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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » What is Urban Fantasy? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: What is Urban Fantasy?
Robert Nowall
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No, really, what's its definition? I've seen the term "urban fantasy" bandied about, here and there, but am not certain of the definition. I have a few ideas, but they could be wrong.

So what defines it? What's excluded? Can you name anything I might be familiar with? Or recommend some works so I can familiarize myself with it?


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Meredith
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Literally, fantasy that takes place in an urban setting. But that simple definition can still leave the waters a little muddy. There are other subgenres that can also take place in urban settings.

For example, I would call Gail Carriger's PARASOL PROTECTORATE steampunk, rather than urban fantasy. Other stories might be more paranormal romance than urban fantasy, etc.

As far as examples, Jim Butcher's DRESDEN stories are an obvious one. I like Patricia Briggs' MERCY THOMPSON books. Those are urban fantasy, but her ALPHA AND OMEGA series (set in the same world, with overlapping characters) are more paranormal romance (and I don't like them as well). I bet LDWriter2 could give you a longer list.

I think (and this may just be me) that there's a bit of a harder edge to most urban fantasy than the other subgenres that may share an urban setting.


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Wylde
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Charlaine Harris: Sookie Stackhouse Series

Laurell K Hamilton: Anita Blake Series

Tee Morris: Billibub Baddings Series

The Billibub Baddings series is actually held in Chicago during the prohibition era. It has a very film noir feel to it but it is a prime example that urban fantasy does not have to be in present day. It is simply a fantasy held in an urban or city setting.


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Meredith
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Personally, I wouldn't call Charlane Harris's work urban fantasy. What I've read of it (and that's not much because I can't stand Sookie) is very rural, not urban. And it seems to be largely about which paranormal Sookie is with, so I'd class it more as paranormal romance.

Just an illustration of how fuzzy the borders can be.


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LDWriter2
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I could give a very long list but I don't have time right now I may list a few later tonight but I will say that before I heard the term Urban Fantasy I called it modern magic users. In other words it's set in today's time.

There's a series I love that's set in late the 1800s I'm not sure would be considered UF or not but I would say anything past 1900. but some of those are streampunk or more paranormal. Like one Noir story where the hard boiled guy is a vampire.


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Wylde
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I can see what you mean, Meredith. It would depend on how much of the series you've read. Most of the books actually take place mainly in Shreveport Lousiana which is urban. Also New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago and Dallas. True Bon Temps is rural but the majority of the writing is in an urban setting.
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MattLeo
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"Urban Fantasy" is just a catch all phrase that somebody came up with because Tolkien redefined what "fantasy" means for most people. When authors began to return to contemporary settings, publishers needed a new term for something what used to just be "fantasy". Since the settings were often (but not always) urban, they called it "urban fantasy", then stretched it to cover the legion of horror stories that aren't horrifying.

Before Tolkien created his legion of imitators, I don't think there was a need for the term. Gilgamesh, Morte d'Arthur, and Bram Stoker's Dracula all used settings that were contemporary with their writing. Mary Norton (of Borrower's fame) wrote the novel that Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks was based upon. That was set in then-contemporary setting, and nobody thought it was remarkable. E. Nesbit (a major influence on J.K. Rowling) also set her stories in the Victorian and Edwardian eras they were written in.

I'd say that the norm for fantasy storytellers through the ages is to set their stories in a world much like if not supposedly identical to that inhabited by their readers, except when they were consciously copying some literary source like Chanson de Roland.

What I think is interesting about the term is that it has come into use in an age where everybody, writers included, has become media-saturated. I find writers have become especially *television* saturated. I often even hear prospective authors "casting" their books with TV actors. As mass media begins to displace other books as inspiration, I wonder if contemporary setting fantasies aren't starting to sound a little too much like each other.

So I'd say the shortest possible relatively accurate definition would be any fantasy in a setting that seems more modern than Middle Earth.

As a writer, the question that really interests me it this: what does it take to create a standout story that appeals to the UF market?

[This message has been edited by MattLeo (edited September 13, 2011).]


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Robert Nowall
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I was wondering whether, say, the works of John Collier would fall into this new category...or, for those of you unfamiliar with his work, a lot of episodes of The Twilight Zone.

Also the "urban" part of it---does that mean it has to take place in a gritty city setting?


