I've been on a deadline, so I've barely left the house lately, which rules out
being "on the road," and I haven't even been around much online, but there was a
panel topic from FenCon
back in September that's been churning around in my brain ever since then. The
panel was on "suburban fantasy," and that's brought up some thoughts about where
contemporary fantasy novels take place.
The current "urban fantasy" genre seems to draw heavily from the hardboiled
detective novels, with a somewhat outsider hero (or heroine) who is tough and
street smart, dealing with the underworld. In urban fantasy, that hero usually
has some kind of supernatural powers or status, and the underworld is the world
of the paranormal. But what about contemporary fantasy stories that don't use
the city as a setting?
The suburbs would seem like an ideal place to explore the idea of the "other."
In our culture, we think of the suburbs as a place of sameness and conformity.
The houses all look alike, and every shopping area has the same national chain
stores and restaurants. Anyone who doesn't quite fit in can be made to feel very
left out. Now multiply that by hundreds of times by making the "other" be not
just someone who dresses differently and likes different music, but also is some
kind of supernatural or magical being who has to keep that status a secret. In
an urban setting, at least all the oddballs manage to find each other and
establish a kind of community, but what does a vampire, werewolf, faery or
wizard do in suburbia? Then there's the small town environment, which may not
have quite the same level of physical sameness but which does tend to be a place
where it's hard to keep secrets. These settings might create even more conflict
for our supernatural main characters.
There have been a few books that take the urban fantasy type stories or
mythology and put them in different contemporary settings. Julie Kenner's demon-
hunting soccer mom series, starting with CARPE DEMON, involved a
suburban housewife who was also a retired demon slayer forced out of retirement.
I'm currently reading a book called ELFLAND by Freda Warrington, which
explores a fae magical culture in a modern English village. And I do have my
suspicions about a large "fairy ring" of toadstools that keeps appearing in my
suburban neighborhood. I know there's a story there.
Shanna Swendson writes "Fairy Tales for Modern Times" and is the
author of the Enchanted, Inc. series about a Texan in New York City, a
magical NYC. Visit her
website or blog
for more information.
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