Thursday, October 04, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

I am pondering moving this feature to Tuesday Thoughts - my Thursdays are frequently insane.  On the other hand, maybe insanity is a good perspective to write from.

Today, I want to touch briefly upon on why I refer to Flow as contemporary fantasy rather than urban fantasy - even though it's set in 2007, so by now, it is very technically historical fantasy.  (Really, the only noticeable evocation of this is the rarity of mobile technology - or if you add up the travel times / dates / day of the week.)  Realizing that the distinction is often a marketing one, I still prefer the term because it gives a better snapshot of the focus.

First of all, the preconceptions that the term urban fantasy generates have in some cases become highly specific.  Besides the contemporary, real-world setting, the familiar type for these books is:  a first-person storyline, set in a big city (more on that later) with a dark tone and a strong romantic subplot.  Whether or how much of this is in any formal definition of urban fantasy is a different point - these are the books most people think of when you say "urban fantasy."  Flow fits none of these secondary attributes.  I might argue the story is a little dark, but I also will cheerfully admit that I don't know what I'm talking about where dark is concerned.

Second of all, the literal definition of urban fantasy is "fantasy set in a city."  It doesn't intrinsically imply a modern or even a real-world setting.  I think you'd find very few people using the term urban fantasy to refer to a secondary world city tale, but the connotation is there.  And well ... while Flow has some stops in cities - Cincinnati and Boston - it's primarily a traveling tale, a tale of small towns, suburbs and wilderness.

Contemporary fantasy, on the other hand, carries less of the baggage - and on the accuracy front, it says what it is:  fiction set in the present day.  Simple, clean, uncomplicated.

None of this is ironclad, of course, but it's the thought process behind my labels.

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