What is the difference between Urban Fantasy and Fantasy?
“Speculative Fiction” is a wide umbrella term that includes many sub-genres, including horror, science-fiction and fantasy. Urban fantasy is a sub-genre that evolved from fantasy.
Up until the 1990’s, bookstores didn’t really know where to put these books – they weren’t horror, and they certainly weren’t fantasy. With the growing popularity of authors such as Laurell K. Hamilton and Kim Harrison, the genre soon got its own section in the bookstore. A section that rivalled the more traditional fantasy.
Despite some overlapping similarities, urban fantasy and fantasy offer readers two completely different experiences.
Let’s take a very quick look at the similarities and differences.
- Both genres tend to have the same creatures – dragons, shape-shifters, fairies, elves, witches, etc. Though in my reading experience, urban fantasy tends to have more werewolves and vampires than fantasy.
- Fantasy stories tend to be epic. Heaps of world building, heaps of characters and thousands of words describing quest like journeys (usually over 100,000 words).
- Urban fantasy also has its fair share of world-building, but because it’s set in an urban environment (hence the ‘urban’ in urban fantasy) the author has a reference point for the reader and doesn’t need to do as much world-building. These books tend to be regular novel length, that is 65,000-85,000 words.
As a writer, I write the story my muse gives me. But, when it comes time to try and sell my book, I must consider the reader expectations associated with the genre I categorise my book in. In other words, which shelf does it go on? How will my readers find it? Does the cover give the reader a clue?
Do you think the image in this post could be used on the cover of an Urban Fantasy or Fantasy?