The Dark Side

I have a theory I've been working on for a few days. It's rough, so bear with me.

I've told a few people that I think UF is females' answer to the classic hero's journey. Instead of UF heroine's looking for love, they're searching for their destinies. That destiny may include love, but there's more to it than that.

Let's assume for a moment that my heroine's journey idea is valid (you may not agree but it's my blog post). Another genre explored this same idea. That's right, I'm talking about those pink books. Chick lit also explores a woman's journey. Generally the plots of these books revolved around women who wanted it all--the perfect career, great friends, and love.

So, here's my theory: Urban fantasy is the dark side's response to Chick Lit.

Both genres are predominately written in first person. While there are male protagonists (Hi, Anton and Jeremy) in UF, the genre is dominated by novels about female leads. But where chick lit is often lighter in tone, a lot of urban fantasy is downright gritty.

Instead of looking for the perfect pair of shoes or dealing with the boss from hell, UF heroines kick ass and are, in some cases, literally saddled with the boss of hell.

Another difference is how the genres deal with issues of family dysfuntion. In Bridget Jones, the mother is a little nutty. Alternately, my heroine's grandmother tries to kill her.

Need further proof? Our own Mark Henry's Happy Hour of the Damned is Sex and the City with zombies. He managed to pull off a convincing parody of Chick Lit, while infusing the novel with the darker elements UF is known for. Hell, he even has a pink cover for book two in the series. Satire, anyone?

Please understand that this theory is not in any way a condemnation of Chick Lit. I think the genre is unfairly maligned. Before New York decided to stop buying the genre, I read my fair share of them. But I do think Urban Fantasy speaks to the women who maybe felt chick lit was too pretty and neat. The ones more likely to relate to Buffy Summers than Carrie Bradshaw.

What do you think?


Is that where the chick-lit audience went? And rightly so. I backed off the shopaholics and prada devils because I was seeking with darker elements. Hence my turning to paranormal romance and then eventually to urban fantasy.

Thanks for the insight!
Texanne said…
Very thoughtful post. Maybe chicklit, with its emphasis on unrestrained shopping, fell victim to the declining economy. However, there is never a shortage of demons. Thank goodness! Oh, that sounds wrong.
Very thoughtful post. Thanks!
Marie said…
I actually discussed this with a graduate/doctorate student who came to my library to talk about her research about vampires. She said that 8 out of 10 of the bestsellers in the US in 2009 were paranormal romances, and that it was a definite trend. I thought about trends in the past years, and the fact that chicklit has almost disappeared. So I asked her about that, and she said that the transition from chicklit to paranormal romance was going to be covered in a course she was giving in the spring.
Of course, urban fantasy and paranormal romance are not the same thing, even if they're closely related, but I'd say that they're part of the same trend.

I also think that books like Twilight have made people realize that it isn't weird to read books with monsters in them. I've always read those kind of books, but I know a lot of people wouldn't have read a UF before reading Twilight.

We don't really have the distinction UF/PNR where I live, and most books with vampires in them will be classified as horror, but in the sci-fi bookstore in my town, they've set up a whole shelf just for UF/PNR.

And, yes, I'm a Buffy Summers kind of girl, but I was also always much more of a Bridget Jones kind of girl, than Carrie Bradshaw. I'm more interested in the flaws.

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