Waiter? There’s a pixie in my soup.

8 Nov

Urban Fantasy saved my sanity.

What is Urban Fantasy, you ask?  The good editors of Wikipedia have defined it as:

a subset of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many Urban fantasies are set in contemporary times or contain supernatural elements. However, this is not the primary definition of Urban fantasy. Urban fantasy can be set in historical times, Modern times, or futuristic times. The prerequisite is that it must be set in a city, primarily rather than in a suburban or country setting, which have their own genre subsets.

Taking that into account, I define it as: the completely badass way of taking the niftiness of magic realism, mythology, urban legend and fairy tale and lobbing it into a (typically) contemporary urban setting.

Take Charles de Lint for example.  de Lint combines equal parts faerie and First Nations mythology and mixes that with the idiosyncrasies of a metropolitan setting.  He has gone so far as to create, for the purposes of his Urban Fantasy writing, his own city; Newford.  Newford exists both where and when de Lint requires, affording him more freedom than that available in the utilization of a known city centre.

One of the most popular subsets of Urban Fantasy is paranormal romance.  Though not restricted to the realm of Urban Fantasy, paranormal romance set in contemporary society harnessing the mystique of legends such as vampires and werewolves is wildly popular as I write this.  The Twilight Saga written by Stephenie Meyer is a fantastic example of paranormal romance.  Long story short: our protagonist, Bella Swan, meets (shiny) vampire Edward Cullen in their high school (yes, this one’s Young Adult) and falls head over heels in love with him, but must also contend with the affections forced upon her by  her werewolf friend.

As with every genre, there is great Urban Fantasy and there is terrible Urban Fantasy.  These measures, of course, are completely subjective.  My tastes are 100% my own.  Yours are your own.  I don’t dig Harry Potter, you may.  I put Neil Gaiman on a pedestal, you may hate him.  Que Sera, Sera.  This is actually the reason this particular narrative has been nibbling away at the frayed corners of my poor little brain.  I was, recently, sent this (in an email) by a good friend:

I might even go so far as to say that my overall impression of Urban Fantasy (even though I have never read any) is that the genre targets the same types of readers as trashy Harlequins or other cheap romances.

In terms of the most popular Urban Fantasy, I completely agree.  It seems to be written to sell and what sells is, essentially, a these are the days of our lives brand of the genre.  There is a huge market for it.  Candy coated escape literature.  But!  This is not the only type of Urban Fantasy that exists.  It is not all fanged angst, or Shifty lust.  That’s just the most publicised Urban Fantasy out there, right now.  Some of it, like Gaiman’s Neverwhere, doesn’t contain a true aspect of romance.  Sure, there is one degrading romantic relationship and one clear attraction between a pair of characters, but neither carries the story.  That yarn depends entirely on Gaiman’s genius writing (I am 100% bias, but this is also my blog), the peculiar setting and the evolution of the story’s characters.

When your head’s always in the clouds and you yearn to see dragons curl about city skyscrapers, unicorns in a city park, or faeries dancing about a ring of wild mushrooms, Urban Fantasy will save your sanity.  Until you are one of the blessed few who is allowed to enter the Otherworld, this is as good as it gets.

The Doors – People Are Strange



4 Responses to “Waiter? There’s a pixie in my soup.”

  1. Simon L. November 8, 2009 at 9:56 pm #

    Did you just say the Otherworld? Tad Williams’ Otherworld? Sweet!

    Except I’d rather not be virtually dismembered by giant ants, or gutted by a serial killa in cyberspace. That’s kind of a buzzkill, y’know.

    And Neil Gaiman is pretty awesome. Now I shall have to check out Charles De Lint.

  2. vyxen November 9, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    I did say the Otherworld. I have to admit, though, that I haven’t read any of Tad’s work, yet. I was referring to the Celtic Otherworld. But hey! It’s all about interpretation and now I *need* to read Tad. (I’ve been meaning to, but de Lint is just too powerful, right now! 🙂 )

    And yah. That does sound like a heckuva buzzkill. Also sounds like a few good plots.

    (My list of things to read is obscene. Thanks guys. Rly.)

  3. vyxen November 9, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    PS. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂


  1. Sante Fe. « Prolifically Barren - December 1, 2009

    […] 4. Favorite genre of writing? Urban fantasy. […]

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