What Stace had to say on Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
Boy Books and Girl Books?

(This is a long one, guys, so get comfortable.)

I’m sure you’re probably getting sick of seeing my reviews, but I do have another quick one to share. From WickedlilPixie at Writings of a Wicked Book Addict:

Unholy Ghosts is the first book in Stacia Kane’s Downside Series & it was phenomenal! It is one of the most grittiest, in your face Urban Fantasies I’ve ever read & I loved it…If you read one new Urban Fantasy series, make it Unholy Ghosts.

So something I’ve been thinking about for a while, as you guys know, is what urban fantasy truly is as a genre, and where it’s going, and how my books fit into it. (Remember the The Books Are Out There post?

And of course we’re now exactly one week away from the official release date of UNHOLY GHOSTS. And I’m wondering how people will respond to it, whether they’ll love it or hate it, whether the darkness will be too much for them, whether they’ll accept a drug addict as a heroine, all of those things that I worried and wondered about even as I wrote it.

But here’s the thing. I feel like urban fantasy has, as a genre, been somehow relegated to the “Girl” section. It’s been dismissed as “Girl books.” And many guys really do seem to think this way. I’ve seen a lot of them in various places referring to UF as “just paranormal romance with a little more action,” or “hot girl in leather solves mystery, sleeps with paranormal creatures.”

And honestly? I think to some extent that’s true. No, hear me out. Other worlds and paranormal creatures do tend to be a big part of urban fantasy. The heroines often have sex (mine certainly do) and it’s often with paranormal creatures (Megan sleeps with a demon, for example, but in Chess’s world the only paranormal creatures are ghosts, and they don’t really make good bed partners, what with the trying to kill you and all).

But I don’t see where that’s necessarily a problem. Why is it that as soon as romance and/or sex become genre tropes, that genre is automatically consigned to the Girl Ghetto, and judged to be “not real,” (as in “not real fantasy”) or “not as good.” Why is it that just saying it’s “for girls” automatically has such a negative connotation?

That’s not how urban fantasy started, and it’s not all there is to the genre. But even if it was, I don’t see what the problem is. Do men dislike reading about sex? Somehow I doubt it. Do men have a problem reading about hot chicks? Again, somehow I doubt it. So what is it? Why has urban fantasy become essentially chick-lit fantasy, and something men automatically avoid?

I think in part it’s because it’s considered “not manly” somehow to like books where there’s an emotional story s well as the main story, and where that emotional story is given a place of importance. Personally, I think that’s crap. Fantasy readers are supposed to be smarter than that, and less worried about what other people think of them. I get incredibly sick and tired of the idea that fantasy is only for boys, that comics are only for boys, that science fiction is only for boys, that shows like Doctor Who are only for boys, that fandom is only for boys, that comic conventions are only for boys. Who put them in charge?

You could make the argument that for years they’re the ones who kept various fandoms going. (I’ll never forget the movie Trekkies, when they interviewed some guys who did an annual birthday party for Captain Kirk [if memory serves] and one of the guys said, “Last year we even had a girl come.” Ouch.) And you know what, if that’s true, then I can see the resentment, at least to some extent. I really can. Nobody likes to see a genre or subculture or whatever to which they’ve given their time, attention, care, and support suddenly get co-opted and turned into some big huge thing. It’s irritating when those same people who laughed at you or spit at you or beat you up or called you names five years before are suddenly acting like they’re your best friends and always have been. I’ve been there.

But I’d really think that men would welcome women. If nothing else, it greatly increases their chances of getting laid, right? And nobody’s saying they can’t still have their boy-only gatherings. Just that it would be nice if they’d stop actively and loudly resenting the women, and dismissing them, and poking fun at them, and basically doing to them what many people in the past have done to them. It’s not right, and it’s not fair.

My love of fantasy came from my brother, who was way into D&D. He’s five years older than me, so at the age he was really getting into role-playing games and Lord of the Rings, I was seven. He used to test some of his new games on me, and occasionally I’d just ask to play one with him, because it was neat. I liked being a tough girl warrior; I liked inventing new characters and writing them up on sheets of graph paper. We watched LOTR, the animated Bakshi version, almost every day. For like a year. We read Warlord comics and I became obsessed with them; I had a huge crush on Travis Morgan, and wanted to go to Skartaris so bad it hurt. I wanted to own the Hellfire sword!

