Guys, we need a new genre label.
I find myself getting pretty jealous of mystery writers these days. It doesn’t matter where your mystery is set: if it’s at a small town B&B and includes a granola recipe, it might be a cozy mystery, but you can still call yourself a mystery writer. You can be Tana French or Agatha Christie, and you can exist comfortably under the same label. It’s not so easy when you write…whatever it is I write. I’ve been having this conversation a lot lately:
“What do you write?”
“Well…uh…there’s this girl with these powers…and this guy with these other powers…”
“Oh, so it’s paranormal romance?”
“Well, there is a lot of sex.”
“So there’s a happy ending?”
“Well…no, not always.”
“Oh! So you must write urban fantasy.”
“Depends on what you consider urban. Is a town of two thousand people urban?”
“Not really, no.”
“Then some of my books are urban fantasy and some of them are…something else.”
The trouble with labels is, they set up expectations. Paranormal romance implies a happily-ever-after and a story told from the perspective of both hero and heroine. Urban fantasy typically implies first person heroine point of view, no HEA, and, you know, urban-ness. The trouble is, there are LOTS of books with paranormal beasties that don’t fit any of these descriptions.
We’ve got Cherie Priest’s Four and Twenty Blackbirds series, which may be best called gothic fantasy. Then there’s Deborah Harkness’s All Souls series and Alma Katsu’s Taker series, both of which put a historical, literary spin on paranormal fiction. We’ve got Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series, which some people call paranormal mystery and some people call urban fantasy. Then there’s Nicole Peeler’s Jane True series, which looks a lot like urban fantasy, but is (sometimes) set in a tiny town. And what about Gail Carriger’s clever and sexy paranormal historical Parasol Protectorate series? I’d like to just call all of these books “fantasy,” but when I say fantasy, people say, “Like with elves and dwarves and stuff?”
Not that I have anything against elves and dwarves (and stuff), but no.
What should we do? What label will cover all of the above, plus the well-established sub-genres of paranormal romance and urban fantasy? Modern fantasy? (too postmodern-y) Paranormal fantasy? (too redundant) Low fantasy? (too derogatory) Paranormal? Just paranormal? (already shorthand for paranormal romance.)
I’m leaning toward paranormal fiction. But I don’t like that, either. Not descriptive enough. And it sounds like it could be a fictionalized account of how I found a ghost in my coat closet.
Fellow genre enthusiasts, let’s solve this problem! What can we come up with that doesn’t suck? What kind of label can we chose that covers all the awesome that’s out there? And I’m not asking this rhetorically. Do you like one of the options above? Got another idea? Get to the comments and brainstorm!