March 29th, 2007
Urban Fantasy—The New Bastard Child?

There’s an interesting conversation taking place around the web about urban fantasy not really being ‘fantasy’ because it has romance in it. And that paranormal romance and urban fantasy are the same thing (for the record, it’s not).***Cue sound of head hitting the desk now.*** I am SO sick of other writers (and a few readers) behaving as if ‘romance’ is something that malevolently taints everything it touches.

Here’s a news flash people: If the book that you wrote doesn’t have some form of love/romance in it (yes, it can be between you and your hand), then the world you built is lacking true dimension and reality. Seriously, go outside and look around if you don’t believe me.

38 comments to “Urban Fantasy—The New Bastard Child?”

  1. Agreed. I think a fiction novel of any kind without some romantic thread is an empty vessel, or a children’s book. Rather than tainting, romance energizes all genres of fiction. Unless writing about amorphous space aliens, the human condition in fiction must at the very least contain a hope of romance.

  2. Bernard, I agree. 🙂 Something has to be implied.

  3. I think every one of Wodehouse’s novels jokes about that; “It has to have the romance angle.”

  4. Charli, I just don’t understand why having a romance in a novel is considered such an abhorrent thing.

  5. I don’t think people know what makes a romance novel…well… a romance novel. As for paranormal and urban fantasy being the same (or not), yes, I’ve seen this controversy brewing lately on in blogsphere and some groups. I think pretty soon there’s going to be some fireworks going on.

  6. Well, it’s normal. If you look at every genre out there, you’ll see romance subplots in everything. YA, mystery, fantasy, SF, you name it. Because, like you said, that’s part of any story about a group of people. There’s going to be romance happening on some level. I know there are some people who think it causes cooties, though.

  7. Tempest, I believe they just started. :/

  8. Charli, *ggg* Yes, I realize those people exist. I’m just trying to figure out what ‘world’ they live in. 😉

  9. LOL@cooties. Ok while you’re right about everything having a romance subplot, I think you can still write a good book, with great characters and growth and it NOT have a romance. It’s great, but I don’t think it’s necessary (as in, do or die).


  10. Oh and I meant to say, after reading that blog post that it seems we’re (and I mean we in the general sense of genre writers or maybe just writers) …anyway we’re damned no matter what we do, so go write and enjoy yourself while you’re at it.

  11. Any book where there’s opposite sex (or sometimes even same sex) and attraction, there’s bound to be sparks…and possibly romance ensuing. And romance has many faces. But romance in urban fantasy is nothing like romance in paranormal romance. (Can I say ‘romance’ any more times? *g*) makes my head spin.

  12. Someone who used to be very close to me from my corporate days really looks down on me writing romance. He said he couldn’t believe Nascar was tainting themselves with it! I was livid. I told him I supposed writing about murder and death and seriel killers minus the love, romance, and happiness would be much more moral?

  13. Also every book I’ve ever read had some type of romantic thread in it. Eyes of the Dragon my favorite Stephen King has a lovely romance in it, as does his Dark Tower series. But the again some people think Stephen King isn’t much of a writer either. Although I think he’s brilliant.

    It’s usually the lit types that think romance is unsavory. Acting like its something they stepped in on the way to the bookstore.

  14. “yes, it can be between you and your hand” had me laughing out loud!

    Well said – and probably true of the types who sneer at romance in any literary form.

  15. Oops, didn’t log in. #14 was me.

  16. Amie, I agree, but I still say that in those books you describe there is some form of love taking place. Like Jaci said, it can take many forms (ie parental, sibling, comrade, etc), but it’s there. I didn’t say it had to be romance. 😉

    ***have some form of love/romance in it***

  17. Amie, I’ve come to the same conclusion. :-/

  18. Jaci, I agree whole-heartedly. It’s there as an undercurrent.

  19. Lisa, (((Hugs))) I think it’s interesting that ‘love’, along with sex makes so many people extremely uncomfortable. And when people get uncomfortable, they tend to attack the thing that’s making them face those feelings. In other words, your ex-colleague is an ass. (wg)

  20. Vivi, I agree. I think what’s bothering me is that it seems to be coming from within the sci-fi/fantasy group. Urban Fantasy can’t be taken seriously as a genre because there are relationships built into the books. That attitude dismisses the validity of the subgenre. I just can’t decide whether it’s based on sexist or elitist beliefs.