And you know, I bet there are a lot of women out there who had similar experiences. Or, as in the case of both my daughters, had parents who were very into that stuff, and so were raised with it. My girls collect Justice league action figures, and they can name every member. They read comics. They watch Doctor Who with us (and that’s another show that earned lots of grumbles and ire when a romantic subplot was introduced). They love the Superman and Batman animated series. I fully expect that will continue as they grow up, and I hope they find when that happens that they’ll be welcomed by everyone, that they won’t be looked at as “she’s just here because her boyfriend is here,” or “now we’re going to have to add kissing to everything,” or whatever.

But I’m straying from the point. Yes, there is a lot of urban fantasy that has sex with paranormal creatures. But there’s a lot that doesn’t too. There’s a lot written by men (I consider both Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman to be urban fantasy). There’s a lot that deals with complex moral issues, that makes you think, that asks questions.

That’s what I was going for when I wrote UNHOLY GHOSTS, in fact, and I hope I succeeded. I wanted to write the kind of fantasy I wanted to read, something dark and gritty and tough, something morally ambiguous, something that wasn’t filled with beautiful people being slick and cool, but with people struggling to get by, people who weren’t perfect. I’ve been told by several men who’ve read it that they loved it. Ironically, in fact, the only negative comments I’ve seen about it have all come from women, who have issues with the drug use, or think the world is too dark, or whatever. The men seem to like it because it’s not a stereotypical creature-sex-and-snark urban fantasy, and the few women who haven’t liked it seemed to dislike it because it’s not a stereotypical creature-sex-and-snark urban fantasy. And hey, to each his or her own; nobody’s going to like everything all the time, and I’d much rather write a book that inspires passion and thinking than one people just sort of shrug about, and forget five minutes after they’ve finished it. Although what this says about my “UF isn’t just for girls, and it isn’t just thinly veiled paranormal romance” topic here I don’t know.

My Demons books were very close to paranormal romance. I still don’t think they were, because ultimately they were Megan’s stories, and about how she came to accept herself and the changes in her life, and ultimately she was the one who had to defeat the Big Bads. But I freely acknowledge, and did when they were released, that they skirted the line between paranormal romance and urban fantasy. The Downside books really don’t. Yes, there’s a romantic subplot, but it’s a small part of the series (it gets more attention in the third book, but if the series continues I expect the third book will still be the most romance-heavy of the series; I don’t have any plans for it to get any more romantic).

In writing the Downside books I wanted to stretch the limits of urban fantasy. I wanted to return to its roots. I want to raise questions and examine issues. I wanted to make people think. Because I think that’s what great urban fantasy can do, and what it should do. I think it’s an amazing genre, one that can really turn a bright light on society and humanity and expose the underbellies, both the good and the bad. So it makes me sad to see that it’s become a genre (or subgenre, really) so easily dismissed as “sex with vampires.” It makes me sad to see men automatically turning away from it because they think–many times without even having read one, or having just read one they grabbed at random–that that’s all the genre is, and so they put it down and decide it’s just for those wimpy, sappy girls who need material for their sexual fantasies (as if the preponderance of incredibly–and improbably–large-breasted women with teeny tiny waists and Callipygian asses has nothing to do with male sexual fantasies). In saying all of this I certainly don’t mean to imply that mine are the only urban fantasies that do this, of course. There are many that do. I’m just saying what my specific goal was.

This is turning into an incredibly long post, and I really should wrap it up. So I’d like to know what you think. Do you think urban fantasy deserves its reputation as just chick books? Why do you think men avoid it or put it down? How do you think that could change, or do you think that could change? Or do you have any other thoughts?

Feel free to comment anonymously if you like. Either way I’d love to hear what you think.

88 comments to “Boy Books and Girl Books?”

  1. Sascha Illyvich
    · May 18th, 2010 at 1:47 pm · Link

    Urban Fantasy is anotger bastard genre like pararom woth enemies and fans. It is what it is and as a male romance writer I do temd to a: incorporate UF elements into my worl and b: read a little UF.

    not much as it’s not my primary gemre bur I enjoy what I do.

    anything written will take a certain amount of flack. Too bad.

    I’m still writing!

    • Stace
      · May 18th, 2010 at 7:37 pm · Link

      That’s true, anything written will take flack. But I think what bothers me is the automatic lack of respect given to UF, and I don’t see that happening as much with genres perceived as more male-oriented, you know?

