As I observed in the Smoke review, urban fantasy is kind of a heavily tread path. It’s hard to do anything new with it, since it’s pretty much “some magical thing interacts with the real world, shenanigans ensue,” and print. I’m very aware of this, having run an urban fantasy and fairies game for years. I can come up with a half dozen plots for such a setting in a few minutes. In fact… I’m timing myself.
The city’s homeless population begins to disappear. Young vampires are flocking to follow a strange figure who claims to have the secret for circumventing the weaknesses that come with their form of immortality. You spot out of the corner of your eye a figure that seems to be yourself or your friend, but in a place or a time that doesn’t make any sense. Widespread mechanical failures throughout the city correspond with unexplained citings of shadowy beings.
Two minutes. Slowed down by my being an absurd person who was correcting typos despite the clock running.
And yet it’s awesome. We keep coming back to it. Some of that is certainly wish fulfillment, to be found particularly in the vampire and author insert have sexy adventures subgenre, of course. But wouldn’t it be cool if tomorrow you witnessed something impossible and were swept into the world of ghouls and marauding werewolves and ghostly happenings? Of course it would. Don’t lie. Sure, we’re all picturing ourselves as the heroes of the story, not the side characters who get bumped off or injured, certainly not the random mooks who learn about vampire fangs via thorough exsanguination. But we’re allowed.
It’s a great genre to relate to. And it’s a hard one to write, I can attest. You have to get things right (though you should do some research if you’re making up your world, too, of course). The author may decide that in this reality, the supernatural things have come out of the closet, or always were, or are sneaky and secret, but there’s always a sense of a parallel world, a secret place you get to get into if you’re cool enough. And it creates a real demand on the characters, too. Most urban fantasy I really like is character driven. There’s drama and adventure, but the people have to be truly awesome, because otherwise they won’t live up to it. It’s easier to say “you’re doing it wrong!” to the snarky beat cop who knows a thing or two about werewolves than to the barbarian riding the dragon.
Though the fact that Twilight is around kind of busts up my theory. Oh, well. Urban fantasy. It’s all been done and will be done again, and I’ll read it every time. Unless it’s boring vampire sex. Blah.