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LABELS LABELS LABELS

Editors/publishers communicate in a secret code that authors struggle to crack. Or at least, it’s a struggle for me. My latest challenge is figuring out what they mean by Urban Fantasy” I am aware of some books that bear that label, but what are the parameters?

How “urban”? And is urban the same as contemporary unless it’s “futuristic urban fantasy”? Or is it always slightly futuristic? And is it always dark? Gritty?

I’m hopeless enough to still believe that fantasy can be light, or at least, energetic. For me, dark-gritty-urban sound more like a nightmare than a fantasy. But then, I’ve never been a fan of the dark school of futuristics. I mean, seriously, are we really sure it’s all going to be apocalyptically grim? Isn’t there an equal chance that it’ll be fascinating and upbeat?

And to be completely realistic about it, even if it is grim, won’t they medicate us so we won’t know it, a la Brave New World and co?

But I digress. I really just want to know the parameters of the term Urban Fantasy. For some reason, that particular label is bothering me today. So if anyone who stops by has an inkling, let me know – thanks!

Kate

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( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
ferfelabat
Jun. 25th, 2007 01:50 am (UTC)
I have been told Revenge Gifts missed the Urban Fantasy mark by about 80 miles. Had I set it in Miami it would qualify. Does that help? Kim Harrison, Laurell K Hamilton, Lillith Saintcrow (Dante Valentine series). Books set at the edge of cities with paranormal elements set in every day scenery. My writing was classified as Tart Noir but I don't think that fits either.
katedonovan
Jun. 25th, 2007 02:59 am (UTC)
edge of cities
Okay, that's actually very helpful.

And Tart Noir? Funny.

I wonder what my current story is. Hence the musing.

Thanks!
miladyinsanity
Jun. 25th, 2007 10:54 am (UTC)
Do you watch the Fangs, Fur Fey community? All UF authors--though I'll admit that not all of them fit my personal definition of UF.

That said, my definition is rather more exclusive than most. I mostly put books that don't have that noir feel outside of UF. Occasionally, I run into a snag when a book's clearly not a paranormal (Rachel Caine's Weather Wardens), IMHO, but it doesn't have a noir feel to make it UF either, again only IMHO.

In essence, I believe that a definition of urban fantasy shouldn't just include stuff about content, there should be 'feel' too.

The wrong genre on the book thing doesn't faze me one bit, so rest assured that if your UF book isn't what I considered UF, it's not going to annoy me even though the publisher says it is UF. If you understand that, you should be worried. LOL. ;)

If you want genre recs, I like Vicki Pettersson, I just know Marjorie M. Liu's upcoming Ace series will be amazing (check out her novella in the Wild THing antho), and Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely is generally agreed to be amazing (even by Jane--haven't read it yet, saaaaaaad!).

Oh and if you read Eileen Wilks' World of the Lupi series, which is sold as a romance...That's one series I'd personally consider UF.

This is waaaaaaaaaay long. You've got my email addy, we can talk. I can talk about this all day, all night and still not be done. LOL.
katedonovan
Jun. 26th, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC)
feel versus content
That's really helpful, May, and sort of confirms what I've been thinking -- tone and feel rather than plot. I can't write "dark" for more than a chapter or two at a time, or at least, I haven't wanted to so far. But dark paranormal and urban fantasy are the active areas, and oddly, I have some projects that would totally, perfectly fit UF plot-wise. So I've had some feedback urging me to try my hand at UF, and... well... hmmm...

I may follow up with you on this at some point. Meanwhile, thanks!

Kate
miladyinsanity
Jun. 26th, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC)
Re: feel versus content
I can't wait to read it!

FWIW, if it's not urban fantasy because of feel, it might well be contemporary fantasy, paranormal etc.

I've a book suggestion, and it's Shanna Swendson's Enchanted, Inc. It's not dark, but it straddles the line between urban fantasy and other stuff precisely because it's not dark.
(Anonymous)
Jun. 26th, 2007 08:47 pm (UTC)
Re: feel versus content
Hey, that was quick! Thanks for the recommendation. I'll check it out.

And I think you're absolutely right. I write contemporary fantasy more than urban fantasy.

