Urban Fantasy: What’s Weird, What’s Next?

Book CoverSonya Bateman and I want to know: what do you want to see in urban fantasy this year? I don’t mean vampires and werewolves, Battle Extreme round XVII. Urban fantasy has expanded to include a whole mess of folklore and mythology, and it shifts rapidly to include things I’d never heard of before. So what are you interested in, and what are you tired of? You like genies, dislike faeries? Dig selkies living in the Central Park pond (they’d be very green) but are tired of crouching gnome, hidden leprechaun? What weird thing would you never expect to see in an urban fantasy? (I am personally hoping for an entire LINE of Sheela na Gig urban fantasies: She’ll kick your ass… and her vagina doubles as a U-Store-It!)

Sonya has two ARCs of her next book to give away to random commenters (US only please), to increase your impulse to Google bizarre mythology. Hit me with your best folkloric oddity. 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Nadia says:

    If the were-chupacabra hasn’t made it to print yet, that so needs to happen.

  2. 2
    Elemental says:

    Were-fish? No, I’m being serious, there are some Hawaiian legends relating to sharks who can assume human form and wander on land. Give them the Rice-Meyer makeover,  and you have an interesting variant on your classic lycanthrope. Possibly one more prone to cruel detachment than the bestial rage of werewolves (and of course, overcoming it during the story), and with more room to establish interesting mythology and culture (any sort of hidden civilisation or monster could lie under the sea, after all).

  3. 3
    Heather says:

    I was going to say banshees but then I thought to myself, wait – aren’t those already in the Kresley Cole series?  That woman has everything!

    Golems?  Doeppelgangers?  (no, those are in the MacAlister dragons books.)  Angels? No.  Fairies? Done to death.  Vampires? *gag*.  Werewolves? HA! 

    Sirens?  Woman cursed to shipwreck ships until a hunky captain attempts to rescue her (but of course it ends with her rescuing him, preferably with a great deal of firepower).

  4. 4

    I’m looking forward to seeing what other people say, because all my answers are too thoroughly tongue-in-cheek.  (Bigfoot!  Mummies!  Centaurs!  [C’mon, the “He’s hung like a horse” jokes write themselves.])

    Honestly, my real list pretty much boils down to “any interesting piece of real-world folklore, if it’s used well.”  I don’t want to see any writer strip-mining Japan for kitsune without bothering to think about the cultural specifics of their inspiration, but done right, I would love just about anything off the (thoroughly-)beaten path of vampires et al.

  5. 5
    Diatryma says:

    I’d like more lesbians.  I like strong women, and urban fantasy tends to have those, but then they’re paired with or drawn to equally or more interesting men, and that’s a little disappointing.  I know my reading habits are very, very female-centric, but it seems that part of the characterization of a Kick-Ass Female Protagonist is that she has several Hot Studly Males around as status symbols.  If you eliminate the heteromance and replace it with gay romance, there’s less need to have a big male status symbol and a better chance of *two* Kick-Ass Females in the book.

    In terms of actual weirdness, give me Russian folklore like banniks because I just like the words.  Give me Ursula Vernon, too—vampire squash, for example, would work in some urban fantasy.  And selkies because they are cool.

  6. 6
    Amanda from Baltimore says:

    How about Scandinavian mythology? Odin, Thor, Giants and all sorts of cold-weather fun.

    How about some urban fantasy that isn’t all dark and intense. Would it kill the authors to write something lighter? Still sexy, but more comedy and laughs than angst and fury?

    Really, anything but vampires and werewolves would be peachy keen with me.

  7. 7
    AngW says:

    The Grey Man. Such a fascinating creature of Celtic mythos and he very rarely appears in stories. Sometimes referred to as fog, sometimes as a creeping dread, and other times as a physical representation. It’s difficult to say if he’s bad, good, or neutral. I’m voting on neutral.

  8. 8
    Ken Houghton says:

    What happened to the Kraken?  (Yes, I’ve obsessed on Krakens since an episode of The Wild, Wild West several years before you were born.  But still…)

    Vampires and Werewolves are all blood-disease related; their resurgences in the Age of AIDS is understandable. Mummies and Zombies are out unless Leprosy becomes a major issue again.

    Witches and Warlocks for the generation that is growing up on Wizards of Waverly Place, maybe.  Mermaids are probably out of style, and are just selkie knockoffs anyway.

    Fairies are probably the way to go, with gamelins as the male equivalent.

