LugaJetboyGirl-irra

Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance v. 3.0

296 posts in this topic

Following up with the last version of this thread...

About urban fantasy (as an actual genre). To me urban fantasy doesn't have to be modern. It should have the urban element, but also, as beniowa and others have stated, include some mystery-solving, a bit of noir, etc. So for me, Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork books are very urban fantasy,  just without the modern, contemporary world sense. So too would be Michelle Sagara's Chronicles of Elantra, which are very fantasy-esque but also involve the whole cops/detectives solving mysteries thing. 

For me, something I see in really effective urban fantasies is an emphasis on the layers of history within a city, the palimpsest of old streets, abandoned subway stations, collapsing sewers, and multiple pasts (and presents) represented. You get that in Neverwhere, in the Rivers of London, in Matthew Swift, in The City & the City, etc. But there is also a sense of loneliness, dissatisfaction, sometimes bitterness, ennui, and generally a great heap of existential crisis going on, all tied not necessarily to modern life, but instead to a life crammed in amongst innumerable other humans who care absolutely nothing about you!

As for the social and cultural conflict between weres, vampires, witches, djinn, and so on: that to me is the 'paranormal' aspect, what we could also term 'contemporary fantasy' in those books that are set in modern times. It's basically the dwarf-elven-orc conflict of more traditional fantasy in a non-modern context. It seems to me that maybe a lot of the books that are labeled 'urban fantasy' or actually just 'modern fantasy' with violent crime.

Edited by LugaJetboyGirl-irra

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah to me, "urban fantasy" has more to do with sense of place than with time period.  I don't think books have to be set in the now in order to be considered urban fantasy.  I think a book set in Rome during the heydays of the Roman Empire could be urban fantasy as could a book set in Tudor London.  Also, the now passes quickly.  Is Emma Bull's "War for the Oaks" really no longer considered urban fantasy because it was published in 1988 and that now has passed?  The important thing is that the location is as much of a character as the people, no matter what the location - not what time period it is written or set in.

I personally divide "urban fantasy" into subcategories - "urban fantasy", "suburban fantasy", "rural fantasy" and even "small town fantasy" on the rare occasion.  I'm too much of a city dweller to be comfortable with calling a book set in the country "urban".  I think it started with the Sookie Stackhouse books which are mainly set in a rural area with an exception or two set in New Orleans and Dallas.  So I created a goodreads shelf of "rural" just for those books.  I did a silent "yes!!!!!" when I heard Charlaine Harris said last year at a con that she considered her books to be rural fantasy and not urban fantasy.  But regardless of whether they are set within a city or a forest, sense of place is the determining factor.

 

ETA: And then something for the Paranormal Romance side of things - Ilona Andrews' Brief Analysis of Alphahole Trope in Romantic Fiction.

http://www.ilona-andrews.com/brief-analysis-of-alphahole-trope-in-romantic-fiction/

Edited by lady narcissa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting.  I've always thought that to be considered urban fantasy, it must be set in a modern, real-world setting but with fantasy aspects thrown in. For that reason there are several series that FEEL like urban fantasy that I don't consider as such (a main character with special powers who either gets more powerful or finds out some secret about their powers or background, usually trying to solve a mystery of some kind and sometimes focuses on their life as a whole, including their romantic relationships). Lisa Shearin's Raine Benares books FEEL like urban fantasy, but they aren't.

The Wikipedia definition is:  Urban fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Urban fantasy exists on one side of a spectrum, opposite high fantasy, which is set in an entirely fictitious world. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, and the settings may include fictional elements. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.

Thanks for the Ilona Andrews discussion link.  I love her so much that I enjoy trips to the grocery store because I hope I will see her there one day. (She lives close by and I don't actually know if she shops there, but I am such a fangirl my kids even know I am on the lookout for her when we are there.  I've joked about them changing high schools so they have a chance of befriending her kids.  YES I AM A LITTLE LONELY AND WANT HER TO BE MY FRIEND lol)

Also, in the discussion, is she saying she thinks Tywin Lannister fits the description of an Alphahole?  I think not.  He went over the line in HUGE ways and is despicable, plus he has no love interest that I saw.  The "doesn't abuse the heroine" part of being an Alphahole is done in here considering there really isn't one female he doesn't or won't abuse, either emotionally or physically.

 

Edited by Mandy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've always considered that urban fantasy has to have a post-industrialised setting. I love the Elantra series, but would not consider them urban fantasy. Would anyone refer to Rome, or other ancient cities as urban centres (outside of academia?). It has a modern feel to the word, and most of the writing aligns with the view.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, Darth Richard II said:

So basically, no one can agree on what urban fantasy is. :P

When can this board ever decide on genre definitions/boundaries? :P 

My personal view would be the same as Ants though, with UF being post-industrial setting it a modern feel. That's based purely on uninformed opinion though

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Harry Potter, Dresden Files, Iron Druid Chronicles...some Neil Gaiman books readily come to mind. 

