Monday, August 24, 2009

On Urban Fantasy

I'm just not a fan of urban fantasy. I admit it.

Unless Charles deLint wrote it. I loved his urban fantasies of the 80s. But the definition has changed and it has left me sadly behind.

When I do debut showcases for urban fantasies, it's kind of like . . . work. I don't enjoy doing the research because I have no interest in reading most of these novels. There are rare exceptions, like Would-Be Witch. But like I said, they are rare.

What's more, I don't think a lot of my readers read urban fantasies. Such readers would not normally gravitate to this blog, because I review so few of such works. They'd find happier homes with SciFiGuy. Raven reviews some urban fantasy, but I don't think she's a true fan of the genre, either. (Raven, feel free to correct me, but you seem to be tired of snarky, kick-butt heroines.) She does like darker and gritter stuff than I do, which is why we complement each other so well here.

Therefore, if you read urban fantasies, please let me know you are out there. I may be interested in bringing another person on the Fantasy Debut team. And right away, I'd have a stack of urban fantasies to mail you. But there would be a price: I'd also be recruiting you to write my debut showcases for urban fantasies. Please let me know if you are interested by emailing me at tia dot nevitt at gmail dot com.

As for the rest of you, what do you think of urban fantasies? Love them? Hate them? Was a fan once, but no longer? Please share in the comments.

27 comments:

Merc said...

I like UF. However, I'm far more drawn to MMC-oriented urban fantasy, as a personal taste. (Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, for example.) While I like snark, the kick-butt chicks in tight leather are starting to seriously grate. I can't keep most of them straight, sigh.

I wish there was more variety in tone/person (why is it ALL first person? o.O Nothing wrong with FP--I like it--but seriously... I'm failing to think of recent UF I've read that wasn't FP) and... well, variety in general. *shrugs*

Tia, I think if it's not your thing and most of the blog readers aren't into UF, you should focus more on other sub-genres of fantasy. ;) One in awhile, sure, but why stress out over it? O:) *grin*

I like Fantasy Debut just fine even without it covering a lot of UF. ;)

My .02 cents. (Or .03, to cover inflation.)

~Merc

PopinFresh said...

I like your blog, though I don't comment much. I'm a bad lurker, sorry. :(

I am a fan of UF, it does have its problems and it is dominated by what Merc says, "the kick-butt chicks in tight leather," which does get annoying if you read a lot of the books in that genre. But I'm sure it's like that with many genres.

I think you're fine the way you are. :) If you add UF, I'll read them though. I guess I'd be happy either way. ^_^

Maybe, along with other UF novels, you can focus on different aspects of the genre and some of the not as well known books.

~ Popin

Dan said...

I'm not really sure how I feel about UF, in general. I do love Jim Butcher's DRESDEN series. Love. Did I say "love"? But, there seems to be a lot of blending between UF and Paranormal Romance--I am not a fan of the latter. If I'm reading a book about someone who's supposed to be fighting demons, vampires, etc., then I want them to be fighting them. Not pining after them. UF over PNR.

I do tend to gravitate more toward UF than straight fantasy because most of the fantasy I've read have been either (a) poor attempts at retelling LORD OF THE RINGS or (b) read like a D&D campaign.

I have found that I really enjoy YA UF. Maybe it's because I'm a huge fan of BUFFY or maybe it's because the UF component dilutes the angsty teen whining, but there you have it.

Cindy said...

I can handle an UF when done right. But some authors seem to make it their goal to make the character as sassy/smart @$$ as possible and not focus on any other details (except sometimes sex). So really I think it comes down to there is good UF and bad UF, it's hard to pin point or say what makes what it's just something that I get.

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin said...

Usually, I prefer to read about urban fantasy than to read urban fantasy itself. I don't know why, but blurbs, reviews, and impressions of urban fantasies interest me a lot more than the actual novels.

Oh, there are few urban fantasies I like. I even like a few of them a lot. However, usually I prefer shortened versions. I'm not entirely sure why; I just never really connected with the sub-genre. {Smile}

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

domynoe said...

Depends on the UF. Liked Anita Blake until about book 5, dropped it around book 6 or 7 (kept hoping the spiral downward was a fluke; it wasn't). Never liked the same author's fairy series.

Love the Dresden Files, which, thankfully, is still going strong and not showing the same issues the Blake series started to show. And Dresden is a male character (although I will admit I love strong female characters because the fantasy heroes were almost always male when I first started reading -- Mists of Avalon was such a breath of fresh air!).