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Crystal Stevens
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I always thought it meant any fantasy story written in the real (or modern) world. I know what "urban" means, and that's what threw me. I termed my story "Spirited" an urban fantasy, and now wonder if it isn't. It takes place in present day but most of it takes place in a forest... still in present day. So would that be called rural fantasy? Is there even such a genre in fastasy?

My latest story takes place in the vicinity of a small town but eventually ends up out in the country before returning to the town. Oops! It's also science fiction and not fantasy. Sorry about that. But would it be considered "urban" or "rural"?


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MattLeo
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I don't think "urban" has anything fundamental to do with it.

People don't name things by some kind of process of reasoned classification. People name things by association. The linguistic term is "metonymy". 18th C British soldiers were called "redcoats" because *most* British regiments wore red coats. But not *all* of them did. A British soldier in wearing a blue frock would still be a redcoat.

An "urban fantasy" doesn't have to have any scenes in a city, any more than you have to use a laptop computer on your lap. The most sensible demarcation for the category would be that the story takes place in a familiar contemporary setting. That usually means an urban setting, but not always.

I think it would make more sense to call most "urban fantasy" "contemporary fantasy". I think there should be a separate category of "historical fantasy" for stories set in a specific historical milieu like Victorian London. For that matter, steampunk is really just a kind of historical science fiction. If a category says anything, it should say something about the appeal of the book to readers. If you were hankering for a contemporary magic story, you probably wouldn't care if it takes place in a city, suburb, rural town or an Antarctic research station. You'd presumably care if it were set in Massachusetts during the Salem witch trials.

As it stands, I don't know whether every fantasy story set in a modern, urban setting necessarily gets the "urban fantasy" label stuck on it. I think it may have a lot to do with who you are publishing with. I have a friend who repositioned an urban fantasy manuscript as paranormal romance when a romance publisher got interested in it. She had to tweak the manuscript to meet their editorial guidelines, but it was still the same story.

[This message has been edited by MattLeo (edited September 13, 2011).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Why is this discussion here, and not in the Open Discussions about Writing area?
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mythique890
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I've been wondering about this, too, as most of my stories tend to be set in modern times, but not in cities (I've never liked cities).

I usually label my stuff "contemporary fantasy" when I'm telling other people about it. Or just generic YA.


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MattLeo
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Katleen -- I vote Robert raise the topic on the Open Discussions area and we move it there. I think he raised it here because it spun off the the discussion about the top ten list.
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LDWriter2
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In this context I'm not sure if Urban really is used as it is supposed to be. In other words it's just a title.

Laura Resnick has out a UF set in a city. A different POV in hers. The MC isn't the magic user, just someone caught in the battle between good and evil. Sort of lighthearted I think.

Of course the most famous one The Dresden Files, takes place in Chicago but also takes place in forests, on an island and in Fariye.

laura anne gillman (which is how she likes her names on her books) has out two UF's both set in New York. The first one )The Retriever series) is excellent, the second one(The P.U.P.I. series) doesn't have the same Ummpf as the first one.

C.E. Murphy has a most excellent UF series, the Walker papers. But that one tales place in a whole lot of places. The MC lives in one city but it's by the country so she can be in a forest, a underground cave- she made by accident-, inner gardens and the spirit lands. According to Walker everyone has an inner garden that is where the true self is. It's more complicated than that but you have to read the books to get it all. A lot of action takes place there. I said spirit lands and I mean the Native American spirit lands, a whole bunch of the action takes place there. So It seems in this case a large percentage of the action does not take place in a city.

Seanan McGuire has a series that takes place mostly in Fariye -her version which is different than Butcher's-and only some in a city. Depending on the book. Some have more city action than others.

Then there's Lyn Benedict's series that does take place in a city, mostly that is.

Oh yes, John Levitt's Dog Days series. It takes place in a certain city. Quite good.

K. E. Mills is the writer of the trilogy I referenced in my original note. The Rogue Wizard series. As I said I'm not sure if it is UF since it takes place in the late 1800s. But most of the action is in fictional city which might be London and a certain kingdom which I have no idea might be real or not .


I'm not sure about the hard boiled vamp stories I mentioned either. They take place in the thirties in a city but they may be more paranormal-- very little magic-- and it takes place too far in the past to be UF... maybe. I think there is an anthology that contents the short stories about this guy but I never could figure out if it was the same guy or not.


