Friday, June 13, 2008

Genre Town: Digging Into the Foundations of Urban Fantasy

I'll be writing another post on the definition of Urban Fantasy sometime in the near future I'm sure but it's worth mentioning beforehand just how difficult it is to pin down. Not only that, despite this genre/sub-genre/subset/writing expression's slippery boundaries -

(that's right - people can't even agree on whether it's a 'real' genre or not! But for the sake of simplicity let's just say it is... besides, I don't feel like spending days with my nose in the dictionary trying to define definitions!)

- this doesn't-fit-any-known-pigeon-hole of a genre's ambiguity is, I believe, one of it's attractions.

There are theories on where Urban Fantasy originated but one thing is for certain: it WAS around before Buffy hit the small screen and became an instant cult classic. Perhaps not the little-girl-kicks-demon-ass-with-witty-repartee kind of Urban Fantasy but nevertheless it existed - as far back as the 1920's.

So, very quickly (because I should be asleep, not ruminating on various kinds of speculative fiction) here's the areas Urban Fantasy both overlaps with and owes its style to in a broad sense (though individual series may or may not include all of these):
  • Fantasy
  • Mythic Fiction
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Romance/Erotic Fiction
  • Suspense
  • Contemporary Fantasy
  • Fairy Tales
  • Urban Legends
  • Mysteries
  • Chick Lit
  • Comedy
  • Adventure Stories
  • Noir
  • Superheros (including comics)
While many believe Urban Fantasy has it's roots in the Horror genre there's no doubt it garners interest from a much wider fan base than horror fans. Urban Fantasy runs the gamut from darkly intense and gory to light comedic adventure-romps to erotic suspense and paranormal mysteries.

It's definitely a mixed bag - and that's one of it's best kept, yet most obvious secrets: Urban Fantasy's lack of specific definition and combination of varying genre elements has an incredibly wide appeal.

Urban Fantasy draws in readers from many different genres, who would NOT normally pick up fantasy, and has them reading - avidly. There's something for almost everyone - well, at least the genre has the scope for enough differences in style to attract many different kinds of readers - from the more serious to 'popcorn' readers.

The popcorn readers have it made with explosions, chases, sassy humor, the 'wow' factor of magic and the supernatural, gorgeously troubled girls who know how to wear high heeled boots, attractive bad boys/vampires/werewolves/whatever and underdog wins situations.

More serious readers get their appetites sated with a nod or more to myths, legends and history juxtaposed against a contemporary society full of modern issues and situations. The use of myth and legend often leads to the feeling of a modern-day fairy tale - and one that isn't necessarily guaranteed a happy ending.

It's this fairy tale aspect in a modern setting which makes it a perfect vehicle to examine issues, both personal and global, through metaphor and as a result - I believe - engenders a loyal following among fans who not only love the worlds but the people they're populated with.

To put it bluntly it's story candy that might actually be good for you!

What's not to love about that?

NOTE: All images ©Linda Bergkvist. Click on the pics to link back to her site FURIAE to see her amazing and extensive galleries or click on the banner below.

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