Friday, 2 November 2007

What's your take on 'Urban Fantasy'?

There was a discussion going on about this over on the Terry Brooks Forum, Shawn (the site admin) is writing an 'urban fantasy' novel and was wondering if his thoughts and ours (re. the ingredients of the genre matched up).
While we all agreed that 'urban fantasy' is 'fantastical elements' in an urban setting' there was some small disagreement on where the urban setting should be. Some of us thought that it had to be in a real world setting, something like Feist's 'Faerie Tale' or Neil Gaiman's 'Neverwhere'/'American Gods' etc. I don't agree. As far as I'm concerned; 'urban' is 'urban' no matter where you set your story, whether it's in 'Old London Town', the labrynthine depths of Gormenghast or the village of Hobbiton. China Mieville's 'Perdido Street Station' was based entirely in the fictional city-state of New Crobuzon, surely that would class it as 'urban fantasy' even though there is no stated connection to the real world (unless you live in London that is, you'll see the similarities straight away).
I could be wrong though, I'm into Epic Fantasy more and have only really started reading the 'urban stuff' this year.
So I'm throwing this one out to you. What does 'Urban Fantasy' mean to you? What would you expect to find in it? Is it mandatory for the heroine to get romantically involved with the vampire she has to kill? Let me know what you think!


Robert said...

Personally, when I think of urban fantasy, I think of a contemporary setting infused with the supernatural. Obviously that has a lot to do with my Laurell K. Hamilton fix and the veritable host of subsequent clones, but I think the main difference between 'urban' and 'epic' fantasy is in the setting...

kendall said...

Think of "space opera," which doesn't involve an actual opera, theme music, arias, etc.

"Urban fantasy," like "space opera" and "chick lit" and other subgenre tags, are idioms. Their meanings aren't just a combination of the meanings of the individual words; they have different, more specific meanings to refer to [sub]genres.

I'm with Robert on the meaning. There should be a modern/contemporary setting and fantastical elements. The setting is pretty specific for "urban fantasy."

Robert said...

Where's the DeLint? How can you blog about this without DeLint?

Robert said...

And stop using my name evil other Robert!

Tia said...

I think if modern day settings with fantasy elements. Lots of fantasy is set in different time frames with urban settings, but I think the specific urban fantasy genre refers to contemporary urban settings.

That's just my opinion!

Glenda Larke said...

Definitely "urban fantasy" has come to mean our modern world. It shouldn't though - because how then do you classify something that is urban and elsewhere?

Perhaps we should start inserting "contemporary" before "urban" when we are talking about our world.

Chris, The Book Swede said...

I agree pretty much with what Kendall said, but Glenda makes a good point about making the whole thing a lot easier just by inserting the word "contemporary"! :D

I tend to read Epic Fantasy more often, too -- lately I've been reading an awful lot of (nonetheless) good SF, so I want a good 'ol fantasy again!


SQT said...

Urban Fanstasy to me is anything in an urban setting with technology that goes beyond the medieval. I think the vampire-love-interest thing goes more with 'chick-lit' IMHO.

gladiatrix said...

I'm in the "modern with a fantasy twist" camp when I see the urban fantasy tag.

For instance, David Gemmell's "Midnight Falcon" (I'm just re-reading at the moment) is set in a fantasy Roman Empire. Much of the action takes place in and around the Capitol city, but I wouldn't expect this book to be classed as urban fantasy.