What is "Urban Fantasy" to you?
Now back to our regularly scheduled blog (which is 2 days late):
The blogosphere is replete with discussions about Urban Fantasy, well the part of the blogosphere I seem to read regularly. It seems that the definition of “Urban Fantasy” is murky. Let’s parse this if we can –
Fantasy – Fiction characterized by highly fanciful or supernatural elements.*
Urban – Of, relating to, or located in a city.*
That gives us a very rough approximation of Urban Fantasy (UF) – a fictional work with highly fanciful or supernatural elements in which the locale is a city. It's not a horrible definition but it is lacking. It reminds me of the saying – all generalizations are false including this one.
I think my view of and the way I would like to define UF is influenced by the way I came to UF. I generally don’t like Fantasy, especially Epic Fantasy. I’ve read and enjoyed series by Anne McCaffrey, Katherine Kurtz and others. None of those books have remained in my personal library. I do love Thomas Burnett Swann’s books. I perhaps should not admit this, but I’ve never been able to read The Lord of the Rings. I didn’t even make it all the way through The Hobbit.
I much preferred to read H.P. Lovecraft, Machen, and Hodgson to reading fantasy as I was growing up. Later I found Elaine Bergstrom’s Austra Vampire series, Poppy Z. Brite, and Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series among others. I’m also a huge fan of dystopias (Animal Farm, The Overman Culture, R.U.R., We, Brave New World, etc.).
I came to Urban Fantasy because of the paranormal element. And I came to it from horror. I’m not going to argue, tempting as it might be, that it is more closely aligned with horror than fantasy although I reserve the right to do so at a later date. It is called Urban Fantasy. I also perceive a dystopian element lurking in some of the stories. Things are simply not as good as they seem.
Is there such a thing as Urban Farror (Urban Fantasy Horror)? There are some scary things in many of these novels. I'd certainly like to have Urban Farror as a subgenre.
So how do we define UF?
Does it have to be set in modern times or simply in a real place that exists or has existed?
Does it have to take place in a city?
Does it have to have a kick ass heroine?
Can it have some semblance of an HEA or is the HEA strictly forbidden?
Do we exclude or include novels that are primarily mysteries?
How many subgenres of UF presently exist?
I have many more questions about the definition of UF than I have answers, obviously.
So what defines UF? I just don’t know because it’s a genre that has existed for quite a while, seems to include many subgenres, and is still evolving. I think I’ll borrow a line from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, "I know it when I see it" ... or at least I think I do.
Qwill’s Qwestions: What defines UF for you? What’s your favorite UF book or series and why do you like it?
*From the American Heritage Dictionary. It's the dictionary that I prefer because it has awesome etymologies.