There's been a few other books here and there, but I am, admittedly, picky about what I read. My UF collection is understandably smaller than the rest of my fantasy because it's a newer genre and, as noted, I'm picky. Like any other genre, it will get glutted by a particular type of book until something fresh comes along and that becomes the new "in" for the genre. Vamps and werewolves are big now, fairies are trying to muscle in and eventually will be glutted until something new comes along.

annathepiper said...

I miss the days when "urban fantasy" meant Charles de Lint, yeah. And Tanya Huff. These days I like urban fantasy really only when it's more actual mystery with supernatural elements in it--like the Dresden Files, or like Kat Richardson's excellent Greywalker series. C.E. Murphy's urban fantasies are always fun for me as well.

For me as a reader, the current UF genre seems to have lost of the, well, fantasy. Very tired of the darkdarkgrittydark-ness of a lot of it, and I'm definitely starting to prefer series that have a lighter touch to them, and less overt romance. (Don't get me wrong, I'm a romantic sucker, but I like that to be a side helping with the meal of what I'm reading, not the main course.) I'm also very tired of the indistinguishable Tough Chick covers with the heroine posed in various Tough poses, sometimes with her entire head missing, and always with the inevitable tattoo!

If you don't prefer the genre yourself, there's nothing wrong with that, though. I think giving some love to the non-UF/paranormal romance books is a valuable service. :)

Karen W. said...

I'm a BIG urban fantasy fan and haven't tired of it yet.

LOVE Charles de Lint. :)

Memory said...

I'm still on the fence where UF is concerned. I'm sure there's some wonderful stuff out there, but it feels like the market is glutted with read-alikes right now. Based on the cover copy I've read, it seems like there are a few basic UF plots that get recycled over and over again with only surface changes. It also seems like UF is marketed as interchangeable with paranormal romance, which I'm not so crazy about. I know that many of these books aren't actually PR, but the similar covers make it awfully tough to tell which ones are and which ones aren't.

madscientistqld said...

I'm a fan of urban fantasy, not all of it, but I gravitate to urban fantasy more than I do to epic/quest fantasy. Some paranormal romances can be OK, but not many in my opinion.

Jennifer Beaujon said...

UF is one of my secret pleasures. I read it not to find good writing, but purely for escape. I find a lot of it just a slight step above fan-fiction writing, but I enjoy it nonetheless. My current fav is Karen Marie Moning and her Fever series.

Tia Nevitt said...

I guess you guys are setting me straight. I do have urban fantasy readers here!

Maybe it's more the paranormal romance that I have a problem with. Plus, I do find that I can only take kick-assitude in small doses.

Annathepiper mentioned tattoo covers. Juno Books, which is now an imprint of Pocket and publishes mostly urban fantasies, actually avoids the tattoo covers. Even Amazon Ink, which is about a tattooist, has no consipicuous tattoo on the cover. (The thing around the wrist might be a tattoo, but it also might be an elaborate bracelet.)

Everyone's mentioning Jim Butcher. I guess I need to read me some Jim Butcher and see if what I've been reading is really paranormal romance, which I suspect.

T.D. Newton said...

Definitely not a fan... it's just never been my thing. I can understand why people like it. Frankly, I don't even understand anime where the main character is "from" the regular Earth world but somehow falls into Dimension X. If aliens come, or whatever, to the Earth world, I can handle it, but not the other way around. It's too easy, like sending Ash back to the Dark Ages in Army of Darkness (This is my BOOMSTICK!). Just too easy. I want to work in my fantasy.

superwench83 said...

I'm not much of a fan of urban fantasy, either. Part of it--a big part of it--is the sassy, bitchy heroines that seem to prevail in the genre. But I'm just such a huge history lover, and one of the things I love most about fantasy is the historical air around it

Tim of Angle said...

It's a difficult genre to do well; there is a lot of crap out there, although there seems to be a market even for the crap.

But when done well it is as good as anything you will find. Jim Butcher. Patricia Briggs. Carrie Vaughn. Kim Harrison.

I like it well enough that I'm willing to wade through the crap to get to the good stuff. Perhaps I just have too much time on my hands....

Maria said...

I read a lot of urban fantasies, but not a lot from any one section (there are actually a lot of subgenres).

John Levitt-- urban fantasy, but really he writes fantasy in a contemporary setting with great mystery plots. WE are not talking snarky females. We are not talking vampires. We're talking a guy that just wants to play jazz. He has a...let's call it a familiar. But it's a dog. Only it's...an ifrit. Not your average UF, but that's its subgenre if only because the setting is San Fran.

Ilona Andrews quals as a kick-butt heroine and by the third book is starting to go down the more typical romantic path. However, she manages worldbuilding feats that you don't normally see in most UF. We are not talking Chick-lit here, we are talking a world that wavers in and out of magic (technology works when magic doesn't and vice-versa). So there is good UF out there.

