Am I Writing Contemporary or Urban Fantasy?

With the imminent release of Myth Keeper, the second book in my Mythical Menagerie fantasy series, I found myself once again wondering in which subgenre the series falls. Up until now I’ve been marketing it as urban fantasy, but if I look at other popular titles in the genre, it just doesn’t feel like the same type of story – think The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton, and the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. At points, they’re all very gritty and have some explicit content, and don’t really have the same whimsical vibe that my books have.

Are my books contemporary fantasy then? What even is the difference between urban and contemporary fantasy?

So, since it’s all the rage lately, I turned to ChatGPT for some answers…

Based on that response, it seems like the urban setting is obviously very important for an urban fantasy. In Myth Hunter (book 1) and Myth Keeper (book 2), Ambrose’s adventures take place in London, Paris, Cardiff, Rome and Dubrovnik, but they are not exclusively set in these cities. He also travels to more remote locations in Ireland and Scotland, and the third book in the series will see him go even further afield into the woodland regions of Europe. What’s more, a large part of the story is set within the Repository, a hidden mountain fortress somewhere in the Alps. So, it seems like, although there are urban locations in the Mythical Menagerie series, it’s not exclusively based in a city, or even one specific city, for that matter.

While both urban and contemporary fantasy feature a modern world with magical and supernatural elements, ChatGPT notes that “urban fantasy stories typically have a darker tone than contemporary fantasy and may include themes such as crime, violence, or romance.” While Myth Keeper does open with a murder scene and there are some elements of violence and tad of romance, the overall feel of the books (to me at least) is much more lighthearted and mainly centered around the wonder and adventure of the mythical world. And I don’t think anyone would describe my books as gritty or noir, although they do have that snarky first person POV characteristic of urban fantasy and noir fiction.

Which made me wonder: If a fantasy story is set in a city, but it’s not gritty or noir, can it still be considered urban fantasy?

And now I’m baffled again, because I can’t quite decide if the Mythical Menagerie falls into either category. So, I ask ChatGPT to define the characteristics of each subgenre for me.

Clear as mud, right?

At this point in the conversation, I tried to pivot and asked ChatGPT if there is a fantasy subgenre for adventure. The response? That most fantasy stories have adventure as a key component. When asked which subgenres focus specifically focus on adventure, the response was high fantasy, sword and sorcery, quest fantasy, and heroic fantasy (some examples include The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Earthsea Cycle, and The Wheel of Time). I think we can all agree that my Mythical Menagerie series does not fall into any of those categories.

Taking everything into consideration, my conclusion is that Myth Hunter and Myth Keeper, although they have elements of urban fantasy in them, probably align closer to the contemporary fantasy genre:

  • They have both urban and rural settings in the real world
  • They are genre blending with some elements of action, mystery, and romance
  • They focus more on a good adventure than gritty or explicit content
  • They have a witty everyman main character who is suddenly drawn into the magical world, but also feature supporting characters with magical powers
  • They explore the consequences of a mundane world colliding with the supernatural world

“But why does it matter?” I hear you ask. Well, knowing which genre the books fall into helps me pinpoint the types of readers who might appreciate them. Although I wrote the story I want to read, I would really love it for others to read and enjoy it too. And that’s what writing is all about.

Have you read Myth Hunter yet? Which genre do you think it falls into?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *