Clarifying Sub-genres

This is a continuation and expansion of a discussion started over on Facebook, which was kickstarted by this summary of Carousel Sun:

Urban fantasy novel, sequel to Carousel Tides (2010), about a woman who returns to a small town in Maine and becomes involved in a faerie war. (Locus Monitor — New Books, 4 February)

There are a couple of things wrong with the above.  Most notably, Carousel Sun isn’t Urban Fantasy, because it takes place in Maine, and it does not take place in Bangor, Lewiston-Auburn, or Portland, which are the three “urban” areas in the whole state, according to the Federal Government.

I’m also wondering where they got this “faerie war.”

We thought we’d be OK by calling the Carousel books “contemporary fantasy,” but apparently “contemporary fantasy” means something Very Definite to some people.  (To me, “contemporary fantasy” means “a fantasy story that takes place Right Now.”)

So, I’ve been giving some thought to how best to describe these books, as much in order to guide readers who would like this kind, as warn away those readers who come in thinking they’re getting A Specific Thing that the books don’t deliver.  (Like, oh, “faerie wars.”)

Now, the best I can come up with as a sub-genre is “mundane fantasy.” Kate, after all, doesn’t get a free pass on anything for being Guardian — it’s Added Responsibility for which she goes uncompensated (cue Superman’s Song). Fercryinoutloud, Gaby collects returnables, and I don’t see Borgan flyin’ no yacht. Felsic’s crew — wait, do you guys have Felsic yet? Anyhow, it’s not like any of these folks are living high in the fancy condos; they’re working people, doing their jobs.

So, like I said: “mundane fantasy” or maybe “blue collar” fantasy, though there has been some concern expressed that, while these come close, they don’t quite Nail It.

Summing up, the points for discussion are:

1.  What are your expectations of “contemporary fantasy”

2.  If you had to tighten the classification for the Carousel books (Tides and Sun), what phrase would you use?  Please try to avoid spoilers for the books.

Have at it!

5 thoughts on “Clarifying Sub-genres”

  1. (mirroring from FB) First sentence of the Wikipedia page on “contemporary fantasy”: “These terms are used to describe stories set in the putative real world (often referred to as consensus reality) in contemporary times, in which magic and magical creatures exist, either living in the interstices of our world or leaking over from alternate worlds.” I will ponder how one might sub-sub-genre the Carousel books further than that, but the need to do so isn’t immediately obvious to me…

  2. I went to see what ENCHANTMENT EMPORIUM was (similar to yours) and rats, it’s considered urban fantasy.

  3. I agree that “Urban Fantasy” is less descriptive of the Carousel than “Contemporary Fantasy”, but I think some people regard the former as the opposite of “High Fantasy”. Of course, some people don’t believe humans are causing Global Climate Change, so what do they know?

  4. At least for me, urban fantasy is becoming a classification I don’t like, because it often denotes an over-special prima dona who acts like a borderline nympho who spends more attention to the bedroom than the zombie apocalypse.

    I think many believe urban fantasy means in an urban world/universe/today, not an urban location. Fantasy seems to be shifting to swords and dragons only. I’m suspect high and low fantasy are disappearing outside older fen… so the division in the general public is for either urban(modernish) vs. fantasy (swords and elves). I can’t recall seeing or buying high fantasy for a long time.

  5. I guess I always though urban and contemporary fantasy meant similar, if not the same, thing. A fantasy that takes place in current times, invisible to most except those few that get smacked upside the head by it. I never took the “urban” part too literally since many fantasy books have been put into that. I am thinking of Mercedes Lackey’s Chrome series, which does in part take place in a city, but not the entire series. I don’t guess any of this helps, but it’s my two cents none the less.

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