I want to write a Noir- hard boiled- UF that takes place in the thirties. I also want to write about a wizard in the wild west. Actually there already is one. Written about many years ago. I forget who write about him but he's a mountain man who rides a unicorn and does a bit of magic. He carries an odd assortment of stuff in his saddlebags including an very old earthen cup that can heal any injury if you drink from it.

Anyway, maybe write a series that tales place throughout history, starting with the West, with the same family or same person. I already have a hero who has lived for a few hundred years.


[This message has been edited by LDWriter2 (edited September 14, 2011).]


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MartinV
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Nevermind.

[This message has been edited by MartinV (edited September 14, 2011).]


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Robert Nowall
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quote:
Why is this discussion here, and not in the Open Discussions about Writing area?

'Cause when I put it up I forgot I was in Grist for the Mill. No objections to moving it if you wanna do that.

Mostly I'm (supposed) SF, but I grew up in and live in the suburbs---tract housing with occasional woods or swamps. (More of that in the "grew up" part.) Suppose I wrote a fantasy based on my life then? Would it be "urban" fantasy or "suburban" fantasy? If it reflected life further out, among the farms and the wilderness, would it be "rural" fantasy?

I've never been a big fan of the decaying city-scapes and scuzzy people that set the tone for much of the "future SF," both movies and literary works. (Thought it might reflect the life experience of people who don't fit in well anywhere.) If "urban fantasy" is of that variety, populated with drug-addled criminals and diseased post-punk rockers, as well as vampires and zombies, I'd just as soon not bother to read it.


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MattLeo
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Robert -- have you ever read any Clifford Simak? Say, *The Big Front Yard*?
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Robert Nowall
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Yeah, but I always took it for SF, not fantasy...
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MattLeo
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Of course it's SF, but Simak always struck me as a more rural focused than most SF writers, say Asimov. Asimov is most convincing when he writes about cities, which he knows very well. Simak gives me the same feeling when he writes about landscape.

My point is nobody feels the need to call Asimov an "urban SF writer" or Simak a "rural SF writer". The appeal is that they writing about their settings convincingly.

Likewise I don't think it makes sense to take a contemporary fantasy that takes place in a rural setting and put it on a different shelf from the urban fantasy. I don't think any readers of urban fantasy would turn up their nose at a contemporary rural fantasy. They might welcome it as a change of pace, but most wouldn't see it as a different class of stories.


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Robert Nowall
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Oh, yes, definitely. Asimov lived in cities all his life, loved living in cities, and loved living in New York City in particular, and it showed in his work. (The later "Foundation" novels are rife with it...and at least he didn't sketch urban nightmares, at least not much.)

Simak's rural sensibilities come to the fore in, say, the City Cycle (which is somewhat misnamed, maybe,) or a later novel like Mastodonia.

One could take it further with other writers. Who comes to immediate mind is Leigh Brackett, whose work were, more or less, westerns in everything but their setting.

I wonder about urban fantasy, where if you can take the "Unknown Worlds" school of fantastic writing and place it next to Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, and whether something like those, whatchamacallit, Sooki Stackhouse novels would fit within the same category covering the first two...


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Meredith
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quote:
I've never been a big fan of the decaying city-scapes and scuzzy people that set the tone for much of the "future SF," both movies and literary works. (Thought it might reflect the life experience of people who don't fit in well anywhere.) If "urban fantasy" is of that variety, populated with drug-addled criminals and diseased post-punk rockers, as well as vampires and zombies, I'd just as soon not bother to read it.

Well, I can't speak for all urban fantasy, but that's not true of what I have read. In fact, the baddies are almost always of the paranormal variety in one way or another.

Patricia Briggs' MERCY THOMPSON stories take place mostly in three small cities in eastern Washington state (and to some extent in the surrounding high desert. Yeah, you're occasionally aware that there are some not nice people around. But the story usually doesn't pay much attention to them because:

  • There are much worse things to look out for and
  • Most of the characters are, for various reasons, not likely to be seriously threatened by most humans.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Okay. I'm moving it.

Hold onto something.


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extrinsic
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Urban in the sense the action takes place in the everyday world. Fantasy in the sense there's fantastical premises.

Further refinements, mundane meaning the earthly, commonplace, routine alpha reality humans exist in, in a narrative present time, so to speak.