  21. Jeaniene, I thought that was pretty funny myself. I was riled up yesterday. *ggg*

  22. Jeaniene, No worries. 🙂

  23. I didn’t say it had to be romance. 😉

    My bad *ggg* and RE: your comment #20 it sure sounds awfully familiar *ggg*-yes again

  24. I don’t know, let’s ask Jim Butcher if he gets the same shit. He writes great urban fantasy. So, generally I’m thinking its completely sexist. It’s like now women writers have been pigeonedholed, like we couldn’t possibly write a decent book if it didnt’ have romance in it. I can’t imagine what the first few women fantasy writers had to go through to be accepted.

  25. Amie, *ggg* . I knew it would. 😉

  26. Vivi, I agree. And interestingly enough, Jim is categorized as straight fantasy. I agree with you that he writes terrific urban fantasy. Makes me wonder if that’s why writers take him more seriously, but I doubt it.

    Who says those first few women fantasy writers EVER got accepted?

  27. Hmm, I bet Rob Thurman’s books sell well, because I bet half the people that buy the books don’t know she’s a woman. Nightlife and Moonshine are urban fantasy.

  28. Vivi, I agree, which is why I will hopefully write under a different name, when I sell my urban fantasy. Apparently, Rob has had some interesting encounters at signings, when men come up to her and say, “But you’re a woman.” They can’t believe a ‘chick’ can write like that. *ggg*

  29. Totally agree with this. There is usually some ‘romantic’ subplot somewhere, even if it’s a past memory or ‘between you and your hand’, *gg*. My son is a big sci-fi/comic book/action fan and it took me awhile to convince him that romance subplots were ‘yucky’ but that if he looked at all his favourite movies/shows/graphic novels, he’d find that they all incorporated some type of ‘romance’ no matter how subtle. It’s all about engaging emotions.

  30. Jaq, That’s the thing, I think that’s the only way you can engage the emotions in a story. You’re absolutely right. 🙂

  31. IMO, anything perceived as being about women or concerning women is looked down upon. Look at the huge portion of the book sales romance holds and yet we’re looked down upon. Whatever we read or write is looked down upon if we do it as women.

    I’m just over it. It agitates me and infuriates me! I recently had a discussion with an old friend from law school who said, “Why are you wasting yourself writing romance? You’re so much smarter than that.” and was genuinely surprised at my offense.

    My favorite novels generally have a romantic sub-plot – the Dune universe (I love Frank Herbert), Isaac Asimov’s Foundation books, the LOTR books – even “classics” have romance in them because it encompasses part of the human experience. It can make us weak, yes, but it’s what makes us human.

  32. Lauren, Sadly, I think you’re right. I think this boils down to a sexist issue. I can’t think of any other plausable explanation. So much for coming a ‘long way baby’. :/

  33. {{whine!!}} Jordan, your blog won’t let me post my comment. 🙁

  34. Michele, Were you using more than one link? Or perhaps you used a spammy phrase like ‘n i c e site’ in the post. If that’s the case, it would’ve stopped it. I was having trouble with so much spam that was the only way we could trim it. Sorry. 🙁

  35. Ugh. I am so stoopid. Spam word, yes! I mentioned the last James Bond movie, which has a very spammy title.

    Anyway, my comment wasn’t anything that a few others haven’t already pointed out. While there’s still that Puritan mindset about sex, it’s mostly women authors, and especially women authors writing sex in a genre that is/was mostly male authors, that catch the grief.

    The easiest way for men to get away with writing about love is to attach it to a stage and an electric guitar, but love and sex permeates popular culture and genre fiction.

    Harry Dresden gets his fair share of horizontal refreshment, if I’m remembering right. And how about Bill Willingham’s FABLES? Urban fantasy, and lots of romantic stuff. The first major story arc of that series was a plot of a guy who’d been in love with a woman for years and finally gets her to notice him. And he’s the Big Bad Wolf. 🙂

  36. Michele, I guess it’s the male authors’ version of the ‘He Man Woman Haters’ club. (shaking head) I love Jim Butcher’s work. I haven’t read Bill Willingham’s Fables, but I’ll definitely pick it up. I’m rather fond of the Big, Bad Wolf. *g*

  37. “Sadly, I think you’re right. I think this boils down to a sexist issue. I can’t think of any other plausable explanation. So much for coming a ‘long way baby’.”

    Heyyyyyyyy… don’t start lookin’ for a scapegoat here, Jordan. Us ‘sexist pigs’ want romance mixed in with our action too. Let me give you a couple big pointers on what not to do in any genre of fiction if you want a loyal male audience: cut out all touchy-feely nonsense, and if you’re going to write in a whiner, getting in touch with his or her feelings, it better be comic relief. 🙂 Will this get me banned from the site? 🙂

  38. Bernard, LOL! Nope, you’ll have to try harder. 😉 I’d love to have a larger male fan base, but the truth is that women purchace 65-75% of ALL books. I know which side my bread is buttered on. (wg)