Saturday, October 10, 2009

Love at first Bite...

Siren Beat/Roadkill is out now! This double publication from Twelfth Planet Press features urban fantasy novelettes by myself (Siren Beat) and World Fantasy Award-winning, Dalek-writing Robert Shearman (Roadkill).

At least, I'm pretty sure mine is urban fantasy. Are the rest of you as confused as I am?

I've been recently reading the truly brilliant Beyond Heaving Bosoms, a snarky reader's guide to romance novels - basically, it is to the romance genre what Diana Wynne Jones' A Tough Guide to Fantasyland is to fantasy. One thing that startled me was how they discussed paranormal romance as if it was... well. Part of the romance genre. I've been thinking of it as part of the fantasy genre, and an inter-changeable term with urban fantasy.

It's quite a controversial issue, as it happens. I can't turn around without seeing someone else in the blogosphere re-defining 'urban fantasy' or 'paranormal romance' and every time they do, I change my mind about what Siren Beat is.

This great post looks at the boundaries between mainstream literature and urban fantasy, in which she defines urban fantasy as being anything fantastical set in 'our' world. By those standards, Siren Beat, a dark adventure story about battling murderous sirens on the docks of Hobart, is definitely urban fantasy.

But maybe it's paranormal romance too. It has... sort of a romance. A fairly unromantic one, though not in comparison to the marvellously awkward failed romance at the centre of Roadkill. It has all those elements that people claim for paranormal romance - a tough chick protagonist, an otherworldly hot male for her to lust after, several other dangerous and lusty magical creatures to fight off, and paranormal action which is given priority over any kind of Happily Ever After.

Of course, if Siren Beat was really a paranormal romance, my protagonist would have more than one love interest! Lust triangles (or um polygons) are a definite feature of the genre. I couldn't quite justify that at novelette length, though...

Some people get quite outraged at the paranormal (AKA 'fangfucker') stories getting to use the urban fantasy label, which previously belonged a more gentle, literary slipstream kind of story without quite so many tight leather garments. Hmm, is anyone else suddenly imagining a cage match between Charles De Lint and Laurell K Hamilton?

Where do you draw the line between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy?


To get hold of your own copy of Siren Beat/Roadkill, pick up a copy here for a mere $12/$15 depending on which part of the world you live in.

I'll be posting more about Siren Beat and paranormal romance/urban fantasy over at my own blog all this week.


Brendan said...

I think part of the problem is that while Urban Fantasy goes some way to explaining what your story may be about-fantasy characters in modern setting- it doesn't explain what traditional genre the story fits into(a common problem with Spec Fic).

Is it Romance, Mystery, Adventure, Saga, Detective, Post Modern(or a host of other prefixes)-Urban Fantasy? Is it Adult, YA or Children's?

I know it is more likely to have Cthulu in it than the Squid Men From Mars(unless it comes out later in the story that the Squid Men were a mass hallucination perpetrated by Zeus to obscure his other actions in the panic that ensues), but apart from that as with Sgt Schulz must say "I know nothing!"

Anonymous said...

Genre labels are best left vague, if you ask me. Trying to define them too specifically is where you rush into all sorts of issues. (cage matches between LKH and CDL being the least of them, and probably the prettiest.)

Having said that, I see a definitely difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and yes, paranormal romance does belong more in the romance arena than the spec fic one. Before paranormal romance became a 'genre', I used to call it 'hangbags and fangs', because basically that's what you get, an ultra hip, fiesty chick (either human or supernatural) who's main issue of the novel is chosing between a new Prada handbag or a new sexy supernatural lover (often heard lamenting about why she can't have both).

Basically, you have decide what is the primary conflict. The burgeoning romance or the fight with the tentacles on the dock (for example)? If the fight is the result of the romance, it's romance. If the romance is the result of the fight, it's the fight. Twitlight (intentional spelling) is paranormal romance. LKH is more UF (because, back when there was still a plot around the porn, the 'romance' was a result of the overarching conflict, not the cause of it).

If any of that makes sense, kudos to me and kudos to you for understanding. ;)

Cheers, Lisa.

