What is Urban Fantasy with Author Joseph Mazzenga

What is Urban Fantasy with Author Joseph Mazzenga

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:

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

Author Joe Mazzenga

Author Bio:

“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

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Read last week’s post on Urban Fantasy here: http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=75046

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  1. totally looks awsome

  2. Hey Joe!

    I am so excited to have you on the blog this week. Thank you for your insightful post on UF. I have seen a few others mention Harry Potter as UF. I am not sure I agree or not. Only a small portion of the series takes place in an urban setting.

    Can you tell me what your points are for choosing that series?
    Don’t get me wrong HP is probably one of my all time favorite series, but I really think of it more like fantasy.

    • Hi Rachel…thanks for responding to the blog.

      I do agree that HP was on my ‘edge’ of my list. In the end, especially as Harry grew older, there was more interaction with the real world and the magical world Harry lived in.

      Harry’s schooling, Hogwarts, did tend to be self contained so I can see why you would question.

      Just every now and again, those darned witches and wizards did leak out into our contemporary society. Enough for me to add it to the list.

      …plus it is destined, in my opinion, to be an all time classic for decades and beyond.

      • I agree that it is destined to be a classic but I think HP is definitely more straight fantasy. I think for me the majority of the action has to take place in an urban setting…HP straddles that.

        I love The Dresden Files and the Fever series. I actually think MacKayla Lane is a prime example of a UF character- she just goes through this amazing transformation throughout the series. I also love the Chicagoland Vampires, Jane Yellowrock, and The Iron Druid chronicles. All strong central characters that inhabit amazing worlds that are close enough to ours to recognize but so very different.

        • Kristin,

          So would you say it’s the setting or the central characters that really grab you in UF? Broad question true…

          • I think it is a combo. The setting is important because it sets the tone and the feel of the story…but if there is a weak character (not to be confused with characters who has weaknesses- I love those!) it does not matter how enamored of the setting I am.

            I always expect to see a certain grittiness or underlaying darkness in UF, that is what I want the characters to react to or inhabit. Does that make sense?

          • Perfect sense. When I am laying down the setting, I have to add that ‘grit’ you speak of. That’s what snags you. And to almost glorify a character’s weakness has to be one of my favorite aspects to writing.

            I feel that all characters, like all people, are flawed…we should rejoice in that. It also makes the character very identifiable.

  3. I don’t read a lot of urban fantasy, per se, though I have read 5/7 of Rowling’s HP books. (I only started in December. I know, I am behind the times!) I tried City of Bones but I couldn’t get into the writing style. I think I probably watch more than I read, like True Blood and Vampire Diaries, though I want to read both series.

    • Hey Becca!

      Welcome I am so glad you stopped by. I love your blog. Just joined your book bloggers group on Google + I didn’t know you ran that! neat!

      I admit I had a bit of a hard time with City of Bones too. The books get better as they go along. But I really enjoyed the Clockwork books she did that were like the pre-lude to the Mortal Instruments. I LOVE the Vampire Diaries! Carol talks about it in her screen bites column on the site sometimes. Here’s this week’s episode: http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=75378 Nothing says urban fantasy like genre TV! 🙂

    • Hi Becca,

      I think many would admit that seeing UF and reading UF are two different experiences. With the advent of CGI, Computer Generated Imagery, movies and television have brought what once was the secluded to the written page stories of UF to the media screen.

      Movies like Underworld are done so well now, that it is a feast for the eyes.

  4. The first urban fantasy novels that come to mind for me right now as favorites are The Incarnations of Immortality books by Piers Anthony.

    And I would want to hang out with a werewolf in Kyoto. Um, mostly because I want to visit that city.

  5. I love Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson Series & her Alpha & Omega Series C:

  6. Raonaid Luckwell

    My husband loves Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl. I won’t touch either. They lack something that I need in my story.

