A Tale of Fried Foods, Definitions & the Improper Use of Office Furniture
“So what is urban fantasy anyway?” Bill asked before popping a tater tot into his mouth. “And what’s paranormal romance? Are they the same thing?”
“Um…no,” I replied hesitantly. “Not exactly.”“Well what’s the difference?”
That’s a really good question. And I have to admit / hate to admit that even though I’ve written an urban fantasy novel, I have no idea how to explain the difference. Urban fantasy, the kind I write and the kind I read, seems to have an awful lot in common with paranormal romance.
If you ask the experts, by which I mean wikipedia.com, they’ll tell you: “Urban fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements.”
Wikipedia describes paranormal romance as “a type of speculative fiction, paranormal romance focuses on romance and includes elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, blending together themes from the genres of traditional fantasy, science fiction, or horror.”
Does that clear things up for you? No? Yeah, not for me either.
Carrie Vaughn, an author who writes (among other things) a series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty, has written a great article about urban fantasy, its characteristics, and its origins. I fully recommend you read the entire article but I’ll tell you that for Carrie, urban fantasy must have a kick-ass heroine. She says, “We also have a generation who grew up after first and second wave feminism, who watched the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman and Lindsay Wagner in The Bionic Woman and Charlie’s Angels at young, impressionable ages. Who also grew up with Ellen Ripley and Sarah Conner. Who took it entirely for granted that women could be heroes and kick a lot of ass while doing so.”
For UF author Tracy Cooper-Posey the genre is defined by wordiness. She says, “Urban Fantasy is mostly about the back story. The history. While the romance reader wants to know about the romance, dammit.”
Tab Bennett and the Inbetween has a kick-ass heroine and as the series goes on, Tab is going to get tougher and tougher – mostly because she has no choice. It also has a complicated back story full of intrigue and curses and prophecies and murder plots and a war between Light and Dark. So it seems Tab and I meet the basic criteria for urban fantasy anyway. (Huge relief. Huge.)
Which brings me back to Bill. He wanted to know the difference between the two and he was quickly running out of tater tots. So I took a sip of my Diet Coke and said, “Urban fantasy is the combination of fantastic elements, like elves or fairies, and realistic settings, like elves or fairies who live in New York City and work at the New York Times. If it’s a paranormal romance, they have sex on the desk.”
Now it’s time for you to educate me, readers. What’s your take on Urban Fantasy? What’s the separation line for you? Do you love UF but hate PNR? Stop by and tell me all about it in the comments.