TansyRR said...

Hey Brendan

You have a point - though really there are few genre labels that tell you much about what the plot will contain. Crime and romance do, and some of the fantasy types (epic fantasy, or sword and sorcery) but something like 'YA' or 'historical' doesn't really provide much clues...

I don't know that every story *has* to fit into a traditional genre, either. That's kind of the fun of non-traditional labels.

As far as Siren Beat goes, however, I think 'Fantasy Noir' sums it up. It's about a woman whose job it is to defend the harbour of Hobart from the various magical beasties who regularly emerge from the sea.

As far as dividing the old definition of urban fantasy from the new, maybe we need to use 'Urban Fantasy with/without leather trousers'...

TansyRR said...

Lisa, what a great attempt to make sense of it all!

I suspect that SB is on the urban fantasy side rather than the paranormal romance, mainly because the romance is definitely not the point of the story - it's more of a hindrance.

I have *never* read a vampire which focused on Prada handbags!! Seriously? I know Laurell K puts a great deal of time into describing clothes, but... oh my.

Whatever weirdness we read, there's always something weirder out there!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Lisa said:

Before paranormal romance became a 'genre', I used to call it 'handbags and fangs', because basically that's what you get, an ultra hip, feisty chick (either human or supernatural) who's main issue of the novel is choosing between a new Prada handbag or a new sexy supernatural lover (often heard lamenting about why she can't have both).

LOL, Lisa!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Brendan, the thing about genres, is that the readers want to know what the books is about. And genre is an easy way to define it, for book sellers.

Someone is going to attempt to define your book's genre, so you might as well do it yourself and at least define it the way you think it should be defined!

Nicky said...

Interesting topic Tansy. I've met a number of writers who like me, tend to straddle both the spec fic and romance worlds. They attend both kinds of cons for different aspects to their writing lives.

I agree with Lisa for most of it.

My 2c worth. After attending the recent ARRC & RWA conferences, I've realised (finally) that Romance is all about the romance being a)central to the story & b)most definitely the HEA aka Happy Ever After (or riding off into the sunset).

An interesting example of marketing was asking Sherrilyn Kenyon about her Dark Hunter series. They can be placed in romance, horror or fantasy in stores apparently. Depends on the store (in the US that is). Interesting fact is her readership is apparently 40% male & they have no idea many market them as romance (which apparently can make for some interesting book signing queues).

I discovered personally what I like are love stories as distinct to romance stories. Romeo & Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Titanic are all love stories aka no HEA.

Urban fantasy to me is where the romance may not be there, or if present, secondary to the plot.

Oh & on the fashion ones heaps of them. My favourite term I've heard of for them is vampire (usually) chick lit. Though I'm sure that is not the 'correct' use of any of those terms.

Brendan said...

Prior doing my original post I did check the net for a org chart showing the ever branching tree that is genre into smaller and more specific categories. I am sure it is out there somewhere.

My first thought was Paranormal Romance would be a sub-genre of Urban Fantasy-unless of course it mostly takes place in small backwoods areas, since I my understanding of 'Urban' would require a city-centric locale(and talking of cities, doesn't Siren beat take place in Hobart? Does that qualify as a city? ;-))

My real opinion is, despite my brain's attempt to over categorise, is to keep it vague. You don't necessarily want to be tied down into to concrete a sub-genre(or sub-sub genre). Someone I hope will pick up your book in error but give it a chance anyway, becoming a loyal fan(it has happened to me).

Trent Jamieson said...

Fabulous post, Tansy. And something I've been thinking about for a while. I definitely see my novels as Urban Fantasy, but there is also a large element of romance, and I'm quite comfortable with that.

It seems to me to be quite an inclusive genre.

TansyRR said...

Hey Trent!

I have to say, I think 'urban fantasy' is entirely the way to go with yours - the combination of male author and male protag puts it well outside the narrow(ish) perceptions of what paranormal romance is.

Hahahaha, having said that, yours is WAY more a romance than mine!

Trent Jamieson said...

Well, I am a romantic :-)

William Dunigan said...
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