Fantastical in the sense of cultural paranormal motifs like witches, vampires, zombies, werewolves, elves, and dragons and such living among us unseen by the otherwise mundane world.

Somewhat like magical realism in the sense both mundane and metaphysical worlds' boundaries' blur, more emphasis on paranormal metaphysical belief systems for urban fantasy and less boundary blurring; while magical realism emphasizes metaphysical supernatural belief systems, and to some extent paranormal belief systems when they are an inherent part of a culture's metaphysical zeitgeist, and almost entirely dissolving the separated worlds' boundaries.

Paranormal in the sense of temporal cultural belief systems. Supernatural: spiritual cultural belief systems. Finite and subtle distinctions, I'm sure.

Mundane or urban fantastical science fiction, now there's a perspective worthy of investigation. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein perhaps? Rivet and chrome type fantastical science and technology motifs.

What about science fiction magical realism? A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr., perhaps?


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LDWriter2
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That was a fun, smooth trip. Very quick though.


Anyway:

quote:

Mundane or urban fantastical science fiction, now there's a perspective worthy of investigation. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein perhaps? Rivet and chrome type fantastical science and technology motifs.

What about science fiction magical realism?


That would be the Shadowrun novels. Based on a game I hear but they seem to have taken on a life of their own. I would say over twenty of them. Most of them written by different writers, I say most because they are series within the series.

Kinda dark too.


BTW, I think extrinsic may have the best definition of UF here... so far anyway.

[This message has been edited by LDWriter2 (edited September 14, 2011).]


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Pyre Dynasty
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Howard Tayler has some good points about UF in his review of Sorcerer's Apprentice.

http://www.schlockmercenary.com/blog/on-sorcery-and-the-apprenticeship-thereof

I agree that urban fantasy need not be urban. It's just a title, made up because people think so deeply in genres these days. To me the best urban fantasy running these days is Fablehaven, and most of it takes place in the countryside. I think the vital part of it is it is magical happening ostensibly in the 'real' world.

Dracula, or A Chirstmas Carol in their times weren't even really called fantasies, they were just called stories.


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Wordcaster
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These discussions on genres are always so nebulous. A given genre's etymology seems to be found in some random author's article relating to some unpopular work that was written, then evolves over time to take on a new definition. In fact, I've read of some attempts to define these in the recent anthologies that have come out, be it the Vandermeer's The New Weirdand Steampunk anthologies or the Kelly/Kessel, Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology.

I never heard of paranormal romance until maybe five years ago (not that I am any authority on what is often teen chick lit). It seems to me a series like Sookie Stackhouse would have been called Urban Fantasy at one time, but now there is a much better category to help explain it.

In the broader sense, certainly the term Urban Fantasy has been used to describe works that take place outside of an urban setting, perhaps even synonymous with Modern Fantasy.

Regardless, I do like the use of genres to help others understand what type of book they are about to read, even though each book has its own uniqueness and does not necessarily represent the same thing as the other books in the same category.


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MattLeo
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Wordcaster -- I think the multiplication of genres is a byproduct of market segmentation. Marketing people try to identify groups of people that will be easy to sell a particular kind of product to. The flip side is that they try to define some class of product that will be easy to sell to some identifiable class of people.

So there's a very practical implication to having something you're working on classed as "paranormal romance" rather than "urban fantasy" -- and it's not having to have a romantic story. The editors who self-identify as dealing with "paranormal romance" are different people from the editors who are interested in "urban fantasy" that happens to be romantic, and they may be looking for different kinds of MSS.

This happened to a friend of mine who had an UF MS she tried pitching as a PNR. Suddenly she was dealing with editors who had very, very specific criteria for what they wanted to see, e.g. four to five explicit sex scenes with the first occurring no later than page 40. That's because the editors were looking for MSS to fit in a product line designed to appeal to a specific market segment. It's basic marketing theory: you create a brand that represents a certain experience to a set of customers, and then you deliver that experience consistently on all the products (in this case books) bearing that brand.

I read an account by a screenwriter of a very similar situation pitching a script to a studio executive. What the studio executive wanted was "the same thing, only different." Thats why you get so many high concept movies that can be summed up by something like this: "'Die Hard' but in a subway" or "'Pretty Woman', but at a spelling bee". By an odd coincidence my current project could be described that way: "'His Girl Friday', but in an EE Doc Smith universe."

