Not Every Fairy Wears Leather

07 Oct

Urban fantasy has swallowed up a great number of mythical and paranormal creatures.  Some are well-digested, and any elf or fairy or vampire could be switched with the other and no one would care.  And some sit in UF’s stomach like a wad of flower stems and by Maab you’d better not call a fairy an elf or a gnome a dwarf.  But for the most part both are domesticated, tamed, adpated to ciy life.  Even the elves wear black leather.

I’m not trying to take potshots at UF, mind you.  It’s just that when the only difference between a were-jaguar and a were-rat is that one’s got wide, green eyes and the other beady, black ones, you have to wonder what’s the point?

Thankfully, as popular as UF is, and as many mythologies it has cut into pieces and devoured, the wild ones are still out there.  They don’t play by human rules, or reason by human logic, and they certainly don’t angst over hot little teens and twenty-somethings like there’s no one of their own species to lust after.

For example, here’s a lovely little fairy story, from Beneath Ceaseless Skies: More Full of Weeping than You Can Understand by Rosamund Hodge.  No black leathers or “tough” cookies here.  And no schmexy fairy lovin’, either.

Look out for my next post, where I bitch even more about how UF has homogenized fantasy literature, and turned it into a bland slurry of empty names and pasty skin.  And it doesn’t matter if you call them “elves”, “fae”, “faeries”, “fairies”, “changelings”, “fey”, “fay” “feyries”, “brownies”, “goblins”, “vampires”, “werewolves”, “lycanthropes”, “shapeshifters”, whatever, they’re still all the same.


Posted by on October 7, 2010 in atsiko, Fantasy, Rants, Urban Fantasy


Tags: , , , ,

4 responses to “Not Every Fairy Wears Leather

  1. Sevvy

    October 8, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    I once scoured the bookstore for a fantasy book that didn’t have any of the names you wrote in your post, and came up with very little. It does seem like the genre is becoming homogenized, and maybe I shouldn’t judge these books by their covers, but when they all have the same leather-clad chick on the front, I can’t help but think they’re all the same.

    I am worried about putting elves in my current novel because of what’s going on in fantasy these days. I’m writing elves that stick closer to actual old legends and stories about them; my elves are more like devious Puck than that sexy elf in leather down the street. With a bit of “we may eat your children” thrown in. But the minute you use elf in a story these days, you invoke all that has already been written before you. I guess in some ways that’s good, since you can play off of people’s expectations.

    • atsiko

      October 8, 2010 at 2:06 PM

      Yeah. It can be good to invoke expectations, but sometimes it gets in the way. Did you read the story about fairies I linked to? If she can do that for fairies, I don’t think you have to wory about slightly more traditional elves.

  2. bigwords88

    October 10, 2010 at 2:14 AM

    Interesting. I haven’t really thought of UF as slowly pooling together in shared ideas, but now that you mention it, there is a shorthand which is steadily codifying itself. In a few years there will most likely be another shift, and what is currently the cutting edge material will seem so quaint.

    There’s a way of looking at novels from a side-on view: genre is only the fabric, the story is pattern. When people talk of novels which are alike in some regard, they normally group them by genre, yet the pattern of the books can vary wildly. Maybe looking at the more mythic aspects to discern pattern (the important bit) would shed light of what is truly the roots of the sub-genre.

    One of my main gripes with certain UF authors is the lack of fantasy in the books – they might call the trench-coat wearing, cigar-smoking hardass a werewolf, but it may as well be an alien, or a time-displaced WWII soldier. The basic character-sets used to populate UF rarely ventures too far outside what people are familiar with. As a reader, I expect to be blown away with ideas and stories regardless of genre.

    • atsiko

      October 10, 2010 at 2:46 AM

      I’ve often heard it said that there’s no such thing as new stories, and that all an author can hope to do is bring their own unique conception to a subject. Where I find a lot of urban fantasy fails is that it may bring a new character to the genre, but the core concepts never change. I’d like to see a new twist on how the werewolf/vampire/time-stranded soldier interacts with the urban environment, and not just a coat of paint over a character that acts the same as all that have come before it.

      That’s not to say you can’t enjoy the tried-and-true tropes of UF or any other sort of fiction, but if you really want to stand out and gain readers, you need to give them something new every now and again. It’s partially this reason why I’ve been adding a lot more YA to my TBR list, and a lot less Fantasy.


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