Hey folks! Welcome to another Deep Dive subject, where I ask creatives what they think about certain topics. Today we will be discussing one of my all time favorite genre, Urban Fantasy! If you like my deep dives, feel free to check out my post on vampires, which was last month’s topic!
Here is the tweet I sent out for creatives to tell me what they think about Urban Fantasy:
With that, I’ll organize some of the thoughts I’d like to highlight into categories! Like with all of my Deep Dives, me not mentioning someone’s tweet doesn’t make it any less valuable. I suggest looking at that entire thread for a good little slice of what creatives think. This blog will be breaking down some of the thoughts and my words on the various items as well!
Bree, who runs an awesome blog The Angry Noodle, brought this up in simple terms that I adore. I’ve been to New York City once and it was a wonderful experience. I’d love to read more in the genre taking place there. Also, I’m all for hot supernatural love. Given I write that and love reading it, it’s icing on the cake of my favorite genre. Romantic subplots between powerful paranormal beings seem to be common in this genre, something I personally adore.
Brandy, a great friend of mine, also brings up the city/gritty environment for Urban Fantasy. We often see urban fantasy in the city as opposed to country. When we see weird things happening in modern era on a ranch or other country setting, do we think ‘urban fantasy’? Or does something else come to mind? It’d be taking place in the same era, but perhaps without the same tone. After all, ‘urban’ means relating to a city, typically.
Eli B, an amazing romance author, mentions cities, particularly NYC, and the word ‘gritty’ again. I think this genre comes hand in hand with some pretty dark (a word that isn’t negative with my use of it here) themes. Things to explore that are less on the ‘safe’ side and such. Also, she mentions mythical creatures coming out of the shadows. I love that sort of plotline, and one of my favorite urban fantasy writers, Whitney Hill, does that well. Also… I was so touched by her mentioning my novels! I try to work hard to make my books shine in the genre.
Elana mentions the city/town setting, specifically mentioning the genre strays from a Tolkien-esque setting and more in our modern times. I would agree with this entirely, and it’s really fun to imagine the magic in our world. High Fantasy can be gorgeous, as can the world building, but there’s something about urban fantasy that is really special to me because I can see it happening around us. Contemporary works in general, especially regarding fantasy, are just too much fun.
Jami brings up a corrupt city, which tends to be a major plot point in urban fantasy. Also, they discuss a format that my books fall into, hahaha! Reading this was like looking into a mirror (well, my love interest is a vampire guy to a half-dragon, so ALMOST exact). But yes! This is a great ‘template’ or skeleton of some books in the genre, and I think that’s lovely. There’s so much that can be twisted when it comes to this idea, and many areas to explore!
Shimaira brings up how urban fantasy can be a mixture of two worlds, which I find fascinating. Indeed, I love the idea of there being magic on earth, but also something connecting it to perhaps a realm or even another planet with magic (if we want to add a dash of sci-fi in.) Earth specifically is mentioned here too as needing to be a key point in the story, which I feel is a very good point.
Auctor Trevel, however, mentions that the setting does not have to be our world, but rather similar to ours. I agree, I think the ‘modern’ aspect of the genre is the most important thing, with a dash of ‘it will most likely take place in a city or town’. I like the social commentary aspect too, as real world issues can very much be discussed in an urban fantasy setting, which sets up for tons of allegories.
Shad mentioned specific media, some of which I know of! I don’t know FFXII very well, but I do know FFXIV, an MMORPG that I play quite often currently. I would agree it’s definitely an urban fantasy game, but there’s not really skyscrapers. There’s ‘magitek’ which is technology empowered by ether, an energy that enables magic (a shorthand definition given it’s more complex than that). There are cities and modern technology, however, but it definitely isn’t ‘of Earth’ or similar. There’s just something different about it. Bright is another urban fantasy in a movie format that while not well-received, still explores some interesting themes. I’d love to see more urban fantasy MMORPGs myself.
Tina mentions both the city setting & modern era, and surprisingly, I think the modern era aspect is the most important thing about urban fantasy. While urban does mean ‘city’, most people think of modern tech or futuristic tech when it comes to the genre. I often see the genre as taking place in our era or many hundred years in the future. I’m contradicting myself at that point, granted, and going into sci-fi, but who knows how far we will advance in the next 20 years.
Audrey brings up what I said just now, yeah! Futuristic counts! For some reason I still think of ‘futuristic’ as ‘modern’. I don’t know why, and that’s not technically correct, but I think it applies. I think the key element here is what they said: ‘similar to what we know’. Cyberpunk & steampunk both fall into this because they use familiar technology even if an unfamiliar method. There might be some variants of machines (and magic used with them) that we’re not used to, but that’s a cool sci-fi element to blend with the genre (which is inherently fantasy AND sci-fi, in my opinion). It’s all about there being some familiar elements.
Bryn mentions the modern era, but also brings up innovation, something I agree with and adore doing! I love authors that reinvent tropes and twist them around. It’s what I aim to do with my works, and what I hope to see other authors doing a lot as well. Urban fantasy is a playground for this sort of thing, and as I said before, can cover really important topics.
We even had a famous deity participate! Zeus, more or less, mentioned modern myth, and gave us a primary-source look into urban fantasy. From their response, we learn that they take Cerberus to the park (what a sight to see!) and Hercules hanging out at the gym (I might need to visit that gym sometimes…) I’m not surprised to see Zeus thinking of himself here either, but he probably thinks that for many subjects, haha! I think bringing old myths into the modern world is such a fun idea. It’s something I adored with the Percy Jackson series.
Michael Adams brings up the idea of a hidden world, a subject we often see in urban fantasy. There’s a lot of great plotlines and dangers for characters to handle if they need to keep things hidden, particularly if it threatens their existence. I love the fantasies where the hidden worlds no longer become hidden. We had a discussion on not having romance, and I initially disagreed, but that was a misunderstanding on my part! He meant that UF doesn’t have romance as the primary plot point, but subplots fit into the genre. It’ll shift to PNR if romance is the primary plot point in the novel, which I think makes sense now. It goes to show, however, that the two genre often go hand in hand or blend together easily. I think sci-fi also falls into this, it fits well with UF.
Diana brings up a very valid and important point we should consider when discussing this genre. I looked into this on the wiki page, which has quotes from Black creators regarding the use of the name ‘urban contemporary music’. I’ve heard of the issues with the label before, and research helped me understand more. I am not qualified to speak on this subject given I am a white woman, but I wanted to bring this up because it’s something to consider. Language means a lot, and to many, there is a negative connotation to the word. We should listen to folks this impacts.
My question for people who write in the genre, especially BIPOC authors/readers, would be: Should we start thinking of different ways to say the genre? Do you think the name ‘urban fantasy’ has developed/will develop a negative connotation like that? Some of my suggestions are: “Modern Fantasy” & “Contemporary Fantasy”, but I favor “Modern Fantasy” because the word is more straightforward. Plus, I feel it opens up avenues for primarily city settings but also country settings.
There you have it! There is a lot of interesting discussion to be had on the genre. I’m interested to where it can be taken in the future. “Modern Fantasy” might be a better name for it if we’re able to make that transition, but I’m curious to see what the writing community thinks on that subject. The genre itself, however, is one of my favorites, and I can’t wait to see more magic in a modern setting. I really like the idea of connected worlds with the primary focus on Earth or something Earth-like, so I’m eager to see if authors begin writing more on that!
Here’s a modern fantasy for you! Check out my magical college!