Qu'est-ce que l'urban fantasy ?

What is urban fantasy?

When I informed those around me about my writing project, one of the questions that came up most often, aside from the expected surprise, was: "Um...author of Urban Fantasy? Kesako, that?". And I admit that before having to look into the different literary genres, I would have simply said that I wrote fantastic stories. But not at all, the classification is much finer than one might think at first glance, and there are a multitude of subcategories in this ultra-rich universe.

First of all, we don't mix Fantasy and Fantasy. Initially, I thought (wrongly!) that the name Fantastique was a simple translation of Fantasy. Well no, they are indeed two different universes, even if it is more or less subtle. The Fantasy genre has existed for much longer than the Fantasy movement which has been structured in recent decades, particularly in the United States. So, how do we distinguish them? By the atmosphere which is not at all the same and which will make the immersion totally different for the reader. Generally, in fantasy a supernatural element appears in a real environment, but is unexplained and often disturbing. The atmosphere is much heavier, even distressing throughout the story. One of the masters of the genre is undoubtedly Stephen King. Whereas in Fantasy, the paranormal is part of the setting. The climate of the novel is therefore lighter: we naturally immerse ourselves in the “magic” of the novel. The example of Harry Potter - The Philosopher's Stone is quite representative.

In the Fantasy universe then, there are a whole bunch of nuances which led to the creation of subclasses to help the readership more easily find the titles they might like. What we are most accustomed to is Epic Fantasy: a generally invented world in which a quest, prophecy or mission for heroes to surpass themselves to fight and defeat evil forces. We no longer present The Lord of the Rings, eh? We are also talking about Heroic Fantasy which uses the same codes but where the story will focus on a single main character whereas in Epic, it is a more or less large group that is highlighted. To make the distinction, we can talk about Conan The Barbarian.

Another very well-known genre of Fantasy is Medieval. The settings are more or less the same as before but the story is set in the Middle Ages, or at least with the markers of this era. In particular the use of bladed weapons (no pistols), horses (no cars) or costumes (no Hermès bags). We meet mythical creatures like dragons, to name but a few. The Eragon saga is classified either as Medieval Fantasy... or Medieval Fantasy since the universe is "invented" and does not take place in our world. Yes, I know, it's not easy. And to confuse us even more, we can cite Game of Throne or The Witcher which are Dark Fantasy because they have a much darker and more violent atmosphere. And it clearly demonstrates the complexity of this exercise to want to “put away” a title with the right label!

So what exactly is Urban Fantasy? The story takes place in our world, in our time, in an urban environment of big cities. With supernatural beings taken from tales and legends who generally exist in great secrecy compared to humans. Wizards, Mages, Gods, Trolls, Fairies, Necromancers, etc... are the types of characters found there most often. Mostly it features a badass heroine who knows how to fight and who takes out bad guys with her powers. We can also have a subclassification in this subgenre (well yes, because otherwise it's not funny): Bit-Lit. Which is a contraction of “dick” and “literature”. We are going to bring together all the stories featuring heroes who "bite", namely Vampires and shapeshifters, the best known of which are Werewolves. It was the Bragelonne publishing house that invented this term about ten years ago and one of its best-known saga is Rebeca Kean. At the international level, the Anita Blake series was one of the first of its kind to have worldwide success.

There are still other categories, notably Fantasy Romance, but in this one we will focus on the love story of the couple of heroes in which paranormal elements intervene. And not the other way around. Because in general, there is always a romance in the air in Urban Fantasy which is more or less hinted at.

So, what kind do you prefer? (That is, if you know your way around...).

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