Monday, July 11, 2011

Who Are You People and Why Are You Gunning Down Werewolves?

By Meghan B

Harry Dresden, patron saint of urban fantasy
Hello and welcome to Stellar Four's first urban fantasy week! What's that you say? You have no idea what urban fantasy is? Neither did I! I've done my detective work and discovered the nitty gritty of the dark underbelly of this insanely popular genre of sci-fi/fantasy novels.

We have some mindblowing articles for you this week, as well as a contest that's sure to please urban fantasy aficionados and newbs alike! But before we get into all that dark and seedy goodness, we need to figure out just what in the blazes urban fantasy actually is.

Grab your favorite magical talisman, keep an eye out for vampires and discover a whole new world of magical weirdness after the jump!






 Urban Decay: What is urban fantasy?
A highly respected online dictionary that may or may not be Wikipedia gives the definition of urban fantasy as "a sub-genre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting." Many urban fantasy stories have magical elements such as werewolves, vampires, witches and faeries. Many are contemporary but some are historical. P.N. Elrod's magnificent "Vampire Files" series takes place in Prohibition-era Chicago, for example. The most important thing about urban fantasy is that it is mostly city-based. Whether it's the Big Apple, the City of Angels or The Big Easy, urban fantasy most often uses a city as a backdrop.

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Gun: Urban fantasy careers:
Most (but not all) urban fantasy has a main protagonist with a career worthy of CSI. The genre is littered with people who are private eyes, cops, detectives and bounty hunters. They tend to be "hardboiled" characters with tragic pasts and secrets to hide, along with supernatural abilities. Many urban fantasy novels could be called "noir", using themes from old noir films like The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man. Urban fantasy pits main characters up against the supernatural with very dark consequences.

There Wolf, There Castle: Friends and foes in the fantasy world:
Urban fantasy uses well-known fantasy creature tropes to create a good, edge of your seat story. Whether it's a pack of werewolves, a belfry of vampires or a gathering of faeries, there's always going to be a force of the preternatural in this genre. The main characters may or may not also be supernatural. The setting tends to be a major city like Chicago or London, or a made-up city like The Nightside from Simon R Green's novels, the city of Fabletown from Fables, or London Below from Neil Gaiman's incredible Neverwhere.
Buffy, another famous urban fantasy character

Urban Legends: Well known characters:
Absolutely unforgettable; that is how most famous urban fantasy character's are. One of the best known characters is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, main badass from Jim Butcher's insanely popular Dresden Files series. Harry is a wizard, helps out the local Chicago police force and fights the powers of evil. He epitomizes the urban fantasy trope. Other well known characters are Anita Blake (noted bedder of all things supernatural by Laurell K Hamilton), John Constantine (Vertigo comics chainsmoking weirdness magnet) and Mercedes Thompson (from Patricia Brigg's popular series).

I hope this woefully brief FAQ has shown some light onto the odd creature that is urban fantasy. It is hard to define but easy to recognize. Urban fantasy seems to be one of the most popular genres of sci fi at the moment. Walk into any bookstore and you'll see shelves and shelves of it in sci-fi as well as (gasp) romance. It's one of our favorite genres here at Stellar Four and we hope you'll enjoy urban fantasy week!
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