URBAN FANTASY: LEATHER PANTS AND TRAMP STAMPS!
Have you taken a good look at the airport, newsstand and supermarket bookshelf? Have you noticed anything else alongside the wingnut pundit anti-Obama tomes and the many Shades of prurient naughtiness?
Perhaps you’ve noticed some hardbitten supernatural mamas with rockin’ bods and a daring sense of fashion?
Urban fantasy (sometimes Paranormal Romance) is defined thus in the blog a genteel black whole:
To me, to class a book as being of this Fantasy subgenre, it needs to contain the following ingredients: contemporary setting, set in the real-world and with a real sense of place, city-based, with a male or female lead who has supernatural powers and uses them to kick ass and help people, detective/crime plot, humour, and set in a slightly alternative ‘now’ as humans are usually aware or becoming aware of the existence of certain supernatural beings. These beings include, but are not limited to: vampires (new and old mythology), were-creatures (from wolves to coyotes), wizards/witches, and the fae.
The genre has its more masculine properties (see Jim Butcher, whom I haven’t read), but strong, modern female protagonists are the norm. And a little googling reveals the several clichés of the genre and its characters:
- Blunt, hardbitten heroines in some sort of law enforcement
- Snappy sarcastic dialogue
- Pop culture monsters and mythological creatures
- Tattoos and badass leather clothes
- Complicated love triangles or headache inducing polyamorous relationships
Sounds lowbrow and silly, right? The kind of authors and genre you snicker at as you quote Thomas Pyncheon or whatever. Well, in my unambitious, ambitious, trashy heart of hearts, I want to try my hand at the genre and rule over airport book racks and receive millions for film adaptations. I’ve been consuming all the fiction that has spawned this genre. It should be a no-brainer for me.
And with that in mind, I have recently sampled via audiobook two examples of the genre. One was Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series, which I found engaging and charming and entertaining. The other is the Queen Mother of urban fantasy at her worst: Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, whose incredibly overblown erotic triangles will have you guffawing in astonishment, not titillation. Anita Blake, the heroine, has a harem of pretty boys who are allowed to have sex with each other and Anita, but no other women. They are utterly fascinated with Anita and will allow her to have sex with any permutation of character because they love her. You have to admire this in-your-face transposition of male fantasy.