Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Urban Fantasy Is Not Doomed

For the last month or so, there's been a lot of negative predictions for the urban fantasy genre. The word is out that some agents and editors are so inundated with UF queries that they're turning them down left and right. The mood has pretty much gone down hill from there. I've heard everything from "don't bother writing urban fantasy anymore" to "we won't have any new UF series to read, so stock up on what's available now".

But I'm not worried. Let's face it, similar things have been said about various forms of genre fiction over the years, and things have turned out just fine. As long as there's still an audience (which there is), and as long as writers are still passionate about it (which they obviously are), urban fantasy is sticking around for a good long while.

However, that doesn't mean we should ignore some of the underlying problems I believe have led to this disparaging attitude toward my favorite genre. While an agent or editor can find over a hundred reasons to reject a book, they certainly won't take one look at the genre and throw it in the slush pile (unless they've never considered that genre, in which case you've contacted the wrong person, heh). What they are looking for, beyond just grammar and style, is something unique, something fresh, something that will get loyal UF readers to take notice. With publishers becoming pickier about what they choose, I think it will encourage writers to be more creative and produce more quality stories and world building.  

UF has been criticized as being too homogeneous, with the same gritty heroine striking the same impossible pose on every cover whose title must include either the word blood, dead, black, hell, dark, devil, etc. (Not that I haven't enjoyed many of these books, but you know what I mean). Many of my favorite new series from the past few years have been titles that distinguish themselves by breaking out of this mold: Nicole Peeler's Jane True, Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid, and a few others. Check any fantasy forum and you'll find readers asking for more variety in urban fantasy. That doesn't mean authors should base their work solely on public opinion, but it doesn't hurt to stay informed and make some changes to parts of a story where a different angle would be welcome.

Urban fantasy is a very broad genre, with most people grouping it with PNR and YA titles (which drives me kinda crazy, but that's for another post). Just because someone says they aren't buying UF, doesn't mean that goes for every branch of it. Maybe they're sick of vampire/werewolf YA love triangles (and who isn't?), but they still might jump at a new spin on angels, faeries, dark fantasy, etc. And don't forget the booming indie world happening right now. There are some truly fantastic self-pubbed UF authors out there, we've covered several here in the Salon, and they aren't letting up any time soon.

So, should we panic over the future of urban fantasy? Not at all. I predict what we'll see very soon is a market full of new voices, original characters, a variety of mythologies and fantastic creatures, and lots of awesome stories to enjoy.

What's your take on the state of urban fantasy? If you're a writer or a fan, let me know your predictions, or what you'd like to see coming up for the genre.



Marsha A. Moore said...

Ella, like you pointed out, there is such diversity in publishing routes today that agents are no longer going to define what is trending. It's a reader's candy store since any unique flavor of UF may be found among indie or small press releases.

Ella Gray said...

That's so true, Marsha! We are very lucky readers these days to have so many great options, and as writers to have far more freedom than ever before. It's a good time for any genre :)

Jennifer Roland said...

Write the story that you have in you. Don't worry about genre. If you have passion and your story has life, it will find its readership. (Jumping off the Pollyanna soapbox now. :P )

CK said...

As a fan, my biggest complaint is the 1st person POV. It got to a point where I had to look at the cover to remember what series I was supposed to be reading. I had to take a break from UF and, to be honest, haven't been back despite loving the genre.

Ella Gray said...

Jennifer - You said it, sister!

Ella Gray said...

CK - I can understand that. While I do enjoy 1st POV, I'm always looking for authors who are able to demonstrate voices that stand out from the crowd. Hopefully we'll get more of a variety as the genre continues to branch out :)

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