The Great Urban Fantasy Debate Part 4, Urban Fantasy vs Contemporary Fantasy

10 Jan

And you thought I was done at 3! Sadly no.

So here we come to an funny little side note to the debate, but one which is really the heart of the debate in essence. I don’t like the term Contemporary Fantasy. I don’t like the idea of even having a “present tense” genre. And I am being subjective, which is annoyingly unobjective I know, but hear me out. When is something no longer considered contemporary and what is it then? Is something written in the 60’s considered contemporary? Probably, but is it really? No, it isn’t, at least not to me. Technology is changing to fast to have long periods of time that are essentially the same with only minor changes in daily living. Yes, compare to the 1700’s, the 60’s are contemporary, but not compared to today. Heck, the 80’s can barely be considered contemporary. So what are fiction novels written in the 60’s called? Hippie lit? What would we call a book written about the world of Bioshock? It’s in an Urban setting so it’s sort of Urban Fantasy, sort of Horror, but not contemporary. Steam Punk would fit it to a point.

See my point? It’s all subjective to one extent or another on some level. And to be fair, Urban Fantasy is really a sub genre of Contemporary Fantasy…sometimes. And that’s why I don’t like it. As far as I’m concerned, if it happens in basically our world, past the point of industrialization, but has fantasy elements, then it’s Urban Fantasy. I know that’s not the strict definition of the term, but I think it can stretch to accommodate. Mercedes Lackey’s SERRAted Edge series is Urban Fantasy to me, even though half of it happens well outside cities and it should be rightly called Contemporary Fantasy. My current WIP isn’t really a UF, it’s a CF, since most of it happens outside of a city. But I consider it a UF anyway. It has those elements that I consider UF. So does that make Urban Fantasy set in Victorian England something else by my definition? Nope, just add a modifier and you get the very apt Historical Urban Fantasy.

There are many who already consider the two to be basically the same thing, and I’m okay with that, because the plot that drives them both is the fantasy elements of that world. That isn’t true with Paranormal Romance. (And for the record, I don’t like the term Contemporary Romance either.) There are even a lot of PR books that are labeled CF even though the Romance novel is clearly not a Fantasy Novel.

So I guess it comes down to what’s more important. I’d rather Urban Fantasy and Contemporary Fantasy be confused and interchanged than either be confused with Romance. Not because I have a problem with Romance. I freely admit that I read it so that’s not the point. I would be just as upset if Mystery were being confused with Urban Fantasy, and it happens. A lot. It’s the principle of the thing. There are fruits that are considered vegetables because of their lack of sweetness, such as the tomato and avocado. But they are still fruits. Why? Because sweetness isn’t what makes it a fruit, the hardness of the seed is. This is a set way of categorizing edible plants so scientists can speak the same language and understand each other. We need to have some understanding of how to group things so we can better understand our world and each other. It all really comes down to communication. We have enough trouble with men and women understanding each other, and people from different countries understanding each other, we don’t need to add to the confusion. Not when there is a system in place already to deal with this very issue.

Maybe that’s what annoys me the most about this whole thing. We aren’t using that system and it’s creating a problem already. We aren’t using the time spent arguing and discussing this to do anything new. It’s a waste of time in the end. There is a system in place, so let’s use it and stop wasting time with miscategorizing things. We could be using that time to find new names for the next new kind of book to come out.

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Posted by on January 10, 2011 in All About Writing


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