Urban Fantasy (UF) can be defined as a unique subgenre within fantasy. Its primary point of departure from the larger genre of fantasy is its use of the city or urban locale as a portal through which the extraordinary, magical or supernatural is able to intersect and interact with the ordinary, mundane, real world. The city must operate as more than a backdrop and should reflect the experiences of life within a real city. The following traits are primary characteristics of UF, irreducible from the urban locale, and should be considered recurring traits that help classify the subgenre. UF is told primarily in first-person narrative and includes the protagonist’s emotional, psychological and metaphysical developments. The protagonist tends to be a female who is both empowered and marginalised. She tends to occupy a marginalised position in society due to her gender, employment or metaphysical inheritance, and is empowered by her ability and willingness to face and defeat the antagonist/s, and also usually by her connection with the supernatural, either through personal power or knowledge. The protagonist will be empowered by her role in the city—she will be recognisable as a typical inhabitant of the city and her role as hero will be linked to her ability to thrive in the urban environment. As such, the UF protagonist can be labelled an ‘urban hunter’—a new title belonging to this subgenre. The protagonist will also function as a necessary bridge between the groups introduced in the story—often as a human–supernatural liaison, but equally often acting between supernatural groups as a fellow ‘monster’. Further, thematic and tonal elements tend to include fear, anxiety and dread that reflect the level of disruption or violence present in the city. This can be either due to supernatural influences or in response to the socio-political issues of gender, sexuality and identity that the novels tend to raise. However, such thematic concerns are always developed and expressed through the characters’ interactions with and presence in the urban landscape.

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The Urban Hunter

City reflected in a woman's eye

Urban fantasy (UF) as a sub-genre arose in the 1980s and presented an alternative view of the heroic female protagonist. As UF has developed, a new archetype has emerged – the urban hunter. Defined by its situation in the urban environment this archetype draws on elements of gendered bodies, hybridization, the other and narrative purpose to create a unique character.

Defining Urban Fantasy

Urban Fantasy (UF) can be defined as a unique subgenre within fantasy. Its primary point of departure from the larger genre of fantasy is its use of the city or urban locale as a portal through which the extraordinary, magical or supernatural is able to intersect and interact with the ordinary, mundane, real world. The city must operate as more than a backdrop and should reflect the experiences of life within a real city.

The Origins of Urban Fantasy

This paper offers a wide overview of the various inspirations, sources and roots that have inspired the development of the new subgenre of urban fantasy. Reaching as far back as ancient mythologies coming forward to the great shift in fantasy literature that was Tolkien, the paper aims to suggest the deep roots of urban fantasy literature. With only a cursory connection to seminal and current texts, such as Emma Bull, Charles de Lint and Laurell K. Hamilton, the paper is a document interested in developing a framework for situating the growing subgenre.

An Etymological View of Urban Fantasy

Theorising the basis of any sub-genre requires an understanding of the etymology of the terms. Urban Fantasy is a sub-genre built upon a mixed heritage of low fantasy and urban realism. This paper is an overview examination of the Oxford English Dictionary's definitions of the key terms that form an understanding of the title of Urban Fantasy.

Read the full article here: https://www.academia.edu/25714835/An_Etymological_View_of_Urban_Fantasy