Tag Archives: Anita Blake

Analyzing urban fantasy: Sex, violence and the supernatural

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

Until I cracked my first urban fantasy book a couple years ago, I would have guessed that the genre was some sort of kinky Zane meets “The Lord of the Rings” thing. Not so.

Urban fantasy is a subset of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times or contain supernatural elements. Wikipedia…

The genre is also sometimes dubbed “supernatural romance.” At any rate: Fantasy…romance…those books are not generally my bag. But when the first season of HBO’s “True Blood” wrapped, I was jonesing for more sex, intrigue, female heroes and monsters, so I tucked into Charlaine Harris’ series that spawned the popular show. After quickly dispensing with every book in the Sookieverse, where a telepathic waitress and her neighbors in fictional Bon Temps, La., deal with the “coming out” of the world’s supernatural population, I moved on to Kim Harrison’s “The Hollows” series. Harrison’s world centers around a red-headed, leather-clad half-witch half-demon and her partners, a foul-mouthed pixie and a surly, bisexual vampire. Harrison’s nine volumes consumed, I sampled one Laurell K. Hamilton Anita Blake book before finishing the whole of her Merry Gentry series, which follows the exploits of a fae princess and her multi-hued band of lovers. (No, not black, white and brown–more like green, lavender and rainbow with the errant pointy ear or tentacle.)

I’ve developed a fondness for the urban fantasy genre. The books make fast, fun reads. But for me, someone who is drawn to issues of race and gender, even trashy, literary confections represent an opportunity for social analysis. As you may have guessed by the descriptions of some of the more popular urban fantasy series, the genre is all about creating new worlds with new societal norms. In urban fantasy, werewolves walk among us, Elvis really is alive (or undead) and the American Vampire League fights for the rights of marginalized former people. What I find curious, is that though their chosen genre frees them from the replicating the hierarchies of the real world, most authors of urban fantasy still manage to re-create common biases surrounding race, gender and sexuality. Continue reading