Friday, January 02, 2009
The Future of Urban Fantasy
by Justin Gustainis
The start of a new year is often the time for prognostications, and I have decided to join the parade, get on the bandwagon, go with the flow, and generally embrace every cliché I can think of. Since urban fantasy is something I know a little about (I read it voraciously, and even write it occasionally), and because I have a number of important contacts in the publishing industry (several of who make more than minimum wage), I offer here my predictions of what we can expect to see in the urban fantasy field, in 2009 and beyond.
1. New occupations. Let’s face it, if you’re an urban fantasy protagonist, (hereafter UFP) you’ve gotta do something for a living. Not only does it give you a pretext for messing around in the weird shit, it also helps pay the expenses that inevitably come with the territory (the rising price of precious metals, for instance, means that silver bullets are increasingly becoming a luxury item). We’ve already got UFPs who are wizards, witches, disc jockeys, bounty hunters, waitresses, private detectives, exorcists, cops, secret agents, and mechanics. The writer’s ongoing struggle to find a new hook, a fresh face, and a nice three-book deal, means that we can soon expect to find at our local Barnes & Noble such characters as: Biff Buttcrack, Supernatural Plumber (“No clog too small, no monster too large”), Suzanne Menskowitz, Publicist of the Preternatural (her PR releases have meant the end to more than one evil being’s career), Murray Michaels, Occult Accountant (Just one spreadsheet error, Creatures of the Night, and he’s got you!) and Krystal von Hellsting, Paranormal Porn Star (who can instantly drain any vamp or werewolf of his, er, bloodlust).
2. New lifestyles. Many UFPs are more than human. Some are witches or wizards, with the ability to work magic; others are dhampires, powerful as vampires but resistant to sunlight; still others are werewolves, who can shapeshift with the best of them. In order to build a fan base, new writers are going to have to avoid these well-trod literary paths and come up with their own dual-nature UFPs. In 2009 we can expect to see books featuring werehamsters (those cheek pouches can hold a lot of wolfsbane), occult comedians (while you’re laughing at “Stake my wife – please!” they’ll drench you with holy water) and ghoulgles (half human-half ghoul creatures whose breath can repel a whole horde of enraged elves).
3. New weapons. Fresh supernatural challenges demand advances in occult weapons technology. In the future, UFPs will have access to “smart” invisibility cloaks, which will automatically make them disappear in the presence of demons, goblins, and Mary Kay sales reps; magically unflattering pants, which will guarantee that they will never appear on a book cover with their rears facing the reader, and supernatural staffs which, when the proper spell is cast, turn into solid dark chocolate – because, sometimes, you’ve just gotta have chocolate.
Will these predictions come true in the New Year? Only time, the desperation of publishers, and the tolerance of the reading public, will tell.
Happy New Year, everybody!
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