Her hand shot up from the back of the audience.
My co-author and I had just completed a reading of gothic poetry when the Q/A had begun. Half way through the queries on our histories as authors, a slight woman, with curly rusted hair, threw a hesitant hand upward.
Her question was simple.
“Excuse me. Can you tell me what Urban Fantasy is?”
It was a valid question. I had just expounded on my Urban Fantasy background and it dawned on me that no one has ever asked me that very question before.
By definition, Urban Fantasy is the little brother of Fantasy and it’s defined by setting – typically but not constrained to the urban environment. You will find today’s Urban Fantasy mixed into many other genres, such as Young Adult, detective and paranormal.
Recognizable YA titles such as The Hunger Games, The Golden Compass and Harry Potter now dominate the bookshelves both real and virtual. Each series has a very recognizable metropolis backdrop, but each ends their familiar trek at the city limits. Characters can go beyond human limitations with magical powers. Typical devices such as vehicles or communication apparatuses can take on all new forms sending the reader into a parallel existence.
What makes books like these thrive when people don’t even realize that it is Urban Fantasy that they are reading?Familiarity with the setting and the feeling that we have been here before. We, as readers, are drawn to the recognizable.
Sure many of us haven’t visited particular cities, for example, around the world, but utter the words New York City, and let the busy streets with massive steel structures reaching for the clouds commence cluttering your thoughts. Sprinkle in some very anti-familiar plot devices such as magic, super science along with a dash of paranormal flair, and you have a classic Urban Fantasy story.
Some top Urban Fantasy titles that I appreciated are:
- The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
- The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint
- Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson
- Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
To pick one author is difficult but for universal appeal (no pun intended), I will go with J.K. Rowling, which is sure to cause a stir.
Witches and trolls aside, J.K has developed a story that will remain timeless for decades embedding the wizard community right in our muggle back yards and taking a young boy with his friends into their adulthood, replete with accompanying angst, deadly enemies and carrier owls.
Characters in Urban Fantasy, are often special on their own. Many crossover characters such as werewolves and vampires now fly and howl from the city spires rather than the backwoods of some-sylvania. Wizards and ghosts, too, can dance through Vegas as the customary humans go about their day.
Next time you go for a genre, why not shake up the reading list with some magical mayhem – Urban Fantasy. It’s where dreams and nightmares can come true.
What are your favorite Urban Fantasy novels? And what characters absolutely resonate Urban Fantasy to you? If you had to pick a favorite city to hang with a werewolf where would it be?
About Joseph Mazzenga
“Born in a small town of the smallest state, Rhode Island, Joseph Mazzenga, knew he was a writer by the third grade. When his creative simmer turned to an imaginative rage, he embarked on a voyage with no anchor and no horizon. He stepped aboard knowing that this journey will be for the rest of his days. He still looks to the stars to find his way. The navigation can be plodding but the bearing is clear.
Joe is now a full author, by way of children’s literature, Science Fiction, Non-fiction, and Urban Fantasy. Ever pursuing the itch that he can’t possibly scratch, he is constantly stretching his boundaries, honing his craft and fighting mortal enemies such as avoidance and procrastination at every turn. Whether it is a beloved stuffed seal, a hard-nosed orphan stuck on the raw streets of a future time, or a pre-apocalyptic vampire turned human, he is fantasy intermingling with the future. Joseph continues to live in Rhode Island, center of the creative universe.”
Connect with Joseph
Read last week’s post on Urban Fantasy here: http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=75046