They usually revolve around solving a mystery and often have an element of horror or paranormal. Like thrillers, they have many twists and turns. The main characters are usually tough as nails and the story is often told in the first person narrative. Well, that sounds pretty defined and straight forward. So why the blurred lines. Because authors and publishers want to sell the most books possible and because Urban Fantasy can encompass so many different types of stories they buyer demographic is broadened. For example, as popular as the romance genre is (and it is currently the best selling) many authors don not want to be labeled as romance writers or even paranormal romance writers. Paranormal Romance is one of the genres most often miss labeled as Urban Fantasy because it can have all the elements of an Urban fantasy, however, the plots is driven by the romance not the action or fantasy elements. Romance has generally attracted the female buyer (when was the last time you saw a man browsing that section?) and smudging the line and labeling a paranormal romance, Urban Fantasy, an author can capture more male readers. By the same token, contemporary fantasy, even horror, generally draw a larger male audience than female. Both men and women like reading about strong female leading characters and many Urban fantasy’s have these femme fatales.

Is this why Urban Fantasy is growing in popularity? Partly. But the main reason we read Urban fantasy is escapism. We want to get lost in a story about a tough hero. We want to live vicariously and defeat the bad in the world. When life is difficult and we are surrounded by despair we want the strength that our hero possesses. In our current economic crisis, we want the thrill of not having to worry about money, because rarely does the hero in fantasy have to despair over finances. Finally, often these heroes have super human strength or immortality. By losing ourselves in Urban Fantasy, we get to experience a magical life that has just enough realism to keep us connected.

Thank you, CC! Please visit her blog at CC Chronicles


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Thanks for the info on urban fantasy! I'm tweeting this one in my next round of tweets. :)

Mystery Writing is Murder

Creative Chronicler said...

Diane- Thanks for hosting me and adding your fabulous photos to the post. They are perfect.

K. A. Laity said...

Well, I'd certainly argue that we're looking at marketing terms for a nebulous genre (which incidentally has been around at least since Fritz Leiber's time, e.g. "Smoke Ghost" 1941). You're right that there's a gendering of the labels -- while paranormal romance is the fastest growing, it's been largely ghettoized as "chic lit". If you read publishers' specifications, you'll find that the romance can be secondary to the action in that genre -- likewise, you'll find that most "urban fantasy" also has a romance in the mix.

While there is an escapist element in urban fantasy (as there is in all fiction, even the most "realistic" which is seldom such), it is also about using the imagination to its full extent to see the problems of our times in a metaphorical sense (check out interviews with writers like China Miéville or Ursula Le Guin for example).

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Glad you could join me today, CC!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks for defining it, CC!

Mason Canyon said...

I'd say urban fantasy is getting more and more "read time" and rightly so. Thanks for the background on it.

Brooke from The Bluestocking Guide said...

I read my first urban fantasy novel in 2009. I realt liked it.

The Old Silly said...

Nicely done feautre guest post, Dianne. And CC, well explained piece on the UF genre - it helped clear up a lot of vagueness to me, thanks. :)

Marvin D Wilson

B. Miller said...

I really enjoy the urban fantasy genre and would like to read more books set in this unique form. Thanks for posting about this.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Glad everyone enjoyed this!
Sorry, Spunky is in the middle of a crunch-time project and will get to everyone's blogs this evening!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I don’t think I’ve read any urban fiction, but now that I know more about it, I may try adding something in that genre to my to-read list.

arlee bird said...

I don't guess I've read anything that would qualify as urban fantasy. I'm not big on fantastical fantasy but urban fantasy seems like it would be pretty cool because it would be more tangible to me -- something I could better relate to.


Lola Sharp said...

I've read my share of urban fantasy and enjoy it greatly. (zodiac series has been fun)

I'm not feeling too spunky, but I still enjoyed your guest blogger/post.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I love this article because it indicates that all the labeling we do with literature is darn near as pointless as the labeling we do with people. "You know, the "I-hate-litery-novels," kind of stupidity that comes just before "I loved Farhenheit 451." The beauty of creativity is that we get to be creative. (-:
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Tweeting writers tips and #MovieReivews at

Jai Joshi said...

Thanks for this info. I was unaware of the Urban Fantasy genre coming into popularity. It's very interesting.