Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Rise of Urban Fantasies

During my workshop on Saturday, someone asked me about genres going in and out of popularity. That led to a discussion of "chick lit," and how it abruptly went out of fashion. I made the comment that I thought the voice and attitude of chick lit had morphed into the urban fantasy genre.

Someone asked what I meant by urban fantasy. I said, to me, it was taking the world of fantasy and superimposing it on the real-life world of a contemporary city. Thus early on, we had Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake in St. Louis, and today we have Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan in Cincinnati. We also have male heroes like Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden in Chicago and Mike Carey's Felix Castor in London.

Turns out that Sarah of the Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books blog wrote a post here on Friday about the increasing popularity of urban fantasies.

Sarah referred to a blog here by Tim Holman of Orbit Books. Orbit is an imprint of Little, Brown, which is owned by Grand Central Books (formerly Time Warner Books) , in turn owned by the French conglomerate Groupe Lagardere.

Tim points to the fact that--while in 2004 only one of the top twenty fantasy best-sellers was an urban fantasy--this week eleven of the top twenty, including all of the top three, are urban fantasies.

While some readers gravitate to the kick-ass heroine, I'm drawn to the humor and cocky attitude of the protagonist--whether that protag be female or male. I also like the complex world backstories developed for these new fantasies with urban settings.

After reading the first book, Unshapely Things, by newcomer Mark Del Franco, I'm now midway through his second. His hero is a druid named Connor Grey, who is living in Boston and trying to come to terms with a disability that has stripped him of most of his powers.

If you haven't tried urban fantasy, think about it.

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