      • John
        · May 19th, 2010 at 10:11 am · Link

        It frustrates me to see people call UF a guilty pleasure. There are so many authors out there telling great stories, and it really pisses me off to see it dismissed, even by fans of the genre.

  2. T.M. Thomas
    · May 18th, 2010 at 2:00 pm · Link

    UF has somewhat of a chick reputation because the books have female protagonists, for the most part.

    The epic fantasy trope is still defined as “fantasy” to a lot of people and they just have trouble categorizing anything not about the swineherd with destiny in a feudal kingdom as fantasy. Those people also don’t leave their mother’s basements or get laid.

    • Stace
      · May 18th, 2010 at 7:40 pm · Link

      And that’s true too. The MCs are female, and I have heard there are men who won’t read books with female MCs (although women will read books with male MCs). It just depresses me. I want people to enjoy my work, and to do that they need to try it, lol.

      And look at you being snarky about basements! Someone might think you’re not a big fantasy guy poking gentle fun at yourself!

  3. Synde
    · May 18th, 2010 at 2:10 pm · Link

    Ok talking as a bookseller here, I sell A LOT of UF to men.
    I would say this is in part to Jim Butcher and Simon R Green.
    Still about 3/4 female to male… But I see a huge uphill climb
    being made by the men..

    • Stace
      · May 18th, 2010 at 7:43 pm · Link

      I hope more of them start, and start branching out into more female writers as well. :)

  4. Julie K
    · May 18th, 2010 at 2:11 pm · Link

    I think the lines between pararom/uf/dark fantasy/horror are a lot blurrier now than they were in the past. This is both a blessing and a curse. It means that some open-minded readers will branch out from whichever of those is their chosen genre and dip their toe (or more) into the others. But it also means that other readers are going to look at the spectrum and see UF as lying close to ParaRom and say “uh-uh, not for me” (Though I would argue that the same is true of ParaRom readers when looking at the other end of the spectrum).

    I know a lot of men who read UF (including my husband). I think as more men write it, it’ll become more “acceptable” to read it.

    *Shrug* I never hesitate to recommend UF to men (or women) if I think they might like it.

    • Stace
      · May 18th, 2010 at 7:47 pm · Link

      And that’s true too. My husband insists that UNHOLY GHOSTS is more horror than anything else, and certainly there’s a heavy horror influence there. And I think it’s great to see those influences, and to see UF starting to spread its wings and become something more than just vampire hunters or whatever the stereotype is. And more men are writing it, too.

      But it’s a slow climb, sigh, and yes, I agree that there’s prejudice aimed at it from both trad fantasy and romance readers.

  5. Carolyn Crane
    · May 18th, 2010 at 2:23 pm · Link

    Such a good point about certain men having protected and nurtured the fandom all these years. I hadn’t thought about that.

    Honestly, this is like any issue – some people will kick the tires and decide whether it’s for them or not based on a fair shake. Others are dug in for emotional reasons and won’t. However, wow, I’m more stoked than ever for UNHOLY! Yay for morally ambiguous stories! Dude!

    • Stace
      · May 18th, 2010 at 7:53 pm · Link

      No, and that’s true. There’s little point trying to change people’s minds about a lot of things. I’m just hoping to at least encourage them to give it a try, you know?

  6. Jaye Wells
    · May 18th, 2010 at 2:30 pm · Link

    I was sitting on a panel full of female UF and fantasy writers once and a male bookseller raised his hand. He said that he’s introduced lots of guys to UF. Here’s what he said: “I start them off with Jim Butcher usually. Then when they come back wanting more, I say ‘If you don’t mind reading a book written by a female…”

    He said more but my brain was too busy exploding.

    In my mind, this issues isn’t so much about books as the societal belief that anything involving women is inherently inferior to the same from men. Not to get all bra-burn-y or anything, but I take offense to the idea that my vagina prevents me from having anything interesting to add to the discourse.

    That said, I do have a lot of male readers. I like to think they read my books because I tell good stories, not because my protagonist is a hot chick. Frankly, I don’t care what my readers are packing in their drawers. As long as they’re entertained.

    • Stace
      · May 18th, 2010 at 7:59 pm · Link

      In my mind, this issues isn’t so much about books as the societal belief that anything involving women is inherently inferior to the same from men. Not to get all bra-burn-y or anything, but I take offense to the idea that my vagina prevents me from having anything interesting to add to the discourse.

      And that’s my feeling exactly, exactly, exactly, Jaye. It drives me bonkers that because something is by, for, or about women it’s consigned to the Lousy pile, or considered “specialty” in some way.

