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High fantasy versus urban fantasy: the smackdown

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Showing 1-25 of 146 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 13, 2012, 5:07:35 PM PST
Take a position - which do you like better?

I like them both, but I have to admit that I have a major weakness for classical high fantasy. The from-the-ground-up world building totally floats my boat. So much urban fantasy seems to have shoddy, thrown-together, poorly-thought-out and bordering on nonsensical world building that exists only to showcase female MC's in leather pants dating super hot guys.

Although I worship at the altar of Patricia Briggs.

Anyone disagree?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2012, 5:16:21 PM PST
Mayhem, are you sure we're not sisters separated at birth?

Posted on Dec 13, 2012, 9:20:04 PM PST
I really haven't read much urban fantasy, but I can say I love a good story regardless of genre.

Posted on Dec 14, 2012, 1:06:10 AM PST
Kribu says:
Urban fantasy. Too much of it is all the same and the tough-chick-with-a-major-attitude-problem trope is starting to get on my nerves, but I really can't get into high fantasy at all (the summaries are usually enough to put me to sleep), so... yeah.

I don't really care for completely made-up worlds, and all the pseudo-mediaeval-Europe tropes are far worse for me than the tough-chick-tropes.

I just wish there was more good urban fantasy where the characters have a brain and where half the plot doesn't focus on the heroine's desires on whatever vampire/shifter/were-creature with shoulder-length hair whom the author thinks hot and I find dreadfully dull. If I wanted that, I'd read paranormal fantasy, which I don't.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2012, 9:37:00 AM PST
I cannot say that I've really read much urban fantasy - possibly because my impression of it has always corresponded to your description. (Not so much the "shoddy, thrown-together" element, because, having not read much - if any - I cannot comment. Hang on a sec ... female MCs in leather pants? I think I'd better read some UF toute de suite!) :-)

So for me it's classic high fantasy every time - and, unlike Kribu above, I'm a sucker for medieval European history, so I have no problem with pseudo-medieval fantasy ... :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2012, 12:07:43 PM PST
So far we have 3 votes for high fantasy, 1 vote for UF (sorry, Kribu) and 1 abstention.

Kribu, what UF have you read and enjoyed? Have you read any Seanan Maguire (October Daye/InCryptids)? I loved her Discount Armageddon, & thought that the world building was great, with not nearly so much overt lustiness. Plus there were these crazy mice in it that were awesome.

I am also a sucker for medieval European history, and love pseudo-medieval fantasy.

Posted on Dec 14, 2012, 12:18:40 PM PST
HJ Leonard says:
Before I'd ever heard of Urban Fantasy, I loved fantasy, but I'm voting for Urban Fantasy nowadays, although it is getting harder to find new series that have the kick-butt heroine who is not overly Mary-Sue-ish.

Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, KMM, etc, are my current UF favorite authors. I'd started the Harry Dresden series, and did like it, but the TV show (actor) messed up my mental image of Harry so I quit.

Posted on Dec 14, 2012, 12:53:23 PM PST
M. Carole says:
Well, I read and love both, but if you put me on a strange island where I could only pick one category, I'd pick high fantasy. It's my first love and tends to be less rigidly built around the Mary Sue formula. If had to only read that UF formula for the rest of my days I'd quickly go mad.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2012, 2:57:14 PM PST
Difficult question. I read and write both. I've run into UF and High Fantasy that I love and then again I've run into both that I hate. I think for me it has more to do with quality of the writing / characters.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2012, 3:03:25 PM PST
Kribu says:
I've read the first four October Daye books (have the next ones too, just haven't got around to them) as well as Discount Armageddon - Seanan McGuire is brilliant and I wish there was more urban fantasy like hers, yes.

I've been reading a whole lot of first books in various UF series lately - have found a few I'll be reading more of and several that I will most definitely not be reading more of. Apart from McGuire's, I've really enjoyed Kalayna Price's Alex Craft series (so much so that I can even deal with the inevitable love triangle thing going on in it - there's fortunately a lot of plot, too), and on the male protagonist side, Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series (first book is titled Midnight Riot in the US).

I think I've either read or bought (but haven't yet got around to) the first books in the majority of current UF series, apart from anything mostly involving werewolves (really don't want werewolves - I can deal with them if they're not the focus and _definitely_ not the male love interests), so that should keep me busy for a while.

Posted on Dec 14, 2012, 4:19:33 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 14, 2012, 4:23:28 PM PST
lifewontwait says:
Another vote for UF, with some of my favorite authors being Seanan McGuire (October Daye), Carrie Vaughn (Kitty Norville), Faith Hunter (Jane Yellowrock series; haven't read her other one), Laura Bickle (Anya Kalinczyk), Kelley Armstrong (Women of the Otherworld; the werewolves not so much), Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson), Charlie Huston (Joe Pitt), Jim Butcher (Harry Dresden) and of course the classics, Emma Bull (War for the Oaks, Bordertown), Will Shetterly (Bordertown), Charles de Lint (Newford) and Tim Powers.

I used to read a lot of classical high fantasy, but have tired of it and no longer have the patience for series with huge gaps between huge books, books with plot and characters that don't progress beyond the standard tropes, etc. Too many books, too little time!

HJ Leonard, I'm glad to find that I wasn't the only one put off by Paul Blackthorne's casting as Harry Dresden. I also wondered why his VW was eliminated, and was especially annoyed to discover that it was because Blackthorne found it too uncomfortable!

