Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Genre Town: Urban Fantasy

I've been thinking about Urban Fantasy a lot for a while now. A long time reader, it's come into focus as a genre I should be paying attention to as a writer - specifically since last November when I joined a zombie writing hoard, known to the rest of the world as NaNoWriMo* participants, and realized the novel I was writing - titled 'Deadwood' - might just qualify for the genre - maybe.

It's a weird dilemma. When I think about 'Deadwood' as a suspense I write one way. If I'm thinking contemporary fantasy I focus on different things. If I think urban fantasy then I start flirting with a whole heap of ideas that, while tantalizing, may make me re-write some decent sized chunks of it - not that that's necessarily a bad thing. As long as the result is good I don't mind, though getting the bulk in the ball park on the first go would help my morale a lot!

Interestingly, I got the exact tone I wanted in the first two pages so when I get unfocused I go back, read those then start writing again. While that helps me write more story it hasn't helped me define exactly what genre it is, though I'm sure it would be perfectly be comfortable between other UF titles, despite the lack of vampires and werewolves roaming through the pages.

I'm still on the fence about which pigeon hole my story belongs in - I'm leaning toward contemporary fantasy suspense. How is that different from urban fantasy? *shrugs* It's not such a straight forward question. There's the perception of urban fantasy as opposed to what the publishing industry classify as urban fantasy and then, of course, there's the actual definition.

The label 'urban fantasy' implies a whole lot of things in which my story, while definitely following the path of this tradition, would not currently qualify as a main street attraction.

This got me thinking about what exactly urban fantasy was, is, where it's going and how popular it is. No matter how much people roll their eyes at sexy vampire and werewolf stories, the demand for them - and stories like them - seems to still be increasing. It's spilled over into the young adult and children's markets (whether or not it's Halloween), taken over the romance genre (as paranormal romance and/or erotica), invaded both the fantasy and sci-fi shelves (then been split up into 'urban fantasy' and 'contemporary urban fantasy' to boot) and has even made it's way onto the literary shelves - albeit by some initially clever disguises.

It's interesting to me that the more technologically savvy and dependent our society gets, the more people cry out for stories of magic in and among the mundane...

Can you tell I'm just getting warmed up on this topic?

Looks like I'll be making a base here for a bit so I can get my bearings, orient my stories and see just what it is that keeps bringing people back here. While I'm at it I might as well check in with the residents and see what they're up to these days. Better make sure my pen is loaded on my roamings though - you never know when you might run into some nasty local clich├ęs!

In the meantime, zombie-like that I am, I should get some shut-eye. (It helps me avoid eating my own brains.)

Watch out creatures of the night, magic practitioners and all other residents of Urban Fantasy Town - the hunt is on!

I'll bag and tag you yet.

*National Novel Writing Month
NOTE: The artist featured is Linda Bergkvist. Click on the pictures to be taken to her pages and galleries.

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