Urban fantasy and fairy tales

I watched this video with Patrick Rothfuss, Emma Bull, Diana Rowland, and Jim Butcher, all notable urban fantasy writers. The topic was all about urban fantasy. Here’s the video if you’re curious (it’s about an hour long): http://youtu.be/52khu_YJAmo

They said all kinds of interesting things. But what has stuck with me are two main points about urban fantasy.

First off, urban fantasy is just fantasy set in a city. But more importantly, the setting has to be so defined that it’s almost another character. We want to feel like we’re really in Los Angeles or Chicago or New York City.

The second point is that urban fantasy takes the fairytale stereotypes and brings them into modern day. In the old days, the forest was the dark, scary place where people disappeared. Nowadays, it’s downtown. For all we know, vampires, werewolves and zombies could be running around in the ghettos. And where would you be more afraid to go at night–the dark woods, or a dark alley?

Urban fantasy is getting more popular all the time, especially with TV shows like Grimm and Doctor Who coming out of nowhere and becoming popular. The funny thing is, it was popular in juvenile fiction before it was in adult fiction. Look at anything by Diana Wynne Jones, or Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising), Harry Potter, Inkheart, Twilight, or even Narnia. All set in the present day, even if the kids wind up visiting another magical world.

Adults seem to favor high fantasy. Lords and ladies, dragonslayers, paladins, elves, or basically anything derived from Tolkien. But urban fantasy has been slowly making its mark on adult fiction.

I grew up reading juvie fantasy set in the modern day, so I don’t have much of an appetite for high fantasy. But urban/modern fantasy? Bring it on! I think that’s why I’m so enamored with Spacetime, because it’s urban fantasy. I’ve been trying to make Phoenix, Arizona a viable setting for monsters and fantastic happenings, and it’s such fun. I don’t think I’ve ever read a fantasy set in Phoenix, even though it’s a huge city.


3 thoughts on “Urban fantasy and fairy tales

  1. Well because it is hot. Who wants to be in a place that is a million degrees. Everything broody is in places where the sun never shines and it is cold and wet.
    Phoenix is a good place just because if you go to the wrong side of town, it is full of nightmare kind of places. It might work. 🙂 Good article.


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