Posted on Dec 14, 2012, 5:00:36 PM PST
Larry Kelley says:
Not sure I have much to add to what has been written. I read what I consider well written. If I understand correctly the defining lines between Urban and Classic--Mercedes Lackey would write mostly High Fantasy, Patricia Briggs, Urban Fantasy??? I started reading Lackey about the same time I started reading Melanie Rawn--and quickly dumped Rawn. Never cared for Raymond Feist, etal., but still read Lackey. A few months ago, in desperation for something good to read (I had dipped pretty heavily in Charlaine Harris, I started Vaugh, then Briggs, and have gone on. I like Zoe Sharps books, a lady (I assume) named Aguirre, and so on. I recently read a Patrick Rothfuss book, (I have CRS and cannot remember books names, author names when I want to)--Wind was in the title--and I thought it was excellent. Of everything I have read in the last month (30 books?) I would recommend the Rothfuss book--it isn't new, there are sequels and I have no idea yet whether the sequel, or sequels is any good, but the first one was great.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012, 6:38:15 AM PST
BareThoughts says:
I agree... My preference is classical fantasy too, although there are a couple of books that while being UF are among my all-time fav books (has to do with the fact I too worship at the alter of Patricia Briggs).

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012, 6:47:32 AM PST
HJ Leonard says:
Larry, Patricia Briggs writes both Urban Fantasy (Mercy Thompson, Alpha and Omega), and High Fantasy (Dragon Bones, Masques, The Hob's Bargain, etc). All very good.

The defining line between High Fantasy and Urban Fantasy would be the -well- Urban (modern city) setting. High Fantasy usually takes place in a completely imaginary world, Urban Fantasy usually takes place in the modern world/alternate universe.

I apologize if you did already know this, but your post made it sound like you weren't sure. :)

Posted on Dec 18, 2012, 8:46:17 AM PST
I generally like high fantasy. The only urban fantasy I've read is the Dresden series, which is awesome.

Posted on Dec 18, 2012, 9:05:34 AM PST
I have more escapist fun reading UF than high fantasy, so that edges it out for me. There are books I love in both, but if I need a quick read to pick me up, I usually go for UF (or paranormal romance, I guess).

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2012, 4:05:34 PM PST
Whisper says:
try fairyborn, not a conventional story though

Posted on Jan 2, 2013, 1:13:17 PM PST
epb says:
I'm not much on either lately. I used to like high fantasy, but Game of Thrones has really put me off. It's not just GRRM - everyone seems to start these huge epics with no idea where they're going anymore. Maybe it's always that way, and I never noticed because all the classic series were done before I started. I'm happier re-reading Zelazny's Amber series that starting a modern one.

But urban fantasy... they all seem to suffer from Lois Lane syndrome. Ask anyone, including Clark Kent, and they'll tell you how talented, smart and tough Lois is - yet it takes the strongest being on the planet to keep her getting herself killed. It's like babysitting a particularly inquisitive and reckless toddler.

Urban fantasy heroines seem cast from the same mold, just as leather-clad, tattooed damsels-in-distress. Mercy's wimpy coyote gets into something and wolves or vampires save her butt. The grave witch chick is BLIND half the time. Sookie lives within an entire ring of alpha-males that come to the rescue. Kinda kills it for me.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 2, 2013, 2:09:44 PM PST
Fullme7al says:
You took the words right out of my mouth about Urban Fantasy. I just can't stand it really, and it goes beyond books too. Think the movie Underworld.

High Fantasy all the way.

Posted on Jan 2, 2013, 2:13:50 PM PST
I thought Urban Fantasy was supposed to be set in an urban environment?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 2, 2013, 2:20:14 PM PST
GUEST!! says:
Mayhem, dahling, we've missed you in the VGF. I share the same soft spot for the trappings of classic fantasy, for many of the same reasons, but I cannot put down any books whose worlds, whether based on our own or not, are thoroughly well thought out and executed.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 2, 2013, 9:47:11 PM PST
epb says:
I know it goes beyond books - I recently tried watching "Lost Girl." It's got all the same elements - hot, leather-clad chick with super powers, yet in the three eps I managed to sit thru it seemed the werewolf cop showed up every time to bail her out. The damsels are grittier, the knights are scruffier, but the roles are the same.

I'd actually give a pass to Underworld, as Selene seems to hold her own quite well without Corvin - I don't even remember him being in the last film. Alice in the Resident Evil series also seems capable on her own (if you don't count her clones). Ironically, it's the heroines written by women that can't get by without a big strong man. Warrior women written by men seem more independent.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 2, 2013, 10:51:29 PM PST
Fullme7al says:
They both, Selene and Alice, are connected to each other in a very weird way though. Both of their husbands are the people that are directing the movies and in charge of the two franchises. They want their wives kicking butt. Yeah, I always see Lost girl on scifi, and think man, maybe I'll give it a try, but I find my time is better spent doing other things.

Posted on Jan 3, 2013, 12:26:57 AM PST
epb says:
Good point. One that looks promising to me is Susan Ee's "Penryn and the End of Days" series that started with Angelfall. What works is that Penryn, like Katniss Everdeen, isn't trying to be a hero, but just trying to survive - she's outgunned, she knows it, and doesn't pretend otherwise.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 4, 2013, 3:12:27 PM PST
GUEST! I've missed you all, too! Life is crazy.
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Discussion in:  Fantasy forum
Participants:  46
Total posts:  146
Initial post:  Dec 13, 2012
Latest post:  Jul 12, 2013

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