      And I just don’t get why that’s the case, or why people feel perfectly justified–or don’t even think twice about what they’re saying–when they call it “porn for women” or “sex with vampires” or whatever. I don’t refer to male-oriented books as “porn for boys” or “action men getting the big-boobie girls,” you know?

      “If you don’t mind reading a book by a woman.” FFS.

      • Jaye Wells
        · May 18th, 2010 at 9:14 pm · Link

        Yeah you don’t really hear books described as “boy books.” Why? Well because the general idea is that if it’s written by a man it’s for everyone (I’m totally generalizing here and I know it). But when it’s a book written by a woman it’s almost like we have to defend ourselves and say “but it’s not one of those yucky chick books.”

        As for romance being a part of UF, well, yeah. But romance is a subplot in a good portion of other fiction, as well, from literary titles to thrillers to science fiction. It just seems that since this is a genre dominated by women certain critics prefer to focus on the romance aspects as an easy way to dismiss them.

        You don’t like these kind of stories? Fine. Really. To each his or her own. I don’t generally like space operas or westerns. But I won’t go out of my way to avoid them either. And I sure as hell don’t believe this preference has anything to do with the sex of the authors.

  7. Suzanne
    · May 18th, 2010 at 2:50 pm · Link

    I think part of the problem is the “Twilight” phenomenon. Guys who might actually like Urban Fantasy don’t want to give it a try because so much YA urban fantasy has become associated with moony-eyed teenage girls. And I wonder whether the (admittedly fewer) male UF authors–the Jim Butchers, Simon Green, etc–attract more male readers. My impression is that a goodly percentage of UF writers are female. If more males wrote UF, would more males read UF? It shouldn’t matter, but… Interesting topic!

    • Stace
      · May 18th, 2010 at 8:05 pm · Link

      And yes, that’s true. I did a wonderful podcast interview with a fantastic gentleman named Eddie the other night–the interview will be posted next week I think–and mine was the first UF he’d really read. And he even told me he’d been kind of afraid it was going to be like Twilight, and was very relieved when it wasn’t and surprised by how much he enjoyed it and how much he thought other men would as well.

      And I definitely think as more men start writing the genre it will gain respectability. I guess I just worry that as more men start writing it, women will get less and less respect, and find ourselves pushed aside. I hope it won’t happen, and normally I’m not the feminist conspiracy type at all. But I do worry a little.

  8. Kari
    · May 18th, 2010 at 2:52 pm · Link

    I think there is a large degree of association between female-written UF and its close cousin, paranormal romance. That’s why you’ll see my series, which is more “male-oriented”, under my initials instead of my very female name. They thought it would lessen that association.

    And I confess to writing the series that I did because I saw a gap in the supply. The “chick” UF outnumbers the “guy” UF, and male readers have noticed.

    Whether it’s right or wrong, it is what it is, and must be taken into consideration.

    • Stace
      · May 18th, 2010 at 8:08 pm · Link

      And that’s totally true. I admit I’ve considered writing a male POV UF for that very reason; because I do think men are kind of neglected as MCs and I do think they should have a bigger representation. As I said in my post, yeah, sadly, there are indeed some UFs out there in which the men are treated as little more than sex objects, and that bugs me just as much as when women are treated that way.

      I can’t wait to read DEVIL, though!

      • Kari
        · May 19th, 2010 at 8:19 am · Link

        Thankee much! 😉

        The Downside books are high on my list of summer reading, too. Very excited about those.

  9. Tiffany @ KindleVixen
    · May 18th, 2010 at 2:54 pm · Link

    I don’t consider UF to be thinly veiled PNR, infact UF is my preferred genre and introduced me to PNR in a way. I much prefer the dirty/gritty/dark stuff. I certainly enjoy a torturous romantic subplot in my UF, but at the same time I don’t miss if it isnt there (Dresden Files = love).

    I think part of the perception problem is because of a few different factors. First. Covers. Male UF authors don’t seem to suffer from this, but most UF covers SCREAM *Chick book* to me. Hot girls in tight leather with weapons…. attractive to guys sure, but not that different than a lot of PNR covers either.

    At the same time, I think the female protag makes it more open to being a “girl genre”. I love male protags, but I do tend to read females – tho whether that is because I relate to them more or just because they are more readily available I am not sure. I have a feeling its both.

