So what is Urban Fantasy??? Essentially, Urban Fantasy is where fiction and reality meet--usually in the pages of a fictional book, graphic novel, comic, or on the silver screen. Take a city, any city, like Boston, for example--and someone like Nancy Holzner can turn it into a supernatural playground full of shape-shifters, zombies, and of course, werewolves in her 2009 debut novel Deadtown. Emma Bull's War of the Oaks does something similar to Minneapolis. Kelly Gay's 2009 The Better Part of Darkness makes Atlanta the crossroads of all things supernatural. Mike Raicht and Brian Smith take on "The Dark" in their new graphic novel series, The Stuff of Legend, where reality and fiction meet in Brooklyn. And of course, we all know how worlds created by Harris, Meyer and Rowling spill out into places like New Orleans, Seattle and London. Humans exist in Urban Fantasy, but so does the supernatural--the two struggling to co-exist in an urban setting.
What's not to love!
Is there truly any human being who doesn't wonder, what if? Maybe you're taking a walk in the woods and you feel like you're being watched, but no one is there but you and the trees. Of course, in Urban Fantasy, those trees might be alive...especially if you happen to live in a major city.... Or maybe some kind of faery-folk inhabit the woods where you're walking--their eyes piercing your intuitive shield to the point where, though you hear nothing and see no one, you keep turning around...just in case.
But why now, in the sense of "now" being the last 20 or so years?
Well, in fact, Urban Fantasy has roots in things like ancient Greek and Roman mythology--just a few hundred years before Christ's birth, Romans were celebrating holidays honoring the "gods," like Saturn. It was a time when, humans and the supernatural DID co-exist--when gods like Zeus came down from the heavens to have affairs with human women, producing demi-god children, like Hercules.
Time magazine called it the "God Gene." Psychologist Carl Jung called it the "Collective Unconscious." And scholar Joseph Campbell called it the "Hero's Journey." And yet there are others that call it "Faith." Whatever you call it, human beings have an innate sense of something greater than themselves...and throughout history, time, space, transcending cultures, geography and theology--we have all looked for that greatness. But what happens when science and technology have removed much of the mystery from our world? God may exist, but so do black holes, so does dark matter, and so do the tiniest sub-atomic particles.
Fiction has become the new religion of the 21st century. And Urban Fantasy brings us our new gods.
No matter what you believe, or don't believe, know that there is more in Heaven and Earth than dreamt of in our philosophies....
*To learn more about Urban Fantasy, follow @UF_Chat on Twitter every Saturday at 3pm Pacific Standard Time or read any of the books, graphic novels or comics mentioned here.