Writing Urban Fantasy or No I Don’t Write Porn

During the course of an average conversation with someone I’ve just met, the fact that I write books usually comes up. This is always followed by the question, “Oh? What do you write?”

I always respond, “Urban fantasy.”

Why do I respond in that way? Because that’s what I write. Urban fantasy. Here is the definition straight off of wikipedia:

Urban fantasy describes a work that is set primarily in a city and contains aspects of fantasy. These matters may involve…coexistence between humans and paranormal beings.

That’s Matthew and Epp for certain, and I’m so used to clicking off that box in the hundreds of forms I’ve filled out over the years, marketing and publishing these books, that I no longer think twice about it.

At least not until the words come out of my mouth during one of these conversations and something flickers through the other person’s eyes. Something fleeting, a little giggly, and absurdly skeptical of what I’ve just disclosed.

Then I remember. For the vast majority of people, the phrase “urban fantasy” means “porn.” Or at least “porn with ghosts.”

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the covers of some of the best selling urban fantasies going today.

Urban Fantasy Cover

We can assume that this is set in a city…I guess. I mean there’s a treasure chest so surely there’s a town somewhere and, yes, there are demons and they apparently prefer blonds. So check and check, urban fantasy.

The little teaser paragraph on that one is truly amazing, managing to borrow those old Mastercard ads as well as get across that our main character pays a sufficient amount for her haircuts so that we know she’s not boring or poor or anything.

Moving on.

Urban Fantasy Cover 2

At first this one seems deceiving. There are woods in the background! This can’t be taking place in a city! However, were these two out camping they would probably need some sort of protection from the elements. Like clothes. Thus, we can infer that they are merely out sunbathing with their automatic weapons and that their apartments where they keep their clothing, and therefore a city, are nearby.

Plus…oh fuck it that one just makes fun of itself.

Urban Fantasy Cover 3

Now…this one is…there’s a city…is that dude wearing make up?

And is the chick a vampire too?  Those look like fangs.

So basically this is vampire sex? And even if we presume the chick was human, I don’t think I’d label her as scared by this encounter. Granted, dating back to the earliest legends, the notion of vampires has often been interpreted with sexual overtones.

But this is just sex. Sex with biting. Which some would say is the only kind of sex worth…you know what let’s just move on shall we?

Here we’ve got a little something for the ladies.

Urban Fantasy Cover 4

Now, I know what you’re thinking (god help me). You’re thinking, “There isn’t a single thing in this cover anywhere that’s fantastical or urban.”

Well as for the urban part, we can assume that the ship in the background, being a small vessel, is unable to travel very far from port, so there’s a city around here somewhere.

And the fantastical part? One word: merman.

Now check out this one.

What? Am I supposed to be talking?

I really like green eyes (note to self, add Green-Eyed Envy to Amazon wishlist).

At any rate, I’m not entirely sure how this happened to my genre or when it happened. Maybe porn with ghosts came first and then the genre urban fantasy was defined and *I’m* the newcomer here. Or maybe urban fantasy was defined as a genre and for some reason it happened to draw in a lot of porn writers…it does sort of sound dirty. Or maybe these books are all literary masterpieces that are just trying to be heard in a crowded market by putting some eye candy on their covers.

All I know is, right after the words, “I write urban fantasy,” come out of my mouth, I immedietly follow it up with, “that means it takes place in an urban landscape, like New York, but has fantastical elements in it.”

Or something.

Whatever I’m going to stare at that green-eyed one again.