    I use to love Kim Harrison’s Hollows until a certain death that just killed the series for me. I just haven’t picked up the other books. I need to catch up on Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson. Just never had the money to buy the books and keep up to date. I want to try Jennifer Estep. I read a short story in an anthology and loved it.
    I always considered Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde books Urban Fantasy. So sad there won’t be any more.
    Elaine Cunningham has a neat Urban Fantasy series called Changeling Detective. I enjoyed those two books

    New Orleans…

    • Roanaid,

      What is it about UF that you love so much? It’s a funny thing. If you ask Steam Punks the same question, you will get so many diverse answers…

      • Raonaid Luckwell

        Really hard to articulate what I like about UF.
        And yes, I understand you on the steampunk. Of course I like the fashion, the idea of airships, the gadgetry.
        Guess UF focuses on one character showing the changes they go through with each given situation and circumstances.

  7. Huh, I never really thought of Harry Potter as UF but it makes sense now. My favorite UF series right now is Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series. I also really like Christina Henry’s Madeline Black. And of course Mercy Thompson and Rachel Morgan, because duh.

    • (Chuckle)…..ya got me with the duh, Bethany.

      Yes HP is on that edge and seems to be debatable.

      Curious about the Mercy Series…what about the series hooks you in?

      • I’m always terrible trying to describe what I like about books. Maybe I like them so much because the characters are very believable despite being ‘other.’ Although they have responsibilities and abilities that exist because of what they are, they are just people first.

        • I totally agree that we identify with the characters and their setting. I love their flaws. It reminds me of being human….

  8. My favorite Urban Fantasy novels are Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neill, Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, and the Hollows series by Kim Harrison. My favorite city to hang with a werewolf would be San Francisco.

    • SNAP……love the San Fran area and a werewolf there is perfect. Hmmmmmmmmmm another story idea……..

  9. I’ve got to admit, I don’t think of Harry Potter as an Urban Fantasy but more as pure fantasy. My fav UFs are Dresden Files and Estep’s Elemental Assassin series.

    • Agreed Lisa that it is on the edge. I do love the series but I can be convinced either way. Dresden always pops up for UF…..

  10. While I certainly love Kim Harrison and Jennifer Estep I first became hooked on urban fantasy with Laurel K Hamilton’s series. For some reason quality urban fantasy can be difficult to find..And of course the Sookie Stackhouse series was awesome.

    • I’ve often wondered why UF hasn’t ‘taken off’ like other genres. On the other hand, maybe that’s a good thing. It can remain ‘our genre’ like some bad football team.

  11. That’s interesting, about the world-building being a hallmark of urban fantasy. Jordan Castillo Price’s PsyCop series springs more and more to mind (though some would call it an m/m romance, I find that the romance takes a backseat to the paranormal elements much of the time).

  12. Kim Harrison if probably my fav, urban fantasy author.

  13. I keep seeing Kim Harrison….I suck for not reading her. Worth it??

  14. Love Jennifer Estep’s spider series, Kresley Cole’s lore series not sure if you would qualify this as paranormal romance or UF, Also like Patricia Briggs, Kelley Armstrong.

  15. I love The Dresden Files… and here I thought I was the only one!

  16. Knowing your a fan of The Dresden Files were you upset with how the TV show panned out and do you believe with the Game of Thrones popularity and Vampire Diaries Popularities would the show do better now?

    • Yup….totally. I think the fair weathered people would ‘get it’ more now. But that’s during this time period. Who knows what fickle TV viewers want next week.

  17. My favorite urban fantasy books are: Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series, Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series, Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series, Keri Arthur’s Riley Jenson series and Cherie Priest’s Cheshire Red Reports series.

  18. What are your favorite Urban Fantasy novels? And what characters absolutely resonate Urban Fantasy to you?
    Mercy Thompson series, The Hollows books, Kitty Norville books, Nocturne City series; gosh there are TONS!

    If you had to pick a favorite city to hang with a werewolf where would it be?
    Seattle, of course!