The continuing chronicle of Wesley's quest to be published; plus comments on popular culture, family life, and whatever else falls out of his head.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Urban Fantasy

Over at Kristin Nelson's blog, yesterday she posted a very short comment about what editors are looking for right now. At the top of the list is erotica. But just below that is urban fantasy.

And that's what I've been thinking about for the past 24 hours.

Carrie asked me to define what urban fantasy is, because, while she is a vorascious reader, she doesn't pay a whole lot of attention to genres, so she can't classify the subgenres.

Urban fantasy, in a nutshell, is just fantasy set in a contemporary setting. In fact, it would probably be more accurate to call it "contemporary fantasy" instead. However, "urban fantasy" is the name that stuck.

And even though urban fantasy is still a growing market, thanks to folks like Laurel Hamilton and Jim Butcher, there are already some standard characteristics and themes that seem to run through most urban fantasy stories, and even using "urban" over "contemporary" lends one to focus on some aspects of setting more closely than others.

There seem to be two major types of urban fantasy out right now: The first I'll call "Monster Hunters." These are the Anita Blakes and Dresdens of the literary world, where vampires and such are still hidden, and generally thought of as inherently evil, if misunderstood. This is where "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" goes as well. Sometimes these stories will have a secondary theme of these hidden societies trying to keep their secrets from the outside world.

The other type is what I call "My next door neighbor is a werewolf." These are stories where the fantasy creatures have "come out of the closet," so to speak. Human culture is generally the bad guy here, not understanding the vampires' plight. There are more newcomers like Kim Harrison (Dawn Cook's pseudonym) and Patricia Briggs fit in. (I shouldn't call them newcomers. They both have several books in more traditional fantasy under their belts)

Even though the genre is on an upswing, there are already tons of other urban fantasy novels, mostly in the vein (pardon the pun) of Anita Blake. There are elements of chick-lit in most of these books, sometimes even bordering on erotica. But either way, unless another twist is brought in soon, urban fantasy will implode the same way chick-lit has.

I think the only real way that the implosion can be avoided is by finding a story where the fantasy elements are inherent, but secondary to the story, and then figure out how to sell it to the agents and publishers in a neat little package.

The package, I've got. What I need now is the story.

With the continuing problems I've been having with the Dancing Cat story, I'm going to change my focus to coming up with an exciting urban fantasy story. I already have a couple strong concepts, if not ideas. If I can come up with something strong enough in the next couple of weeks, with any luck I'll be able to catch this wave and ride it out before it shallows out and hits the beach.


Blogger Bernita said...

Hope you do.
Don't think the urban fantasy thingy is going to die soon - it's too fascinating - though the standard vampires and weres might be over-loaded.
Fortunately there are lots of other paranormal entities out there.

April 16, 2006 9:20 AM


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