Fear, Anxiety and Dread

Dissections heading image: scissors cutting into a body.

Mannolini-Winwood, S. (2018). Fear, anxiety and dread: Examining the influence of antecedent
genres on urban fantasy’s thematic concerns. Dissections, 13, 17. Retrieved from http://www.simegen.com/writers/dissections/Dissections%202018/dissections_page_17.html

And a city the size of this one, with all the hiding places it contained, would make such a perfect hunting ground for a demon – especially one that could look like a cloud of smog. (Children of the Night, Mercedes Lackey, 1990)

That was what they wanted, what they all wanted: to feed until they killed. The power of life and death. (The Sweet Scent of Blood, Suzanne McLeod, 2009)

They stood among the ancient grave markers of the small family cemetery, waiting. Nothing waits as patiently as the dead. (Guilty Pleasures, Laurell K. Hamilton, 2007)

Urban Fantasy (UF) has deep roots – it draws on ancient myths and folklore, the terror and gore derived from horror and dark fantasy, and the more subtle atmosphere of fear and dread of gothic literature. As a sub-genre, like any other fiction, UF touches on a wide variety of thematic concerns. However, at its core are the prevailing concerns of fear, anxiety and dread. These themes are a consistent element due primarily to UF’s choice of situating its tales in an urbanscape. The aspects of the non-rational, supernatural, violence and gore are present in UF as aids in developing the concerns of fear, anxiety and dread. However, UF is fundamentally tied to the city; thus, it is the presence of those aspects within the city that evoke these thematic concerns. The urbanscape that UFs develop are necessarily based in the real world because they conform to this need as a characteristic of the subgenre. UF authors deliberately connect the intersection of the non-rational and real-world setting of the city to unsettle the reader. As Brian Levack (2014, pp. 926–927) stated, the effectiveness of terror themes is when ‘those who are horrified at what they witness fear that they too may become victims’. The familiarity of the setting in UF works in a similar manner to popular horror fiction. It uses the threat of within-the-known to excite a negative response in the reader. As a theme, fear occurs often in fiction because it is a ‘reliable source of suspense, conflict, and reader identification’ (Attebery, 2008, p. 1). UF introduces fear, anxiety and dread into the narrative because these are recognisable concepts for any city dweller. The flipside to the modern, freeing city is the dichotomous den of darkness and danger. In turn, UF deliberately develops particular landscapes that are able to feature these thematic concerns.

Continuing reading here: