So, this blog post may be a bit scattered, but for some reason today I am thinking about different genres and what is appealing about them. It started off with me thinking about what the appeal of high fantasy is verses urban/contemporary fantasy. (My preference as a reader between those two is urban fantasy, but that's just a personal thing. I have been known to enjoy the odd high fantasy novel once in a while.)
High fantasy is the stuff of wizards, princesses, wenches, kings and princes and serfs. There are all kinds of cool things within, magical objects, swords and corsets, etc... At the beginning of any high fantasy novel the rules and roles of the kingdom are clear, characters tend to fall into prescribed roles and their fates are married to social systems. There is a sort of weird comfort in that. Most of us have choices to make about what we want to do with our lives and when we arrive in the land of grownups sometimes choices can be intimidating, even scary. (For writers, choices we make for our characters on the page make a story what it becomes, we choose one door and other possibilities close unless we gut our fiction-babies during rewrites and change the whole thing.) In high fantasy, the story, the conflict, the forward motion comes when individuals are prompted by fate, events or internal struggle to step out of the roles the world imposes on them. Whether or not the story involves rebellion, this step is a rebellion and what follows is liberation. So it provides both comfort and liberation for the reader. A heady brew, methinks, that can yield worthy and fascinating narratives.
Urban fantasy usually begins in consensus reality, or something that we would recognize as the world that we, the readers, know to be real. Our world grows increasingly technical. (I'm not placing a value judjment there, that would be an entirely different post.) What urban fantasy brings to the reader is the possibility of magic. It applies myth to the modern world and in so doing helps us to make sense of things. I am not super tech literate. Orcs and Goblins and the Fae make more sense to me sometimes than cell phones and computers and their attendant viruses. So it represents this interesting marriage between ideas about magic from olden-times and the modern landscape we have to navigate. The way I think of it, it is a way of exploring how our human selves co-exist with a world that is increasingly device-driven. This is not the point, necessarily, of these stories, but its one of those themes that, at least for me, always floats around the edges of works of urban fantasy.
At least, this expresses a little bit about what I've observed.