We’re up to one of my (admittedly many) favorite subgenres of all times: contemporary fantasy fiction. With it, we’re also discussing its closely related kin, urban fantasy fiction.
These categories take Tinker Bell and her assorted fantasy fiction critters out of Neverland and permanently plop them into real-world settings such as London, Chicago, Lancaster, PA, and/or rural – but still modern-day – Scotland.
I never knew anything technical about this realm until years after I found myself writing in it with Faerietales 1: Not So Human. I’m not even sure I knew there were subgenres to the fantasy fiction category at all.
Silly little me.
I was simply bored, uninspired and feeling utterly lost at a dead-end temp job out of college. And so I started writing Sabrina’s story as a coping mechanism.
That journey began realistically enough, only to take unexpected wing into the realm of faeries and secretive sadistic organizations. Just like that, I became a contemporary fantasy fiction writer and to-be contemporary fantasy fiction author.
This was without reading much else in the larger genre outside of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. Moreover, while Horse and His Boy was one of my all-time favorite books, and I really did enjoy The Hobbit, I couldn’t get even a third of the way through Fellowship of the Ring.
(That forest. Oh, that forest. Make it stop!)
With that limited experience to gon, I had no clue I was filling a contemporary fantasy fiction author stereotype – one which I now happily own – of being yet another female writer to force Tinker Bell out of Neverland.
This isn’t to say either subgenre is all about faeries any more than it has to involve secretive sadistic organizations. There’s a wide range of characters, plots and settings it can involve.
Urban Fantasy/Contemporary Fantasy:
Once again, we have two separate fantasy fiction subgenres that often overlap but don’t have to.
Urban fantasy is set in an urban or cityscape setting. Contemporary fantasy is set in a contemporary or modern setting. Mind. Blown. Right?
For whatever reason, urban fantasy is typically placed in a modern world. And contemporary fantasy is typically placed in a city. Apparently, that’s where most fantasy critters live these days. Who would’ve guessed?
The above information, Definition and all, needs two clarifications:
If you’re a male contemporary fantasy fiction writer, you’ve got good company in Jim Butcher, the loved and lauded (and no-doubt very well-off) author of The Dresden Files. Which is also urban fantasy fiction, for the record. So don’t feel pigeonholed out of either subgenre due to your gender.
Those last two lines in the Definition about supernatural and mythological critters living in the city was tongue-in-cheek. It rather makes sense, I suppose, that Kim Harrison’s vampires would live in the city. That’s where the most necks are. But if I could shapeshift into a coyote like Patricia Brigg’s Mercedes, I’d probably want a bit more room to roam than the tri-cities area of Washington. And the same goes for pixies living in the heart of Chicago (even if that might be where they have the best deep dish pizza).
Then again, the world evolves. So what’s a fantastical critter to do?
In my faeries’ case, they went literally underground. Other contemporary fantasy fiction authors and authors-in-the-making are just as welcome to develop their own character coping mechanisms, as are urban fantasy fiction writers.
And that we certainly do. These are crazy-fun subgenres to write in, where the real world becomes your magical or mythical toy.
So the moral of the story? It doesn’t matter whether you’re an expert contemporary fantasy fiction author or a newbie urban fantasy fiction writer. Or anything in between.
Come on in! The faerie-infested water’s fine.