    Lastly, is the sex thing. Like I said above, I have no issues with sex in a UF. I love a good tortured romance plot line almost as much as I love alpha men…. but its easy to see that sometimes its in there just because it can be and not because it SHOULD be. I don’t want to read about sex no matter if its UF or not just because I can, I need it to be a vital part of the story or the emotional journey of the characters. Yet sometimes I find its not always treated that way in UF, tho its rare…. it can affect perceptions.

    • Stace
      · May 18th, 2010 at 9:15 pm · Link

      Yeah, I definitely agree about the covers. They do really look a lot like PNR covers, and a lot of them have that “sexiness inside” kind of look as well. But then, those covers sell, and sex sells, so…

      But I do agree there are some that just have sex for sex’s sake, and I hate it and I hate those. I hate it in romance, too, though. If the only thing sex adds to the story is titillation, it doesn’t belong there.

  10. Mark
    · May 18th, 2010 at 4:43 pm · Link

    Do you think that some of the fear is based on the blurring between UF and paranormal romance? Not just that there could be sex in the urban fantasy they pick up, but something more dangerous?

    The power of the pussy?

    There’s a trend in French cinema right now exploring male fear of the power of female sexuality and how that fear flavors lots of things. Which has me thinking specifically about Kimberly Pierce’s film Boy’s Don’t Cry. There’s a scene in which Hillary Swank’s character brings Chloe Sevigney’s to orgasm. The ratings board made the director cut it down, because the orgasm was too realistic; the character was too given over to abandon and pleasure.

    Did it scare them? I think so. I think it’s so ingrained in us to downplay the importance of pleasure and female power that we’ve even begun to think that violence is much preferable.

    Some (SOME) of the scifi/fantasy readers who are so quick to label urban fantasy as a girl thing are responding out of fear. So another question is, why is it so unnerving for them to be exposed to the possibility of a romantic entanglement, or God forbid, some graphic, possibly arousing, sexual description.


    • Stace
      · May 18th, 2010 at 9:21 pm · Link

      I remember that scene, Mark, and the controversy about it! And yeah, female sexuality is a pretty taboo topic in a lot of things, or rather, female sexuality is only acceptable if it’s being exploited by men. Just like how it’s perfectly okay to have naked women all over in movies–full frontal women–but when a man does it it’s shocking, and it’s extremely rare. Somehow penises are more private and special, I guess, or it’s just that men don’t want to look at penises so it would never cross their minds that women might actually want to.

      And as Jaye points out above–which is an excellent point, and one I intended to make but ran out of room–there’s plenty of sex in “male” genres as well, but it’s only when women write it that it deserves to be belittle or dismissed as prurient or pornography. Fear isn’t a bad explanation, when faced with that. Sigh.

  11. Moonsanity (Brenda)
    · May 18th, 2010 at 4:55 pm · Link

    Interestingly, there was a twitter gal who said she doesn’t like reading male authors and people were suggesting some to her. I’ve know other women who felt that way too, so it’s a reverse of what you all are saying.

    I guess I’m surprised that UF is considered a chick thing. I knew paranormal romance was, but never thought of UF being that way. For one thing Zombies are huge with the guys– yell zombie and they come running. There are so many great guys writing UF: Sean Cummings, Mark Henry, Mario Acevedo, Anton Strout, plus the guys mentioned. My son is almost 17 and reads Rob Thurman and Jim Butcher. He said they just got a bunch of the Dresden Files books in the HS library. He read Twilight but didn’t like the romance at all, especially in the last one.

    Guys seem to like traditional fantasy though, correct? Is there really THAT much difference? Terry Goodkind’s books have some pretty steamy scenes in them but they are loved by men and women, so is Terry Brooks, Tolkien etc. Horror also seems to have more male fans, but again, aren’t some UF books kind of a combination of horror and fantasy?

    I think a lot of women actually don’t like what I consider dark UF because often there isn’t a “happily ever after”. They really need that type of ending above all else. I’m not saying I don’t love HEAs, but it’s not a necessary thing for me.

    I’m thinking I didn’t really add more to this, just asked more questions. LOL

    • Tiffany @ KindleVixen
      · May 18th, 2010 at 4:59 pm · Link

      Moon – I love the dark stuff because you don’t always get the HEA… Im evil that way 😉

      Oh and I know a guy who loves UF but not straight Fantasy… I am not sure why, I am sure why tho.

      oh and Rob Thurman is a woman 😉 A crazy one tho LMAO

    • Stace
      · May 18th, 2010 at 9:34 pm · Link

      I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman who felt that way, but then I did see on AW just the other day, a woman said she wouldn’t buy a romance novel written by a man. So the genre prejudice definitely exists in the other direction, too, sadly.

