Trends in Urban Fantasy

Your Christmas present from me: a discussion of trends in urban fantasy by the seven authors involved in the Under an Enchanted Skyline boxed set. (Available at all the major ebook retailers for 99c through December 30, 2014.)

Without further ado, here is the question in… well… question.

Although Urban Fantasy is popular right now, the genre features elements that many readers do not enjoy. In the interest of keeping the genre going strong, what do you regard as the more unique trends in UF, and which trends or elements would you personally like to see more of?

Jenifer Brozek: Ghost and witch trends are heating up in the constantly rotating cycle of the monster / hero de jour. Both of these have a rich opportunity for pulling out the stops and keeping UF on the charts. As for what I’d like to see? Diversity is at the top of my list. I would like to see more Urban Fantasy set in other countries, exploring the legends and cultures within. I want to see more than werewolves, vampires, and ghosts. I’d like to see people delving into diverse local cultural history in a way that is respectful and interesting.

Erik Scott de Bie: Well, I wrote one in the form of my story in this here anthology, Eye for an Eye, which blends UF and the superhero genre. Superheroes aren’t something you see much in prose narrative (something I and several of my friends are working to change!), and they naturally straddle a spectrum of genres from fantasy to scifi to thriller. I’m also a big fan of demons, as you’ll see.

Phoebe Matthews: Originality. Each book or series has to have new ideas. That’s why I came up with the heroine of the Turning Vampire series. She is a sweet teenager who has to learn to survive as a vampire but works hard at being a good person and never harming anyone. When all your nourishment has to come from human blood, fresh from the source, it ain’t easy being sweet.

Django Wexler: I think UF is expanding quite nicely from its roots at the moment. Parts of the subgenre are pretty saturated – I’m thinking of stories along the lines of “tough PI in a world where [name of monster] is real!” – but we’re starting to see a lot of great stuff beyond that. What I think is most important is original *stories*, rather than original mythology or settings; if you’re telling the same basic story, changing up the monsters or the magic system isn’t enough to keep things interesting.

Janine A. Southard: I’d like to see some more genre blending. How about a near-future Urban Fantasy which is also a Science Fiction story? Urban Fantasy cozy mysteries!

Cedar Blake: *laughs* Count me in as one of those readers who doesn’t like certain elements of the genre. Speaking personally, I prefer “old-school” Urban Fantasy – the Emma Bull/ Charles De Lint variety that deals with small miracles on the fringes of everyday existence – over the current wave of what I call “My Vampire Boyfriend books.” Jeri Smith-Ready just made me eat those words by writing an absolutely fantastic series in which the narrator really does have a vampire boyfriend ; her WVMP series, though, is far better than most offerings in this genre, and I count her alongside Patricia Briggs, Kat Richardson, Carrie Vaughn and Seanan McGuire as the very best writers working in this idiom. Plus, of course, I just published a My Were-Dolphin Boyfriend book, so I don’t have much room to look down on the genre anymore!
Again speaking personally, I really enjoy the stories that tweak expectations and shuck the more formulaic elements of the genre: the “instant, unexplainable bond” between characters, the romance-genre clichés, the “Rising Great Evil Threat” thingie, Cool Ambisexual Elves, Big Kinky Sex Parties, and other musty pitfalls of the Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance intersection. I love Richardson’s bizarre take on vampires, Briggs’ social dynamics, Vaughn’s wolfish monogamy (though I myself am not monogamous), and the sheer joy of McGuire’s snarky wordplay. One of the elements I cherish from “old-school” stories that’s often missing in the newer UF tales is the sense of tragedy and risk – De Lint’s melancholy, Gaiman’s uncanniness, the sensibility in Bull’s or Stemple’s books that things could go very badly indeed… I feel that the current trend of series UF and PR has practically mandated the inevitable happy ending, and so I don’t feel much risk from the perils of their situations. This isn’t exactly “unique,” but I really would like to see more old-school “one shots” like The Wood Wife or Neverwhere, as opposed to the comic-hero adventure series where you know the main character will triumph so that the story can continue.

You can find these authors (and me!) discussing other questions on the following blogs –

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Janine A. Southard is a Writer & Editor for narrative projects. She's a proven talent when it comes to mimicking voices and crafting content for videogames, articles, & fiction.