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Helen Harper

The future of urban fantasy

For a long time, urban fantasy was HOT. Everyone was jumping on the bandwagon and everyone (or so it seemed) was reading it. We’re now in more of a natural cooling off period. There are still loads of UF writers and still loads and loads of UF readers (hello people!) but it’s no longer the shiny new thing that it once was. Apparently trad publishers no longer want UF novels because the sales are no longer there. Looking around at other authors whose names appear on my Amazon pages, I’d completely disagree with that. At the RT Convention, there was a panel discussing the future of UF and a good chunk was given over to the discussion about whether it was dead or not. Genres never die though – it might evolve and adapt but urban fantasy is definitely here to stay. What will it be like in five years time though?

 

An urban fantasy and sci fi meld

 When I was a teenager, one of my absolute favourite (and very well thumbed) series of books was Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept books.  Piers, if you ever stumble across the blog (unlikely, I know but it pays to be prudent), I’d be eternally grateful if you could work on getting that series onto Kindle. Pleeeeeeeease.

Anyway, that series mixed science fiction and fantasy in a truly wonderful way, with two parallel worlds – a sci fi planet and a secret fantasy world next to it. UF is, of course, slightly different but given the current sci-fi predilection with The Martian, Star Wars, Tomorrowland and all that stuff, there could be a great future for a UF/Sci-Fi mash-up. Vampires in space? If they’re dead, then maybe they can wander around outside their spaceships without the need to suit up. Or maybe Earth could send out a group of astronauts who come across a planet where magic rules instead of technology in a kind of Star Trek sort of fashion. And just think of the fun that could be had if internet trolls really did become, well, trolls. Hmmm.

 

UF spies

 I grew up at the end of the Cold War and possessed a considerable yen for a long time to learn Russian and become a super spy. In fact, spy fiction has been making somewhat of a comeback lately (much to my delight). I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch for a well funded government to use a host of UF styled characters to spy on the world. Just think of the fun that could be had if an Edward Snowden type of guy turned out to also be a vengeful werewolf. Yeah, okay. Perhaps not.

 

Multiple viewpoints

 Requiring more serious consideration than James Bond turning furry once a week, I’m genuinely surprised that more hasn’t yet been made of a G.R.R. Martin style of UF. By which I mean, more epic and lengthy novels with a range of different narrators. It wouldn’t exactly be easy to pull off (let’s face it, Martin is one of the most famous authors alive right now for a reason) but surely it could be a thing. I really, really hope so.

 

New characters

 Vampires have been done to death (boom, boom – see what I did there?). Werewolves and werebears and everything in between have been covered. There are plenty of angel stories. And demon stories. Fairies in different guises get around as do witches and wizards. Plenty of novels have used other types of characters in different ways – and I know I for one will continue reading, loving (and no doubt writing) about all of the above – but which new characters could become really popular next? Mermaids haven’t been used much (although I happen to know of a popular UF author who might be addressing that in the near future). I seem to be reading a lot about new dragon novels popping up soon so that’ll be super fun. Of course, dragons are close to my heart!

I actually think that in the future we’ll see more of brand new creations. After all, Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series is great and Neil Gaiman has written wonderful stuff using completely original characters. Neverwhere will remain one of my personal favourites until the day I pop my clogs.  Donna Augustine’s Karma series is also worth a serious mention. I wish I’d thought of those characters…

It’s exciting to see who and what might come along next!  The future of urban fantasy can be whatever we want it to be – that’s the beauty of it 😉

Photo by BurgTender

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