If an agent or editor who self-identifies as dealing with UF but not necessarily PNR might well have a different perspective on MSS, perhaps looking for more "different" and less "same".


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MattLeo
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Pyre Dynasty -- your post is what Bertie Wooster would call "the Real Tabasco". What we as writers have to do is go from some abstract concept like "urban fantasy" to specific, concrete story elements. What the review you link to is talking about is world building.

Normally we fantasy writers approach the world building problem as a trade-off between bringing the reader up to speed and getting the story moving. But maybe instead of thinking of background data as something we've got to slip under the readers' noses, we should think of bringing the reader into the world as part of experiencing of the story.

UF is interesting because it starts with a world we all know quite a bit about. We don't have to be briefed on the difference between New York and Phoenix and San Francisco, although even in a non-speculative novel the writer ought to paint us a vivid and surprising picture of those places if they use them. Furthermore there's a lot of the supernatural landscape readers can take for granted, like how vampires work. So is it "Vampires in San Fancisco", rig-a-jig-jig and away we go?

I don't think so. There's no such thing as stale magic. An Urban Fantasy writer has to use the world building boost he gets from the genre as a launching point to take us somewhere we've never gone before.


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Robert Nowall
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After reviewing the comments, I'm starting to think "urban fantasy" is another of those overhyped subcategories that lump a bunch of works that don't go together particularly well in order to produce some new market niche category, rather than some true and new division of popular literature.

My cleanup of my office turned up a copy of a book by one Mary Jane Davidson, concerning a mermaid coming to shore in modern times (like that hasn't been done before), and stirred up some memories---most particularly, "geez, this was an awful book." I suppose you'd classify it as "urban fantasy," too.


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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
After reviewing the comments, I'm starting to think "urban fantasy" is another of those overhyped subcategories that lump a bunch of works that don't go together particularly well in order to produce some new market niche category, rather than some true and new division of popular literature.


That's exactly right, and is basically what all "sub-genres" are. There are maybe a few exceptions, a few of the terms that can perhaps be used effectively to identify an aesthetic, like "Steampunk" or "Lovecraftian" but for the most part they are arbitrary, meaningless and exist for marketing purposes. Heck, even some of the "big" genres are much like this, primarily "horror." Horror is an emotion, not a type of story, likewise "urban fantasy", "contemporary fantasy" and "modern fantasy" are often all just ways of saying fantasy set in a modern-day setting as opposed to a historical or pseudo-mediaveal one.


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snapper
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Hey extrinsic!

How are you? Where you been? Geez, you, Merlion, BentTree, even saw Tchern pop in. They're all coming back.

When's Mary Kowall Robinson going to show up?


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extrinsic
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I'm doing okay. Made it this fall into a dynamic graduate-degree creative writing program that suits all my six desired outcomes: publishing, editing, teaching writing, reading and analytical skills development, writing poetics, and, of course, creative writing skills development so I can write the next great global saga. Successful publication, well, that's both a matter of time and a little luck, and not a little perspective.

A paid internship on a digest. A paid writing tutoring position as an apprenticeship leading toward teaching writing, and coursework and workshops in all of the above.

Where I've been headed toward from where I've been.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited September 15, 2011).]


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extrinsic
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Genre defining exercises, to me, serve writer, editor, publisher, distributor, retailer, culture, and consumer needs. Label a novel urban fantasy, does that comprehensively define the novel? Tack on that it's targeted toward young adults, another categorization. Add that it's an amatory romance. Touch on a literary movement emphasis, say, bildungsroman (protagonist's moral or psychological growth). Maybe its central fantastical premise is revenant creatures. Are they villains, nemeses, sympathetic creatures, love interests, or stage dressing for a cultural tableau expressing a visionary or mystic perspective on the human condition?

Not too long ago, genre grouping definitions exploded exponentially. The creative writing culture had followed seven or eight basic categories, one or two age ranges, and rigid labeling with convention-based expectations. It got kind of stuck in a predictable groove. A breakout was inevitable. After all, for good reason, it's not called conformance writing. Crossover and out-of-category creations is one way creation remains fresh and vigorous. Another way advances the state of the art. What's between them? Or beyond categorizations? More categories.

What limits category disapora? Therein is the rub. For each and all of the writing culture to define, individually, consensus-wise, collectively, and universally for the best possible benefits derived, be it the greater good or the individual good.


