Most of what I write is in the genre of urban fantasy, and this project will be too. So I probably ought to define it before we continue.
According to Wikipedia:
Urban fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy in which the narrative has an urban setting. Works of urban fantasy are set primarily in the real world and contain aspects of fantasy, such as the discovery of earthbound mythological creatures, coexistence or conflict between humans and paranormal beings, and other changes to city life. A contemporary setting is not strictly necessary for a work of urban fantasy: works of the genre may also take place in futuristic and historical settings, real or imagined.
Fair enough, I guess. But it’s not how I approach the genre, so i’m going to have to do some work here and come up with my own, cogent definition. For me urban fantasy is:
A post-modern sub-genre of noir, steeped in myth and legend. It is essentially a modern setting; if it’s not seen in the near present, it’s certainly a recognisable world. It’s in the contrast to the familiar that elements of the fantastical live, and illuminate. It’s a shadow world, beneath the comfortable veneer of the familiar. A street-level, blue collar genre where horror can lurk and magic can shift what we perceive and experience.
There are a lot of elements there that people will, and do, disagree with, especially the contemporary setting and the relation to noir. It’s not everyone’s definition of the genre, but it is mine. These things aren’t hard and fast rules, there’s no Genre Court, defining where each of the sub-categories begins and ends. A definition is, as sin all cases, an extension of what we personally bring to it.
Examples of Urban Fantasy
It’d be remiss of me not to dig out some illustrative examples of the genre:
- Hellblazer / Constantine – Found in movies and TV shows, John Constantine was born in comics, created by Alan Moore. A British street mage on the borders of sanity and (self-)destruction. An archetypal, noirish character steeped in mysticism and horror.
- The Dresden Files – From the streets of Liverpool to those of Chicago. Jim Butcher’s novels about the Wizard For Hire Harry Dresden, and the TV adaptation, have been the most populist entry into the genre.
- Neverwhere -Some might argue that I should include Neil Gaiman‘s American Gods here, but I think Neverwhere, set in the London Below, is a better example.
- True Blood – Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels gave us a hugely popular HBO show, filled with vampires and werewolves and fairies in the swamps and small towns of Louisiana. I still maintain that the show never again reached the heights of the first season.
- Miriam Black – Miriam Black knows how you’re going to die, and she’s really pissed off about it. Thus begins Chuck Wendig’s profane, violent, gritty, and dark urban fantasy saga.