  9. 9
    Shaheen says:

    Instead of your standard werewolf etc., how about the Indian equivalent: the Naga – Cobra-wers – very beautiful but cruel and cold-blooded – they do occasionally fall in love with beautiful princesses, but usually their cold nature betrays the relationship – or the Naga (or Nagi – sometimes she falls in love with a beautiful prince) is slain for the huge priceless pearl hidden inside their forehead.

    And, continuing on the Indian folklore theme – how about an eastern version of a succubus: the Chureil – a supernaturally beautiful woman with long black hair and scarlet red lips, who can only be discerned by the fact that her feet are on backwards!

    We could also see more Rusalkas, Pookas, and Kitsunes – and Loki or Anansi would make a nice change from Coyote.

  10. 10

    You know, I think UF is lagging a little bit behind the erotica market.  They’re doing mermaids and genies and weresnakes and all this awesome stuff.

    That said, I’m doing another vampire novel, so I don’t want to see everyone jumping on the “not vampires” train.  I have two kids who need to go to college some day, folks.

  11. 11
    Barbara says:

    @Amanda from Baltimore:
    Have you read the Betsy the Vampire Queen series by MaryJanice Davidson? They’re hilarious. The lead character herself doesn’t take this vampire stuff seriously.

  12. 12
    Throwmearope says:

    The gargoyle as hero totally did me in.  Please, no more gargoyles.

  13. 13
    HeatherK says:

    I have to second were-sharks. Sharks get such a bad rep that it’d be nice to see them put into a good light for once. I’ve been toying with a shark shifter for years, but it’s never gotten far. Maybe I need to dust that baby off and try again.

    Anyhow, definitely not enough shark stuff out there.

  14. 14
    Tamara Hogan says:

    Underwear gnomes? 

    1.  Steal underpants
    2.  ????
    3.  Profit!

    Think of the fun we could have with those question marks.  Just sayin.’

  15. 15

    I’m pretty much sick of were-anything, but I was never their audience to begin with. I just heard about the Dante’s Inferno-inspired video game coming out (thanks, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me) and I could imagine a whole trend cropping up around the Devil. Not a new theme, obviously, but if it means I ever get to read or see anything close to as awesome as Tim Curry in a honking-ass horn-headpiece again, I’m stoked.

  16. 16
    Lady T says:

    I second the vote for sirens,but not in a nautical setting-it would be interesting to see what kind of damage a land locked version would do;car crashes,subways jumpers,etc. Has anyone written about goblins? I know they get a mention in those Merry Gentry books but maybe something along the lines of the Goblin King from Labyrinth would be worth exploring there.

  17. 17
    Tania says:

    From Canada, so exclude me from the thing.

    What I would love to see is more folk mythology done right. I admit to having a soft spot for Celtic/British mythology, but not in the “fairies are good and light and fluffy” little wing’ed things, but all the dark and deadly ones, because damned if the Wild Hunt isn’t terrifying.

    (Ran77 is my spamword, funny enough.)

  18. 18
    SB Sarah says:


    Obviously, they are hung like flagpoles.

  19. 19
    kytten says:

    I would love to see more well-done celtic mythology based ones. I saw one that said a celtic huntress made an agreement with artemis, and it jerked me right out of the story. Why would she? Artemis is a greek goddess.

    Would love how to see how a lot of the faeries and old gods hadled the modern world, because their sheer anarchic wildness is very at odds with the ordered technology of the world now.

    I would like to see more celtic gods and goddesses turn up, more of their faeries and demons and worships without falling into the ‘human sacrifice blah blah, evil, blah blah.’

    I would love to see selkies and shapeshifters hiding in city rivers, more realisitc faeries, ceremonial and mystical tattoos.

    Something I’ve never seen in urban fantasy and would like to is an awareness that gods and similar spirits tend to turn up out of human need. Why no technology spirits, or gods of the traffic lights?

  20. 20

    My initial Tim Curry in a honking-as horn-headpiece link was too powerful, apparently. Take two.

  21. 21
    Alicia says:

    For those who want more good Celtic folklore-based stories, Maggie Stiefvater’s Ballad and Lament kicked a dozen different kinds of ass. They’re more YA romances, but they’re damned engrossing—and this from a person who has very little patience for mediocre Celtic fantasy.

    And Lady T: landlocked sirens is totally a book I would rush to read!

  22. 22

    Ooh, I’d had my eye on this book just because the guy on the cover reminded me of Sawyer from Lost. To wit, yum. ;) But! Here’s what I’d like to see more of in urban fantasy, in no particular order:

    1) More storylines that actually conclude. It’s getting harder and harder for me to sustain interest in series that go on and on and on and on and tell essentially the same stories over and over.