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Pyre Dynasty
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Yeah, I missed you buddy.
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axeminister
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Urban Fantasy is to Fantasy what West Side Story is to Romeo and Juliet.

That's it in a logline.

I think...

Axe


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MattLeo
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axe -- the problem with that logline is that you could read all kinds of stuff into it; some of it accurate, some of it completely off base.

Of course, that's loglines for you. The art is getting people to read into them what they want to see.


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MattLeo
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Robert, Merlion-Emrys -- I think there is a sound craft basis for approaching high fantasy and urban fantasy as different kinds of stories. Each genre poses different technical challenges in world building.

In high fantasy, the first 20% of the manuscript is exceedingly difficult because of the enormous burden of briefing the reader on unfamiliar names, places, history, and world rules. In urban fantasy, the challenge is to add a new dimension to the picture of the world already familiar to readers.

I think there's a lot less justification for drawing a distinction between UF and contemporary fantasy set in non-urban locations. I don't see that the categories pose fundamentally different challenges to a writer. At best the "Urban"/"contemporary" fantasy dichotomy is a marketing distinction, but even then I think it's a weak one.


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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Robert, Merlion-Emrys -- I think there is a sound craft basis for approaching high fantasy and urban fantasy as different kinds of stories.


All stories are different kinds of stories. Even within various so-called genres there are many differences. And especially in recent history there is a lot of stuff that combines and remixes the elements in a wide variety of ways.

Therefore most genre and especially sub-genre catagories are going to break down somewhat, because nobody can agree on exactly what they mean (much like how nobody can decide what "show" and "tell" me or what does or doesn't constitute "immediacy" or being "in the head,) or, they will fragment into more specific yet even harder to agree upon sub genres and sub-sub genres.

Of course you're right, writing a story set in a middle-ages style setting is going to be different from writing one set in modern times. But does that justify a seperate "genre?" And if it does and we get something like "modern fantasy" people are going to get the urge to divide it into "urban fantasy", "rural fantasy" etc etc. And the thing is also, its not just about setting...various even more nebulous and subjective things get put into thease classifications, criteria of style, tone and aesthetic that have nothing to do with something as relatively definable as setting, or whether or not there is magic.

It's also interesting to me that most bookstores I go into don't actually have sections for these things. Heck most don't even seperate sci-fi and fantasy...there are sci-fi/fantasy shelves and horror shelves...no urban fantasy section or hard sci fi section.


quote:
Not too long ago, genre grouping definitions exploded exponentially. The creative writing culture had followed seven or eight basic categories, one or two age ranges, and rigid labeling with convention-based expectations. It got kind of stuck in a predictable groove. A breakout was inevitable. After all, for good reason, it's not called conformance writing. Crossover and out-of-category creations is one way creation remains fresh and vigorous.


I think it's the other way around. I think people have been writing a very wide variety of stuff for a very long time, its just been not long ago that they decided every possible variation had to have its own supposedly-tightly-defined sub-genre. The breakout proceeded the new-label boom.


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Reziac
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Someone above said,

quote:
There are maybe a few exceptions, a few of the terms that can perhaps be used effectively to identify an aesthetic,

...which I misread as

quote:
...to identify an anaesthetic.

On second thought, considering my deteriorating opinion of UF and PNR, perhaps I didn't misread it. :/

The problem I have with it, as I've probably ranted before, is that most of it is really mundane fiction in fantasy trappings, rather than being actually fantasy. I'm not sure where the line is, but I know it when I see it.

Maybe the key is the level of reinvention of the wheel. I swear some of 'em reinvent the whole bloody wagon!


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LDWriter2
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How's this for a definition of Urban Fantasy. Found the quote on an E-mail by Lisa Shearin.


"If high fantasy asked you to embark upon a quest to find a magic stone, then urban fantasy would be waiting in the shadows, read to mug you when you got back." --Alan Campbell


Interesting enough Lisa's series has a Magic Stone and isn't UF as far as I can figure.


She has a great series, great reading... Just in case you want to find out more: http://www.lisashearin.com


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InarticulateBabbler
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Urban Fantasy is any kind of fantasy set in an urban setting. Urban specifically, as opposed to just contemporary. Downtown more than Uptown, gritty and reflecting society in the backdrop of the metropolitan streets. It can be mythological, monster, wizard, witch, or artifact. There's a million stories in the city...