      And yes, I much prefer the darker stories, and I know UG is going to be too dark for some readers. I’ve already seen a few people complaining about the drug use is the book, which I admit confuses me; everyone is entitled to their own opinions, of course, and to the expression of that opinion, but if you don’t want to read about drug use, why would you enter a drawing to get a free book when the description clearly states that book is about a drug addict? Sigh.

      • Tyhitia
        · May 18th, 2010 at 11:44 pm · Link

        Your character is real and that’s what makes her gritty and awesome. 😉 Some folks can’t handle the truth.

  12. Moonsanity (Brenda)
    · May 18th, 2010 at 5:03 pm · Link

    Tiffany– I know Rob is a woman, I should have mentioned that– my son knows that too, and loves her books anyways. LOL

    I love dark fantasy too– I just have to take turns with lighter stuff so I don’t get all dark and evil myself. 😆

    Mark– you are probably right about the fear of a kick ass woman– but I would think it would be a turn on for a lot of guys. Go figure.

    • Tiffany @ KindleVixen
      · May 18th, 2010 at 5:05 pm · Link

      me too! I usually read a good hea after I get my heart torn out by the evil authors I love. Its therapeutic or something, hahaha.

  13. John
    · May 18th, 2010 at 5:39 pm · Link

    The idea of boy books and girl books makes me so angry. As a book seller, I hate when parents come in and immediately dismiss something their child is interested in because it’s not for the appropriate gender.

    As Synde mentioned, I’m seeing more guys start to read UF, but they do tend to start with authors like Jim Butcher and Simon R Green. Once they’ve started reading those guys, it’s easier to make recommendations on authors and get them to read more in the genre (whether it’s male or female authors).

    To a degree, I think the genre has set itself up as a “girl genre.” Before I started reading it, I would poke fun at UF books with the half naked woman clutching her weapon of choice on the cover. Based on the covers, I thought it was just tough chicks having sex with supernatural creatures. Sadly, I think a lot of people who don’t read in the genre associate UF with that.

    I definitely think guys are more receptive to UF once you’re able to get them to pick up one of the books and give it a shot. I guess then the question becomes, how do you get the guys to pick up the books?

    • Synde
      · May 18th, 2010 at 7:55 pm · Link

      John you said it!! They start with Green,
      and buy the others.. I see them buying lots of female writers now!!!

    • Stace
      · May 18th, 2010 at 9:41 pm · Link

      And I agree, the genre itself is at least partly responsible for that perception. There are the covers. There is the fact that some of them seem to rely so heavily on sex, and sex with multiple partners and multiple creatures, often at the same time. When those books are seen as representative of a genre or are the most successful in a genre, not only do other books copy them but they become the “public face,” and other books are sold based on their resemblance to them.

      Personally, I think things are starting to change. I think UF is starting to consolidate itself and really find its feet as something more than just paranormal romance with a little more adventure. I think it’s taking a darker and more exciting turn and is growing as a genre. And I really hope I’m right.

      Thanks for commenting!

  14. Danielle D. Smith
    · May 18th, 2010 at 6:51 pm · Link

    Could go either way. Urban fantasy with a sweet romantic element should be considered, naturally, more female-oriented, but there is plenty of writing in the genre that could be suited to either sex.

    Defining what Urban Fantasy “is”…that’s another story and open to interpretation.

  15. David M.
    · May 18th, 2010 at 7:02 pm · Link

    I been reading mostly UF for the past year, but hadn’t really thought about this topic until Jaye Wells brought it up in her blog. After thinking about it some more, I think the perception argument is valid, but I think it’s more subtle than that.

    Frankly, being a male, it’s not the romance or the sex that bothers me, it’s the BAD romance and sex. I’m sorry, but nothing makes me lose respect for a heroine faster than her being attracted to a guy for the wrong reasons, or worse, for no reason at all…well besides the tight jeans and magical eyes. I’ve read books where I’m thinking, “this guy is a date rapist!” or “there is no reason for you to be acting stupid for this guy yet!” If I get to that point, I’m basically reading the book in SPITE of the romantic sub-plot, not because of it.

