Friday, April 26, 2013

Contemporary or Urban Fantasy?

I had an interesting discussion with fellow writer and blogger Lauren Harris yesterday. We talked about genre.

It's a moot point, in the original sense of the word moot: arguable. Kristen Nelson, for example, suggests that New Adult might be Chick Lit revisited, and many authors have struggled with the fluidity of defining their own precise genre.

My novel takes place in the modern world, has a touch of romance, and tons of magic--the last means it's fantasy, but is it "modern fantasy," "contemporary fantasy," or "urban fantasy"?

The sticking point, of course, is that the recent stereotypes of urban fantasy revolve around detective stories, shifters, vampires, or demons. Of which my manuscript has none.

Contemporary fantasy is not a frequently-used term, however. Paranormal romance tends to apply to only, well, romance, but it's known to overlap urban fantasy. Contemporary fantasy is a catch-all, and includes non-urban settings... it's just not frequently used. And while the book has video-game and steampunk references, "geek fantasy" conjures an entirely different mental image than the story portrays.

For marketing reasons, I may continue to bill it as urban fantasy--because there's a market for that right now--but on the whole, I have to agree with Lauren: contemporary fantasy is a better term, at least for this manuscript. And it's a term that needs to become more common, as it's a better catch-all and doesn't have the same narrow connotations as urban fantasy.

Which would you, as a reader, prefer to hear? A better-known genre, such as "urban fantasy," in which the book is not quite typical? Or a slightly more specific "contemporary fantasy" that describes the book, but is less known?

Do you think it's time for the "Contemporary fantasy" genre to make a comeback? What other books do you know that would fall under this genre?


  1. I would rather that authors/editors/publishers/whoever's in charge be as accurate as possible when categorizing their work.
    Harry Potter would be contemporary fantasy, wouldn't it? I mostly read high fantasy and sword and sorcery, so it's not a genre I'm too familiar with.

    1. Yep, Harry Potter is considered contemporary fantasy. But because the category isn't particularly well known, it's generally just categorized as general fantasy.