The "punks"--Steampunk, Deiselpunk, Atompunk, Nuclearpunk, Biopunk--are the Sci-Fi equivalent of Urban Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy and the New Weirds (which are attempts to advance Lovecraftian style stories), but timeline specific by the prefixes.

Slipstream or Interstices is where the "I'm not sure what it is" categories are.


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Robert Nowall
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quote:
Urban Fantasy is any kind of fantasy set in an urban setting. Urban specifically, as opposed to just contemporary. Downtown more than Uptown, gritty and reflecting society in the backdrop of the metropolitan streets. It can be mythological, monster, wizard, witch, or artifact. There's a million stories in the city...

I was afraid of that...if that holds true, it's definitely not the kind of story that appeals to me.

(Actually, I've always thought that a lot of city stories---SF as well as fantasy---leave out the infrastructure that it takes to make a city work. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien places his cities in the middle of vast farm systems, but in the movies, there are no farms to be seen, at least around the cities.)


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InarticulateBabbler
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Depending on the city and story, the infrastructure could invariably play a large part on the setting. That's what i love about the movie "Children of Men." The setting, clothes, vehicles, graffiti, and authorities told the story of how life was, not the characters or plot.
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Natej11
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My view of urban fantasy has always been that it's fantasy with ties to the real world. Not an urban world with technology, similar to ours, but our actual world. Fantasy connected to OUR actual world.

Examples.

Young wizard learning to control magic and face a scary villain while dealing with abuse and abandonment issues. Fantasy.

Young wizard in London who escapes his evil aunt and uncle and cousin and goes off to an amazing school where magic is a way of life. Urban Fantasy.


Boy summons a genie and uses it to solve his problems, until he winds up in such a mess that the only way out is with the demon's help. Fantasy.

Boy secretly summons a demon and has it steal something from another summoner, which causes wealthy and influential people in London to begin chasing him, putting him in a situation where his only escape is with the demon's help. Urban fantasy.

(BTW the examples were Amulet of Samarkand and Harry Potter.)


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MattLeo
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I'm with NateJ on this one. The census block classification (Urbanized Area, Urban Cluster, or Rural Area?) of the geographical location seldom if ever makes much difference, nor is a writer of UF confined to any one kind of land use classification for his setting.

It's not that you *can't* define a category of fantasies that happen in cities, it's that there's no particular reason to do that. The essential element of UFs for readers is that they take place in a world that builds upon what they already know; that they make the regular world seem magical. For a writer, it means you can use New York or San Francisco, rather than having to create and describe a completely fictional city that will be as vivid in the reader's mind.


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redux
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I don't remember where I read it, but someone somewhere on the world wide web defined Urban Fantasy as having a setting that you could physically go to in real life and recognize all the landmarks.
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InarticulateBabbler
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You can do that in Contemporary Fantasy, too. "Urban" is the key to UF.
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redux
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I found this interesting article about Urban Fantasy at Libraryjournal.com: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6561372.html

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History
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My Kabbalist tales to date have been set in Boston where I went to med school a few decades back, and I've revisited and Google-mapped and researched Boston and its environs for the express purpose of creating a setting that a Bostonian would recognize. I also believe pop culture references also add to the illusion of "reality" in these "urban" fantasy stories.

Good to see you post, I.B. As a fellow Mainer,I wonder of any story we set here could be considered "Urban" Fantasy. I've begun one that takes place in my hometown during the famous Yarmouth Clam Festival. Would this be considered a "Suburban" Fantasy?

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob


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LDWriter2
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Thanks redux that was interesting and educational. So it looks like the Urban Fantasy people here and the contemporary fantasy people were both right.

I knew there were UF that is CUF before this crop of but they seemed to be far in-between, now there so many that's impossible to read them all. And I noticed that many of the newer ones are of the Romance-paranormal tales discussed.


I believe I read Lackey's "Burning Waters" and I think they got it backwards about who the MC was. And as a side point: its part of a series, one darker than usual. I didn't finish "Jinx High" because it was even more than the previous ones.


And I came back to add that I don't think, in this context, Urban means city anymore. Or that it makes that much difference. They all seem to be on the same shelves.

[This message has been edited by LDWriter2 (edited September 29, 2011).]


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