Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Contemporary Fantasy: Where Elves Are Sexy...

... and Available.

The title of this blog is taken from a list of programming ideas for Marscon 2006. This particular idea was submitted by Minneapolis writer Paula Fleming.

Paula asks the panelists to consider this question: Contemporary fantasy often juxtaposes elements of old mythologies with cell phones and fast food. What do we find so compelling in this mix?

For me, the answer is: who doesn't want to meet an angel at McDonald's

Part of the reason I find "contemporary fantasy" or urban fantasy or paranormal romances so compelling is that, when done well, they give the reader the illusion of "it could happen."

Plus, I don't know about y'all, but I've spent a large part of my life in the realm of make-believe. When I was a kid, I chased my share of imaginary villains through the very real forests of Grandad's Bluff. But, then there was also... yesterday, when I was waiting in the doctor's office and I imagined what it would be like to be an international jewel thief. My imagination didn't switch off after I reached the age when it was no longer socially acceptable to play pretend in the woods with your school buddies. So, I guess the contemporary fantasy element appeals to the part of me that would STILL like those fantasies to be real, here, in my world.

Also, I think there's something inherently funny about an elf in a 7/11. I think that the format of the contemporary fantasy is one that allows us to look at both the mundane (the 7/11) in a new and possibly amusing way, but also to poke fun at all of the high fantasy stuff (the elf) we grew up reading. There's a lot of tongue-in-cheek that goes on in the works of, say, MaryJanice Davidson or Rachel Caine, like when your million year old djinn has to deal with... I don't know, pumping gas. It's not surprising to me that a lot of the popular contemporary fantasy is also intentially humorous and light.

It's funny because, in a lot of ways, the more ridiculous the situation, the more "real" the fantasy feels. This isn't always true, but I really enjoy it when, for instance, the vampires in the various chick-lit books I've read have to deal with the particulars of their existance. These kinds of questions (like how DOES a vampire get rich when he can only come out at night) obviously fascinate me. In fact, I find that the more those sorts of things are thought about and dealt with in contemporary fantasy the more the paranormal characters seem REAL.

And that appeals to my magical side, if you know what I mean.

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