No, I’m not asking for help with chat-up lines. My problem is that nobody I associate with in my RT life knows what the hell Urban Fantasy is. Nobody. Not even my mom (Hi, Mom!) has really nailed down the concept, although she’s enjoyed the examples I’ve given her.
Indeed, much confusion has arisen out of this situation. Por ejemplo, my colleagues were being very good academics, and decided that they should research what I did. So they went up to a helpful salesperson at our local big chain bookstore, and said, “Hi! Can you point us towards the urban fantasy section!” The man replied, “I don’t really know what that is. We have an urban fiction section, if you’d like to see that.” So they followed him to a table, upon which sat a plethora of books, all of which had covers featuring African-American people. And they said, “Huh. Nicole does enjoy Lil Wayne quite a bit. Maybe?”
So they came back, wanting to know if I wrote books about strong black women, and I said that while I do enjoy urban fiction (I’ve had quite a few students write me book reviews from this new genre, and I’ve taken them up on some of their recommendations), it’s not what I do. I write about the experience of being half seal in a world full of killer Alfar rather than what it’s like to be young and black in America today.
Once again, therefore, they were left asking, “So, what is Urban Fantasy?”
And I responded how I always respond. “Well, it’s fantasy, but set in our world.” And they respond, “Ah! Um . . . what is fantasy?” And I say, “Fantasy is like Tolkien, or Narnia. So urban fantasy is fantasy set in our world, rather than a purely fantastical world.” And they inevitably say, “So it’s set in cities! But yours is set in Maine. That’s not very Urban.” And then I go beat my head against a wall.
When I sit down, I can think of a hundred great ways to describe UF. But then I realize that where I get stuck is that I assume so much experience that people don’t have. So when I say that UF is like fantasy, I assume people know what that is. When I say, “supernatural,” oftentimes I’m met with, “so, it’s like horror?” Or, “It’s like Buffy?” Which is a start, but it doesn’t encompass the genre and people usually want to end the discussion there. “Ah, it’s like Buffy. We get it.” Do they really?
So how do you tell people what UF is in a sentence or two? I can write a treatise . . . but I can never say it succinctly. Which is partly because I can never say anything succinctly (you be nice, Jaye), but also because it’s HARD, dude. And I’m officially stuck.