My Urban Fantasy Love Letter and Confessions

It's all Diana Gabaldon's fault that I love urban fantasy.

It all started before the genre had a name. The year was 1999-- the year Diana Gabaldon's The Outlandish Companion was published. I was starved for something to read-- something good. I'd already read The Outlandish Companion twice, (It's no small book.), some parts more than twice. [This is the pitfall of being a fan of DG: nothing compares and it's a loooong wait between books. Fortunately, DG is well aware of these problems and properly planned to deal with them.] In The Outlandish Companion, she included something called The Methadone List: a list of books she recommended for reading while waiting for her next book. Little did I know that list contained books that would lead me to a whole new addiction.

Her seemingly benign entry read:

Laurell K. Hamilton
The Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Series

A unique series (nine books so far), dealing with the adventures of Anita Blake, licensed vampire executioner and working zombie raiser, who-- in the course of the series-- is courted by a werewolf and a vampire, and battles just about every form of supernatural creature I've ever heard of-- and not a few I hadn't. Extremely violent and bloody, but never gratuitously so. Nonstop action, but the most interesting aspect of the series is the increasing complexity of the moral questions asked, as the chief character explores her own powers in greater depth, and begins wondering exactly what the differences are between the humans and the monsters.

Immediately, I thought, "Ew! Violent and bloody? Extremely so? Not for me." I tried a few other recommended authors instead. One day, I was at Chapters, browsing for a good book, when something caught my eye. It was 2002, and Jove had just released the mass market paperbacks of LKH's books with covers done in black showcasing a woman's body part in a single colour. You know the ones. I remembered LKH's name from the Methadone List. Violent and bloody? The covers didn't show anything remotely violent or bloody. Intrigued, I looked for the first one and started reading. As it turns out, it wasn't the first one of the series, but the earliest one the store had, Circus of the Damned. It wasn't long before I gobbled up every single one of Laurell's books I could get my hands on. (After the image of a naked Richard the first time he met Anita? How could I not?)

In 2004, as I was browsing through Chapters again (I do this a lot, by the way), Kelley Armstrong's Dime Store Magic happened to catch my eye. The covers were reminiscent of LKH's Jove covers. Could there be more books like LKH? I opened it up, and was immediately hooked. I soon gobbled up all of KA's books.

It wasn't long before I found Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files. I got the first five books at a used book store for a dollar each. What a find! Within a year of that find, it was announced a TV show was being made and Dresden became a household name.

By the time Kim Harrison came along, and my friend Vicki Pettersson was published, the genre had a name. Word of these books was beginning to spread. More writers started popping up every day. I found Emma Bull and Charles de Lint because the genre had a name. Readers had something to talk about, even if we all disagreed (and still do) on the definition and origin of Urban Fantasy.

People, it's not about the label. It's about the love.

One night as I was falling asleep, I felt compelled to get out of bed and create a website. It was to be a site where fans of urban fantasy authors could find more books, more authors in this fledgling genre. I must confess, I had an ulterior motive: I didn't want to see the newborn genre crash and burn. I wanted it to continue, to grow, to still exist for the day when I finally got it together enough to write a decent urban fantasy novel of my own. So, using a pseudonym, I created the site, and it became extremely popular. The genre became extremely popular.

But for some folks it wasn't about the love, it was about the label. Every day was another battle over the definitions of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and when the problems of every day life took over, I let the site go. Urban fantasy didn't need me any more. It had spread its wings and soared across the sky. (I scored an ARC of Jaye Wells's Red-Headed Step Child from that site, so it wasn't all for naught. ;o)

I love urban fantasy. Sometimes I miss the conversations and discussion from the website, but I don't miss the controversy. Ah, but I should have known Urban Fantasy is embedded with controversy. "Violent and bloody" should have been my first clue.


Do you love urban fantasy? Write your own Urban Fantasy love letter as part of International Urban Fantasy Month by Jaye Wells for your chance to win excellent prizes!