Mistborn Way and Wayne, Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork, City of Stairs are straddlers which is a fully fictitious urban setting (as against kingdoms and empires) and can be classed so too imo.

 

Edited by Eric Cartman

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I finished Harmony Black book one and started another called Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella.  It was free with my Kindle, like Harmony Black was, and it falls into the definition of Urban Fantasy since it's set in our modern world with a girl/woman who can talk to ghosts and who is trying to solve a mystery.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The ones that come to mind right away for me are the Gail Carriger books, but they are much more steampunk than UF.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, again from Wiki:  Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not according to my definition of UF :P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well the only obvious thing to do is have a giant thunderdome style light saber free for all, to the death, where the winner gets to once and for all decide what genre means what. :P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, Darth Richard II said:

Well the only obvious thing to do is have a giant thunderdome style light saber free for all, to the death, where the winner gets to once and for all decide what genre means what. :P

And the winner gets to save not only the entire world, but lots of innocent children.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's also gaslight fantasy, which is preindustrial.  Charlie Fletcher's The Oversight, set in 1800s London, is an example.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, ants said:

I always considered that urban fantasy has to have a post-industrialised setting. I love the Elantra series, but would not consider them urban fantasy. Would anyone refer to Rome, or other ancient cities as urban centres (outside of academia?). It has a modern feel to the word, and most of the writing aligns with the view.

Oh I really have the opposite view of this.  Ancient Rome has always seemed incredibly urban to me.  More so than some contemporary cities.  (Certainly more so than cities such as Louisville and Kansas City!)  I teach a Land Use class at my law school and in my first lecture of the semester I always go back to Ancient Rome and the laws they enacted to regulate the build environment regarding use, density, and height to show how they faced similar issues with their cities as we do today and how our laws are very similar to theirs.

I guess all the things I take as being part of an urban environment existed back then.  You have a large amount of people - one million at the height of the Empire in Rome itself - living in close quarters with resulting density and infrastructure issues.  They had apartment houses that were multi storied and housing shortages along with soaring rents.  There were fast food places where meals could be purchased and bakeries.  There was street crime, traffic issues, noise from your neighbors, and pollution.  There were building inspectors, police, health officials, and fire wardens.  There was a downtown area with the government buildings, markets, religious buildings, and law courts.  They had entertainment arenas that could hold up to 250,000 people.  I've read some fiction books set in Ancient Rome and they all felt incredibly urban to me in a familiar way.  Similarly the scenes in HBO's Rome series set in Rome gave this impression.

Damn, now I want to read some urban fantasy set in Rome...

8 hours ago, Mandy said:

The ones that come to mind right away for me are the Gail Carriger books, but they are much more steampunk than UF.  

I categorize those as (Steampunk) Romance.  They are much more about the Relationship than they are anything else.  You could shift the story to any number of locations and time periods and still have basically the same story.  However, if you removed the main couple and their resulting relationship from the story but still set it in Victorian London with the steampunk elements, it would become a completely different story and be (Steampunk) Fantasy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No no, the winner gets to EAT the children!

Seriously though, I've seen pages and pages on what you actually need to count as steampunk, whether just steam tech is all you need, or if the punk part means more, and blah blah blah it's all shelved in once section anyway.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's probably helpful to distinguish between "modern" and "urban". Most traditional fantasy is/used to be neither, although SF is often both and among the fantastic literature of the 19th century that can be seen as precursors of modern fantasy there might be some urban settings.

Harry Potter is modern (in a sense) but not urban. (In fact, modern technology is largely irrelevant, as far as I recall. There is hardly any interaction, except for some comic relief (flying car).)

Ankh-Morpokh-centered (most of the Night Watch books) Pratchett is urban, but not quite modern (with all the satirical bits mirroring modern gadgets or social structures (minorities in the police force etc.) it's not typically pre-modern either).

Rivers of London and Lukyanenko's Night watch are urban and modern.

Craft sequence are (as far as I can tell from one book) urban and pseudo-modern in a secondary world? with magic/gods-based pseudo-modern stuff (power plants, complicated contract law).

steampunk does not have to be fantasy, can be alternative history (without any magic, odd races etc.). Usually urban, not modern, but not set in the "typical" fantasy settings from pseudo-bronze-age to pseudo-renaissance.

So it seems there are at least three (independent) parameters: urban, modern, primary/secondary world. For my "typical" urban fantasy would be urban, modern, our world (one main point being often a contrast/hybrid between magic/technology or the discovery of a "hidden" city within the city etc.)

 

Edited by Jo498

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.