    2) On a related note, fewer stories please in which the heroine goes through a successive line of love interests—when what I really want to see is her developing a relationship with one specific love interest. Or maybe two, if the book is poly-friendly. Really tired of series that have the heroine go through five or six guys, and in which every supernatural guy in the immediate vicinity falls for her.

    3) Also, I am tired of books in which the primary interaction between the heroine and her love interest is pretty much how hormonally crazypants he makes her. Really don’t need that spelled out in detail. Also, would really prefer series that take their time developing the love interests as characters so you can see what sort of neat people they are. Kat Richardson scored BIG for me on this.


    3a) And if the heroine does happen to be driven hormonally crazypants by her love interest, can we back off of this being caused by supernatural influences rather than just good ol’ fashioned hormones? It’s like there’s a trope in urban fantasy going on where it’s okay if the heroine has a lot of sex if she’s somehow supernaturally driven to it (e.g., if she’s a succubus or something). Howsabout a heroine that just

    appreciates having sex?

    3b) Really though I’d like less emphasis on sex in urban fantasy in general. Ninety nine times out of a hundred I skim through every sex scene in a book anyway and would honestly prefer the page space to be spent on actual plot.

    4) I’d like to second the vote for more lesbians in urban fantasy in general. Gay boys are showing up, but some lesbian girls would be nice too.

    5) I’ll also second the vote for finding fantastic sources in modern-day life. That would be awesome.

    I think that’ll do me. :)

  23. 23

    I love any of the UF that is more humor than dark and so so serious(gotta save the world). I would especially like to see a series that involve the djinn. Also faeries and the fey are very interesting.

  24. 24
    Tamara Hogan says:

    SB Sarah said about underwear gnomes:

    Obviously, they are hung like flagpoles.

    Obvs.  They’re growers, not show-ers. 

    My debut release, UNDERBELLY (coming in 2011 from Sourcebooks), features a siren rock star and her reluctant incubus bodyguard.

  25. 25
    joykenn says:

    Native Americans in the midwest region—Chippewa, Ojibway—have a shared religion and mythology about the Manitous or spirits.  Its a very spiritually rich culture with Mother Earth, Father Sun and lots of morality tales, a trickster figure, lots of supernatural and natural creatures.  I know only bits and pieces of it but it is rich in honor and redemption and all kinds of powerful themes.  I could easily see someone building a fantastic series around this culture which is not very wellknown generally.

  26. 26
    Julie says:

    The Four Horseman


  27. 27
    Anna Piranha says:

    I have noticed that the tween and young adult sections are busting with fantasy titles.  Ghosts, Fairy Tale retellings, Vampires, Children of the Gods.  I am inclined to think that the adult genre has become jaded. It has magic, but it lacks wonder.  If somehow that could be restored, well that would be great.

  28. 28
    avrelia says:

    I am hoping for more Baba Yaga stories: kicking asses and eating babies! Shoe-shopping for a one giant bony leg! Flying Mortar as the most ecologically-friendly vehicle (that doesn’t require much parking space)

  29. 29
    HeatherK says:

    My debut release, UNDERBELLY (coming in 2011 from Sourcebooks), features a siren rock star and her reluctant incubus bodyguard.

    Ok, now you’ve caught my interest. Will have to be on the lookout for that. Let’s hope I can remember it by then. :)

    See, I KNEW I should’ve been a rockstar, only missing the talent and the looks and the nerve, but who’s counting? *grin*

  30. 30
    DM says:

    I second the vote for a sense of wonder, but I don’t believe that relies on the choice of supernatural creature, but rather the storytelling choices made by the author. I pick up too many books in which the supernatural elements of the world are normalized from page one. The heroine already knows about the existence of vampires, were-clams, what have you. There is no discovery, and no sense of wonder. The writer takes no time to establish the mundane world, the character’s status quo. So there is no threshold to cross, no choice for the heroine to make to enter into the unknown. This usually has a ripple effect. The writer tries to jump start the action by plunging the heroine into danger and forcing her to rely on the supernaturally gifted hero for aid…and giving her a bad case of passive protagonist along the way. It’s tough to create a climactic event for a passive heroine (he saves her more harder from badder danger!) so this is usually where the heroine discovers that she has heretofore unknown supernatural powers of her own.

    So I’ll have a tightly plotted were-clam with a side order of wonder. And fries. Please.

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