I read a blog post recently, written by a woman who was announcing that she was “quitting” Urban Fantasy. She stated that the genre was so glutted, and there were so many substandard books–all apparently filled with the same tropes–that there was nothing in urban fantasy worth reading anymore. Moreover, the comments section was filled with people expressing similar “I’m done!” sentiments.
This made me sad for a number of reasons, the first of which is–of course–because I write urban fantasy. But the biggest reason this announcement saddened me was the pure illogic of it, coupled with the self-denial on the part of the blogger. She was obviously once a fan of urban fantasy, and now in her desire to steer well clear of it, she was going to be denying herself all of the potential that urban fantasy (and paranormal romance) has to offer.
That being said, I could see why she’d grown weary and jaded. It seems impossible to turn around without seeing something related to Twilight or True Blood or any of the other vampire-inspired media. When it’s this “in your face” the impulse to draw back and get some space is practically reflexive. On the one hand, the “geeks” have scored a huge victory–science fiction and fantasy are firmly entrenched in the mainstream. And so, naturally, everyone who stands to profit from this, from publishers to movie executives, has taken the urban fantasy/paranormal romance ball and run with it. Perhaps too far.
So, yes, I can understand being jaded. But to completely give up on the genre? Nope. That I can’t wrap my head around.
The thing is, that same ennui and the :”it’s all vampires all the time”” sensation, is now driving the genre into new and exciting directions. Trust me, those publishers and movie executives aren’t quite as blind and clueless as they might seem, and they’re looking ahead to what the genre has to offer next. And the authors are delivering! In fact (other than existing series with solid fan bases) I think you’d be hard pressed to find a debut novel featuring those tired old tropes. Instead the genre is breaking out into exciting and fascinating new ground, and the readers (those who haven’t given up on the genre) are being rewarded with some truly excellent and groundbreaking fiction. Just in the last year I’ve seen debut novels featuring: selkies, greek mythology colliding with present-day Atlanta, demons (like mine!), angels, hypochondriacs with incredible gifts… I could go on and on! And all of these books have three-dimensional main characters, rich plots, and–quite often–probing social commentary skillfully wrapped in a compelling story.
But, the ennui-plagued reader might ask, how can one find any of this amid the heaping piles of what some might call “drek”? It’s really not that hard. Read reviews, listen to the buzz (not as far as what’s being buzzed, but why it’s being buzzed) and dare to try something that looks a bit different. If you’re truly sick of vampires, then try something without vampires. Because there’s more of it out there than you realize (and I say this because I can’t imagine growing weary of the genre if you’re truly aware of the diversity of what’s out there.)
So, please, push aside the ennui for a few minutes, and don’t give up on a genre that’s delivered so well for you in the past. Far from being over, it’s just hitting its stride.
Diana Rowland, a former police officer and morgue assistant, is the author of Mark of the Demon and Blood of the Demon. Her third novel, Secrets of the Demon, will be out on January 4, 2011 from DAW books.
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