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It could be magic

January talking meme, Jan 21. From cornerofmadness: what draws you to the urban fantasy type of story lines?

I am drawn to urban fantasy stories because I like stories that show a secret supernatural world existing in what is ostensibly the mundane, scientifically skeptical world we all live in, and characters who lives are recognizable to the average reader, who are nevertheless part of that supernatural world.

Stories like BtVS, Harry Potter, or Dresden Files, make it easy to imagine that the supernatural exists around me in the world I see everyday. Stories like this allow me to think, "Underneath all this drab, dreary mundanity is a fantastic world full of excitement and magic." All I need is the right book/movie/TV show to reveal what's hidden all around me.

And that makes the mundane world I see outside my window seem just a little bit more magical.

Take Buffy, for example. As I understand it, the BtVS/Angel world is supposed to be our world. Not an alternate universe or anything like that. It's our world, but what most of us don't realize is that magic is real if you know how to tap into it. Demons exist, just hope you don't run into one.

Why do I have this need? I guess because I'm an agnostic, and an empiricist, but what I feel compelled to believe is not the same thing as what I wish were true. "Urban" fantasy lets me step away from that for an hour or two.

This is the reason I am not drawn much to High Fantasy (e.g., Lord of the Rings). High fantasy stories are set in completely imaginary places that aren't Earth, nor even historical Earth. They often contain humans, dogs, oak trees, and other earthlike things to make them more accessible, but the resemblance to our world is usually a pseudo-resemblance to some historical era I have little connection to. I don't mind fantasy or science fiction set in a historical period on Earth, as long as the historical period is genuinely drawn outside of its supernatural elements.

So the "on Earth" is important to me. As is the "secret." I want a story world where the supernatural is considered debunked and its delights and dangers lurk in the shadows, only known to a select few. For this reason, I also don't care much for urban fantasy where the supernatural elements of the story are out in the open (e.g., Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton). Partly because the supernatural being "secret" makes it easier to pretend all this really is going on all around me. But also, I have always had a kink for "the big secret" that only select characters know and the rest of the world is oblivious to.

Comments

( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
a2zmom
Jan. 22nd, 2014 12:06 am (UTC)
Your thoughts on this are really interesting. I like the thought that maybe there really is magic lurking where we don't see it.
masqthephlsphr
Jan. 22nd, 2014 04:11 pm (UTC)
I suppose that limits the kind of fantasy I consume (although I have LoTR on DVD and watch True Blood), but it really is about feeding an emotional need for me.
cornerofmadness
Jan. 22nd, 2014 03:43 am (UTC)
very interesting. Thanks for answering the question.
masqthephlsphr
Jan. 22nd, 2014 04:12 pm (UTC)
Doing research on your reader base?
cornerofmadness
Jan. 22nd, 2014 10:30 pm (UTC)
it couldn't hurt. Though, unlike you, I like the ones where the supernaturals aren't secret as much as I do the ones where they are.
masqthephlsphr
Jan. 22nd, 2014 10:47 pm (UTC)
I do read some of that stuff and watch True Blood, etc, but I don't find it quite as emotionally satisfying.
cornerofmadness
Jan. 23rd, 2014 02:38 am (UTC)
Understandable. Each have their strengths and weaknesses (I'm just a little tired of the reactions when someone learns of the secret but mostly because I've been reading this stuff for nearly 40 years now)
masqthephlsphr
Jan. 23rd, 2014 03:58 pm (UTC)
"The reactions"?
cornerofmadness
Jan. 23rd, 2014 04:41 pm (UTC)
The constant denials of what's right before their eyes. (Scully, Gwen Cooper, etc etc) which I grant you might be natural but after a while gets annoying (to me). I found Willow and Xander's reactions almost refreshing in that sense but at this point I could be remembering that wrong.
masqthephlsphr
Jan. 23rd, 2014 04:48 pm (UTC)
I posted on this elsewhere - the inaccurate representation of the Rational/Scientific character. To be scientific is not to search for a "rational" explanation for everything. That is in fact the height of unscientificness. To be scientific is to believe the evidence of your observations. This is a stereotype/trope character that appears in a lot of fantasy that irritates the hell out of me, not the least because it makes scientific folk look like complete idiots, and misunderstands the scientific process.
cornerofmadness
Jan. 23rd, 2014 04:51 pm (UTC)
Excellent summation of the problem. I agree (and it didn't help matters that I was watching a Torchwood rerun this morning and Gwen was doing just that while the things are bouncing around in plain sight).
masqthephlsphr
Jan. 23rd, 2014 04:59 pm (UTC)
I am walking that line with my scientific character in the novel I'm writing. I am handling it mostly by having her not get direct evidence until about 3/4ths of the way through the story, and once it's right before her eyes, she believes.
cornerofmadness
Jan. 23rd, 2014 10:15 pm (UTC)
That would work for me. I know you weren't overwhelmed by Sleepy Hollow but that's about how it was for Abby (the detective) and that worked for me.
masqthephlsphr
Jan. 23rd, 2014 10:22 pm (UTC)
Abby is a cop, not a scientist, and though being a cop can lead to a certain amount of skepticism, being a skeptic also not the same thing as being a scientist.
cornerofmadness
Jan. 23rd, 2014 10:31 pm (UTC)
That's true but I was thinking more along the lines of how she went from skepticism to acceptance without prolonged this CAN'T be real crap in spite of what she's seeing.
masqthephlsphr
Jan. 23rd, 2014 10:33 pm (UTC)
I don't think she's an example of the kind of scientific character I have in mind in my above trope.
cornerofmadness
Jan. 23rd, 2014 10:40 pm (UTC)
No, she's not but she is one for what I meant by their reactions to it.
masqthephlsphr
Jan. 23rd, 2014 10:44 pm (UTC)
But like I said, she's not an empiricist or scientist. So her reactions to it are her own, they don't mean anything one way or another to the trope. Lots of people are open to things.
cornerofmadness
Jan. 23rd, 2014 10:58 pm (UTC)
True but I think at this point we're both trying to make two very different points. Mine is going back to my original statement which you questioned and not the trope you mentioned. Like I said, I agree with you there.
masqthephlsphr
Jan. 24th, 2014 12:15 am (UTC)
I think if you broaden the scope to "how characters who didn't know before react" you see a broad variety of reactions, not an overabundance of skepticism. Willow and Xander on BtVS, for example, needed little convincing of the existence of vampires, even though for the first 16 years of their lives, they didn't believe in them (although how that could be in Sunnydale of all places is a bit boggling).
cornerofmadness
Jan. 24th, 2014 02:24 am (UTC)
There is a broad variety but more often than not, at least in what I've read/seen Willow and Xander's reactions are in the minority which is why I picked them out as being preferrable to me
dlgood
Jan. 22nd, 2014 02:47 pm (UTC)
I have always had a kink for "the big secret" that only select characters know and the rest of the world is oblivious to.

And Masq shall be our fearless leader who has left the Cave to gaze upon the sun...
masqthephlsphr
Jan. 22nd, 2014 04:12 pm (UTC)
And was subsequently blinded. LOL
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )