I may be poking a stick at a beehive here, but a conversation with a fellow writer got me thinking. We both write dark fantasy and horror and currently are shopping projects that fall under the incredibly broad sub-genre known as Urban Fantasy. From the inception of the term, Urban Fantasy meant to refer to any work with a “world within a world” theme. A fairly broad concept, this would include everything from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and E.K. Sedia’s A Secret History of Moscow to Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake Series and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.

Now it seems as though a standard plot/character has hijacked the genre and is now dictating all efforts to produce an original work. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Anita Blake, but it seems as though Urban Fantasy can only be one Consultant/Investigator/Enforcer with supernatural powers spending their time kicking monster but while dropping one liners. As editor for Paper Cities, E.K. Sedia tried to bring back the original meaning of the term Urban Fantasy by showcasing a broad range of stories that extended beyond the usual suspects (vampires, witches, werewolves, and zombies) to more unusual constructs that still perpetuated the “world within world” theme. Still, many agents and editors are coming to expect a very specific formula from writers who fall under this category, making it difficult to stand out in a sea of stories about ass kicking loners.

Disclaimer–my current project shifted more toward the acceptable ass kicking paranormal consultant theme, but I did craft it to be different from the norm as did my writer friend with her project. I have other projects manifesting that fall outside of the accepted construct. Does this mean we need to cultivate a new genre, or can Urban Fantasy go back to its more encompassing roots and embrace those writers who may not want to fit into the current formula? Any thoughts from you the masses?

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