The Mystery in Urban Fantasy
Today Kaye has graciously allowed me to steal some time on her fabulous blog. I know that many of you who follow Kaye are mystery writers, a genre that I love but don’t actually write. Or do I? Technically, I’m a speculative fiction writer. That means most of the things I jot down have some sort of supernatural element to them. My book, Nephilim, is coming out July 18 and is classified as an urban fantasy. Hmmm…so what is that exactly?
Urban fantasy means a story that takes place in contemporary times, and typically in some sort of city environment. It may have fantastical elements to it such as aliens, wizards, witches, vampires, werewolves or other paranormal events, but the key element is the time and location. It must take place on Earth or else it falls into an entirely different genre. Sometimes people will confuse urban fantasy with paranormal romance, an easy thing to do since the trend in urban fantasy is to include a romantic plot twist. When trying to figure out whether or not it’s an urban fantasy or a paranormal romance, focus on the plot. Is the story centered on the relationship, or is it about some other event? If it’s mostly about an event, then it’s considered more urban fantasy while a story with more focus on the romance would be paranormal romance. Believe it or not, there’s a huge debate about the difference between those two things, and I can guarantee that I’ve probably already offended someone with my definition.
Alas, you can’t please them all, and that’s actually not what I’m here to talk about anyway.
This brings me to the mystery of urban fantasy. Believe it or not these two genres (mystery and urban fantasy) do have something in common. Urban fantasy may have fantastical creatures in it, but typically there is some sort of mystery to be solved as well. Who is capturing the werewolves and doing diabolical testing on them? Why did someone murder the head witch of the coven? Who has the most to gain by turning the heroine into a blood sucking vampire? These are the questions urban fantasy readers are willing to get to the bottom of. And if there is a good looking hero involved who may or may not howl at the moon, all the better!
Even serial killers—a staple in many of the mystery novels I’ve read—are not left out in urban fantasy. In fact, my novel Nephilim has a serial killer in it, too. Of course, he only stalks angels and has a special knife that allows him to suck out their angel essences, but he’s still a naughty guy! Part of the fun of the novel is figuring out his identity and why he does the things he does.
A great example of the mystery side of urban fantasy is the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. In this fun series, we met Harry Dresden, a wizard who occasionally works with the Chicago P.D. on some of their more bizarre and unexplainable cases. As a wizard, Harry is able to see things from a different perspective than a regular detective and he has his own unusual methods for bringing the bad guys to justice.
So while I’m not specifically a mystery writer, I have to give a big nod to the genre. It definitely has influenced my work and will continue to do so. I think most stories have a bit of mystery to them which is why the reader keeps reading.
Mystery genre, I salute you!
Mary Ann Loesch is an
writer and active blogger for All Things Writing (http://www.allthingswriting.blogspot.com). Her urban fantasy, Nephilim, will be released on July 18 through Lyrical Press Inc. To learn more about Mary Ann, visit her website at www.maryannloesch.com. Austin