Posts Tagged ‘unicorns’

Vampires and Other Creatures that Lurk in the Night

Hm.  Longest post title ever?  Mayhaps!

I recently won a book in a contest.  It’s a collection of short stories called The Poison Eaters by Holly Black.  Some of her novels are on my TBR list but this was my first introduction to her.

I may do a full review on that here at some point, but that’s up in the air as that’s not the intent of this blog.

Anyway, many of her stories played on twists on common urban fantasy creatures – fairies, unicorns, vampires – and it got me to thinking.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I do not like vampires.  They are one of my very least favorite plot devices.  Over the years I have read several vampire-centric novels – Dracula, Interview with a  Vampire (and The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned), all four and a half Twilights, Bloodsucking Fiends, etc. – and no matter how well written (0r not) the books, nothing has changed my opinion.

Is it something ingrained?  Genetics?  I doubt that, actually, as my mother loves vampires.  She is at the opposite end of the spectrum as me.  Heck, she watches True Blood and she hates overly dramatized sex/violence.

It’s gotten to the point where if the word “vampire” is mentioned in connection with a book I will flee.  There’s really no logic to it.  Even if you count that vampire novels are oversaturated in today’s market.  It’s not that I have read too many vampire books and am sick of them, it’s that I was never unsick.

Shut up, Firefox, I can make up words if I want to.

I’m not terribly fond of other urban fantasy staples, though I do not have the same knee-jerk “Oh God No” reaction to them.  I am willing to try novels about werewolves or fairies if they are recommended to me.  I have no strong opinions about unicorns.  I like angels, am lukewarm about demons.

Zombies are fairly close to vampires, so one could draw the conclusion that there is something about the undead that turns me off.  Perhaps it is an instinct that I have evolved over the years to help me survive the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse.

There should be more dinosaurs in fantasy.  Also kraken.

One could ask why I read and write urban fantasy when I don’t really like the staples.  There’s  lots of reasons.  I like the idea of there being a more fantastical world just outside the realm of normal life, one that can be stumbled on accidentally.  I like seeing people I can relate to deal with strange situations.  I like the twists, the plays on life and mythology, the what ifs.

I could just do with less vampires.

Stereotypical Creatures in Fantasy

My apologies for missing Monday’s update and for the fact this is late.  I blame jury duty.  And hockey.  But can you really blame me for the hockey?  It is the landsquid’s favorite sport.

Anyway, onward to content.

It’s come to my attention that you can usually tell whether something will be urban or traditional fantasy just be looking at the fantastical creatures involved.  Let’s test.  Vampires.  Elves.  Fae.  Unicorns.  Kraken.

(Okay, that last one doesn’t count.  I just wish there were more kraken in things.)

Admittedly urban fantasy seems to incorporate anything that looks vaguely human, but for the most part, fantastical creatures in this day and age seem to be pretty well-divided.  You rarely find things like dragons in urban fantasy.  Vampires tend to not to lurk in your more traditional Sword and Sorcery fantasy.  This is not to say that these creatures can’t be found in all types of fantasy, just IN GENERAL they tend to stick to one or the other.

It’s not terribly surprising.  Let’s look at urban fantasy as a genre.  Urban fantasy tends to take place in a modern setting, in a city or a town or someplace where lots of people tend to hang out.  Unless you go the alternative reality route, we are all familiar with these settings, and magic and fantastical creatures do not figure in.  So it makes sense to use magic/creatures that can more easily blend in with what is considered “normal.”

High fantasy, on the other hand, often takes place in a pseudo-historical context, in a world that is quite obviously not our own.  While each world needs to have its own rules that it conforms to, it does not need to take reality into account, so there is more freedom for larger and more blatantly unreal creatures.

You could argue that elves/dwarves/orcs/etc are essentially human-like and therefore would fall more into the urban fantasy category based on my (admittedly very general) guidelines, but there are also subgenre covenants that tend to be followed by the majority of examples of that subgenre.  People tend to read the same subgenre because there are things about that subgenre that they like.  (Some people will, of course, argue that such things are overused and/or cliché and/or are a rip-off of Tolkien, etc, but we will leave that alone for the moment.)

But hey, perhaps I’m full of it.  What do you think?  Do some fantastical creatures seem stereotyped into specific fantasy subgenres?  Do you disagree with my break?