Urban Fantasy is, well, something I'm not too keen on. In fact, I'd say I'd go out of my way to avoid it for the most part. Covers with women with an inability to wear clothing made of anything but leather and malformed skeletons 'grace' a plethora of books, whereas many of the others feature a man with an allegy to clothing above his genitals and the most yawn-inducing chiseled figure. Sometimes, if you're really unlucky, you'll find a cover which has both!
Firstly, how can a publisher or a marketer expect me to take their books seriously if that's how they market them? I'm sorry, but I'm really not interested in Miss Rubber Spine's ass/side-boob pose, nor Mr McPertPecs' manboobs. Really, publishers? Really? Are you really so unimaginative that all of your models just have to show a minimum of 25% of their skin on your book covers?
And then we get to what's inside the books. Now, I'm probably missing some really good stories, but if you're going to have romance in your book then for the love of all that's unholy, put down those Mills & Boon titles and go and find out how couples really get together. If your heroine starts having an orgasm at the first sight of Mr McPertPecs (who's probably a werewolf or a vampire or both), then I'm really not going to read your book any further. If your heroine is drooling over him whilst she's supposed to be fighting, then I'm not going to read your book further. It's just bad.
Simply put, I hate this perpetual weakening of female characters in UF/PNR/DF/Whatever it's called today. I want to read about strong, capable women. I don't want to read about Sally Simple and her 'mate' (vom), I don't want to read about Mary Manlover and her insatiable thirst for manlove (vom) – I don't want any of it in my books. If you're going to write porn, go and write porn. Stop masquerading it – and, publishers, stop marketing it – as something else. You're doing yourself and fiction a disservice. That's not to say it doesn't happen in more traditional fantasy settings, because it does, but I find it much easier to avoid elsewhere. Whilst I must confess I've never particularly fancied reading them, it appears that UF books about gay male protagonists have the exact same marketing and 'taste' issues. It seems, bizarrely, that gay or bisexual women tend to be relegated to support roles in this genre (an exception being J.A. Pitts' Sarah Beauhall books, which I recommend, even considering the explicit sex).
|This was my expression when I wrote this. Genuinely.|
See, for me, my vision of urban fantasy would probably be closer to contemporary fantasy. You know, books like Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere or Paul Cornell's upcoming London Falling. At a stretch, I'd go so far as to say books like many of Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld titles, Jon Sprunk's Shadow series and Ari Marmell's Widdershins novels are urban fantasy – books that are fantastical and take place primarily in urban settings. What I'd love to see is publishers, and authors, differentiating more between romantic/erotic works and those focused more on plots.
I've probably come across as a bit harsh, maybe even hypocritical. Sure, I am - I know it. But to me, urban fantasy is this bizarre mixture of erotica and, well, contemporary fantasy. And the lack of clear separation makes it hard for me to find what I'm looking for.
***********Kathryn has her own blog The Forged Forest with all sorts of sci-fi and fantasy content, including some comics commentary. Alternatively, you can follow her on Twitter @Loerwyn.
A few months back she wrote a romance themed post titled Romance in Genre Fiction which I think is worth a read.