For some old fashioned UF--Mercedes Lackey or Ellon Guon. They were the start before anyone called it that--writing good books in a contemporary setting with great characters and world building. (Lackey's series is Diane Tregarth. Guons...is something about elves...)

The hordes of UF out there is really hard to sort through. Some is just romance with an odd character. Some lack serious plotting.

But yes. I read your blog. And I like UF. Just depends on the definition...

:>)

Maria

Maria said...

Sounds to me like part of the problem is that some of the paranormal romance is being called UF...and really it can be almost impossible to tell. If you don't like that subgenre, no reason you can't avoid it or find someone else that does like it!

Write on the blog what you want to write about. That's what makes it good.

P.S. I like Levitt's work better than Dresden's. But I think you'd like both of them.

Tia Nevitt said...

Thanks, Maria! I've gotten a lot of good recommendations today.

Wench, I love history as well, and even when you are talking about a secondary world fantasy, it still needs a sense of time. Is it medieval? Reniassance? Ancient world? No matter what timeframe you choose, the weapons and technology (such as it is) must still be correct, or you will confuse the reader.

No one expects guns when you have knights in shining armor.

Sorry for getting off-topic.

Rabia said...

I don't like UF. It's just fine with me if you don't review any. ;)

Hagelrat said...

I love urban fantasy, I am not such a fan of paranormal romance. I just wish bookstores could tell the difference.
I love the paranormal, i love the noir aspect of good UF and the kick ass action.

Lori Devoti said...

I love urban fantasy, but I can't really remember reading any smart ass heroines. So, I must be reading some other urban fantasy. :)
My reading pace has also slowed horribly lately. Last UF I read was Butcher...and I'm currently reading Norse Code. Actually I guess Dresden is a smart ass, and I like him.
Oh, and on this...
"Even Amazon Ink, which is about a tattooist, has no consipicuous tattoo on the cover. (The thing around the wrist might be a tattoo, but it also might be an elaborate bracelet.)"
It is a bracelet both Mel and her mother wear snake bracelets.

Raven said...

Tia, you're absolutely right about me. I am so very, very tired of snarky, kick-butt heroines. And first person. And plots that are all some variation on the same theme. I like variety.

I do enjoy good fantasy in a contemporary setting, but I think urban fantasy has become too narrowly defined.

Tia Nevitt said...

I thought it looked more like a bracelet than a tattoo.

For some reason, many of the debut urban fantasies do feature snarky, kick-butt heroines. Maybe it's a trend.

Raven, I feel you pain! (And yes, I still owe you a package! Sorry!)

Lea said...

I like urban fantasy okay (and am actively seeking out paranormal romance) but my favorite will always be the fantasy that takes place in an entirely different world, where the rules can be anything that the author decides they are. There's a certain tether to setting a story in an alternate version of the real world, and a lot of urban fantasy stories dig themselves into holes with the tension between secrecy and obviousness.

So mainly I am interested in separate world fantasies, especially ones with unusual and interesting settings. An urban fantasy with a good twist will still catch my eye, though. I just don't seek out vampire hunters and the like. I'm a bit vampired out.

K.C. Shaw said...

I keep reading UF even though I don't love it. I have found some great authors that way (I love Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson series), but most of it just blends together in my memory. (And I may be the only person who reads Fantasy Debut who doesn't like Jim Butcher. I read his first three books and wasn't enthralled.)

I'm with Lea--I really prefer alternate-world fantasies. It's so hard to find good ones lately. Most of them seem to be high fantasy, which I also don't like all that much. I'd love to see more UF type stories set in alternate fantasy universes instead of the same handful of American cities.

Review what you want to, though. We're all along for the ride. I've picked up some great books after reading your reviews, so even though I don't post much, thanks. :)

Shara said...

You know I read urban fantasy of all sorts, including the paranormal romance kind. Interestingly enough, I'm starting a monthly book challenge at calico_reaction@live journal and September's theme is "Fantasy that takes place in an urban setting" and the choices readers vote on are DeLint, Emma Bull, Neil Gaiman, and China Mieville--because I wanted to remind readers that urban fantasy isn't just what's being marketed today.

If I didn't have a CRAPLOAD of my own reading and blog posts to keep up with, I'd be tempted to take up your offer on UF debuts; however, even I can only handle it in small doses, and so much of it makes me want to stab my eyes out. :)

If you're ever in the mood for some UF recs, let me know (I don't want to recommend something you'd already read). One I can recommend right away is BENIGHTED by Kit Whitfield. A very dark and fascinating book.

Maria said...

Nope, not a Dresden fan either. And, as I said, I do like UF.

:>)