Jun. 27th, 2009

foreverlasting: (Dangerous)

I understand that a genre can start out as one thing and evolve into another, but when even the origins of said genre are misrepresented, it becomes a little too much.

1. If a book is referred to as 'urban fantasy,' then it damn well better feature a setting that could even remotely be considered urban. Set in the present real world outside a city? Contemporary. Contemporary. Urban fantasy is a subset of contemporary fantasy, not the overarching umbrella of all modern-era, real-world fantasies. A novel can be both urban fantasy and contemporary, but not all contemporaries can be urban.

2. Urban fantasy existed before Nail Gaiman AND Laurell K. Hamilton. They didn't appear on the UF scene until the mid-to-late 90s. Charlaine Harris didn't publish her first Sookie Stackhouse novel until 2001. Who were the harbringers of the genre, then? Charles de Lint. Terri Windling. Emma Bull.

UF originated in the 70s and 80s, not the 90s like too many people tend to believe. My guess this occurs because UF in the 70s and 80s didn't necessarily (if at all) feature what we consider to be the earmarks of UF today: kick-ass heroines and their string of boy-toys. Instead, they focused more on regular people who were connected in some way to magic while living in an urban setting. Which brings me to my next point.

3. Urban fantasy is NOT about the kick-ass heroines. In fact, let me go a little farther and say: ENOUGH. I don't want to read about some half-vamp, half-wolf wanna-be slayer who takes names while wearing stilettos* and fucking every goddamn male being that trots along. Stop it. Just stop it. I'm all for consensual sex regardless of the number or type of partners, but the "ambiguity" of the heroine's relationship HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH URBAN FANTASY. If you want a book that deals in HEA-less sexual affairs, go petition the RWA into changing their requirements for a romance, or write literary love stories and give Nicholas Sparks a run for his money. (Or, hell, just convert all the way and write erotic romance or straight-up erotica.) UF is not the ghetto to write whatever won't fit into other genres.

Additionally, from a feminist standpoint, I can see why ass-kicking heroines are often portrayed as magically and/or physically strong AND as women uncommitted to any particular relationship. It's a short-cut. Why attempt to go through all the effort of writing a character that is strong because of who she is and the choices she makes, when all she needs to do is have sex with multiple God-like men? Newsflash: having sex with 2+ partners is no more feminist than having sex with one partner. It does not make her stronger, and in some cases, it simply makes her indecisive; the victim of yet another stereotype of femininity.

Urban fantasy is about people living in urban settings that interact with magic or magical beings in some way. I can appreciate the lean toward equality by making the majority of lead characters women, but it's not about the ass-kicking heroines. It's really not. And if you're going to portray a heroine as kick-ass, regardless of the genre, make her genuinely kick-ass, emotionally and mentally. Don't take short-cuts.


*Speaking as a ballroom dancer, if slaying demons were possible while wearing heels, I'd drop out of college and start hunting.

Found via Smart Bitches.

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