Kate
katedonovan
Jun. 26th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
fangs for the recommendation!
I just visited the fangs_fur_fey community -- thanks for the rec! What a great group.

Kate
mizkit
Jun. 25th, 2007 11:12 am (UTC)
Ok. Urban fantasy. I write urban fantasy, so I have a lot to say about it. In fact, I may end up posting whatever I say here to my blog... :)

To me, urban fantasy is a story set in a modern-day world, usually based in a big city, in which fantastic elements--frequently vampires, werewolves, witches, etc, but always *some* sort of magic--are part of the everyday life, whether Everyone Knows It (Anita Blake) or hardly anyone knows it (my Walker Papers, for example, or Jim Butcher's Dresden Files). It is *often* gritty and *often* laced with horror, but it's also often very funny and sarcastic. Its plot backbone is frequently a murder, or a series of murders, which are propagated by or the result of supernatural activity. Usually to solve the mystery the protagonist has to use magic, him-or-her(typically her)self.

That's *generally* the kind of story people are referring to when they talk about urban fantasy. There's a lot of urban fantasy that doesn't fit into all of those parameters. For example, Michelle Sagara's CAST IN SHADOW books are set in an entirely fictional world peopled by five or so different races, but the story is set in a major city within the confines of that universe: you could easily call that urban fantasy, and if I were a bookseller trying to sell it, I probably *would*, because urban fantasy is Hot, and it's not a misnomer. Lisa Shearin's new series, starting with MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND is a similar situation: set in a city, but an entirely fictional universe. Definitely urban fantasy, but with an emphasis on the fantasy, to my mind. Emma Bull's WAR FOR THE OAKS, written in the 80s, is quite gloriously urban fantasy, but doesn't fit the definition that's being popularly used right now, I don't think. Similarly with more or less everything Charles de Lint writes, I gather.

Hm. Then there's the fantasy you seem to be talking about, the slightly futuristic Bladerunner kind of dark gritty world that nobody'd want to live in. Oddly enough, although I suppose technically it /is/ urban fantasy, I don't think I'd call it that. Possibly when I think about that the stories that are coming to my mind are science fiction: more emphasis on the tech, far less on magic making things happen, even if the tech isn't actually *emphasized*. Does that make sense? I don't even have a particular sub-genre name for that, beyond science fiction. Cyberpunk, maybe, although that's got particular and specific connotations to it. Still, in a way, it could be used as a catch-phrase for contemporary science fiction in the same way that "urban fantasy" can be used for contemporary fantasy.

There is something in romance that is *similar* to urban fantasy: paranormal romance. They are not, however, the same creature, and learning that was really rather fascinating to me. When I started writing the Negotiator Trilogy, my editor said to me she wanted it to be a sexier story, and sent me to read Gena Showalter and Katie McAllister and some others, and they're writing something that's a lot *like* urban fantasy, but isn't quite. There's less focus on the world-building and rules of magic, and more focus on the relationships, more emphasis on sensuality (or sometimes sex) and some other things that make them...not the same. It's bloody hard to explain, but I know it when I see it. :)

However, there's one hell of a lot of *crossover* between urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and a lot of urban fantasy is being marketed to romance readers. It appears to go the other direction less, though: I'm not seeing Gena's books being marketed toward fantasy readers as much as I'm seeing Laurell Hamilton's books being markted toward romance readers (too bad, too). Of course, there are far fewer fantasy readers as a whole to market to.

Hm. I might have more to add to this after a while, but this is all I can wrap my brain around right now. Hopefully it's in some small fashion enlightening or helpful! :)

-Catie
katedonovan
Jun. 26th, 2007 08:39 pm (UTC)
crossovers
Interesting! I think my paranormal romances have a little too much paranormal/world-building/whatever, so in that sense, but not in tone, I probably cross over.

And for some reason, lately, I'm into sci fi. I always have been as a tv/movie viewer, but suddenly, I want to write about it too. Light sci fi with romantic subplot -- not exactly a thriving market!

Thanks for the tips. I'm going to mull all of this over for a while (until my brain hurts and I go watch Stargate or something else soothing)

Kate

(Anonymous)
Sep. 20th, 2008 11:07 am (UTC)
About me
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