    Are all the UF books like this? Absolutely not. However, the percentage of UF that have romantic storylines that obviously are not targeted towards me are significantly higher in the UF genre than say SF/F. So when I walk into a book store, it’s like ordering at a restaurant. Do I get the burger that I pretty sure I will like, or the salad which may or may not have something funky on top? I can’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to take that chance, it’s their money, after all.

    • Moonsanity (Brenda)
      · May 18th, 2010 at 7:48 pm · Link

      Wow David, I must be really selective on what UF I read because I seriously have not read the type of romance you mentioned. I’m not saying it’s not out there, but seriously as a woman, I would hate that type of sex in the plot too. I enjoy a flawed character who has to learn their lessons, but falling for a date rapist or that type of man would make me skip a book.

      • David M.
        · May 18th, 2010 at 8:49 pm · Link

        Heh, the point is that’s what’s going on in MY head, but I assume other people find it romantic. I won’t name names, but let’s just say these are popular series, or they seem to be.

        Frankly, the stereotypical vampire is not an ideal boyfriend. Werewolves are not much better. But it’s the dangerous aspect that I assume people like…or at least some women do, no?

        Anyway, I’m not saying these are bad stories, I’m just not the audience apparently. There are plenty of UF stories that work for me, I just need to find them.

    • Stace
      · May 18th, 2010 at 9:44 pm · Link

      Oh, David, I’ve read books like that and yes, they drive me crazy. I don’t mind couple having sex fairly early in their relationship, but if that happens can’t they at least acknowledge that they don’t know each other well and it’s just lust? Instead of this “I met you yesterday but I know I will never be able to live without you because you’re my soul mate” stuff?

      Like I said, sex in a book should be about more than just putting a hot sex scene in. It should make sense in the context of the book, too.


  16. Kat
    · May 18th, 2010 at 7:46 pm · Link

    I’m one of those people who actually got into the UF sub-genre through Neil Gaiman, then through Jim Butcher, then into the books where the writers were women and the mc was female. I’m a girl, but I don’t much care for romance, and I’ll admit that the covers for a lot of series turned me off. I assumed, either rightly or not (depending on my own personal tastes), that the book was one of those sex-with-vampires stories.

    I prefer UF over PNR, but I agree with you that yeah, I think the sub-genre has been unfairly categorized as something it isn’t. And I’m as guilty as the next person for thinking that way. Unfortunately, it really is true about judging a book by its cover. That being said, I can’t wait for Unholy Ghost!

  17. Michele Lee
    · May 18th, 2010 at 8:52 pm · Link

    Yes yes yes! Totally THIS. I know so many people who don’t even want to give UF a chance, but I know so many people who adore it, men and women. My own DH just is not a fiction fan. The only fiction books he reads (besides my own) are Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. And yet our gaming group is 8 men and 2 women. It’s weird how things divide up, all based on people’s perceptions.

  18. Nat (Wicked Lil Pixie)
    · May 18th, 2010 at 9:04 pm · Link

    When I first started blogging, I had ONE male come to my site. It’s jumped to about 5 who post regularly & about 15 in total who visit. Thanks to Twitter I see more and more guys chatting about UF but most of them won’t touch a PR.

  19. Salis
    · May 18th, 2010 at 9:57 pm · Link

    Alright, POLEMIC TIME!

    First of all, I think it’s important to establish what “Urban Fantasy” means. Originally, it meant something much different than it does now. If you go back far enough, you can even see Moorcock referring to Elric as “urban fantasy” because it deals in urban themes, as opposed to the rural themes (bucolic halflings, wild forests, untamed lands, etc) of Lord of the Rings and all its imitators.

    Then you’ve got modern urban fantasy, which is often a catch-all for a hybrid between fantasy and romance. I think this is where the controversy starts. You have people who feel like they’re being insulted when someone doesn’t want romance in their fantasy. You have people who throw a little sex in, but insist it’s not romance. And then you have people who just want blood and guts.

    I think all this talk of “boy” and “girl” books is not just a little ridiculous, but harmful. It divides people based on gender (witness the “Oh damn, the patriarchy is invading!” posts), rather than tastes, which is the only meaningful category in fiction. Some men love racy fiction. Some women hate it.

    So, I guess that’s it. If you throw a juicy sex scene in every “urban fantasy” you write, don’t be surprised if the people who think “fantasy with urban themes” rather than “fantasy with urban heat” aren’t so excited. Likewise, it’s a little silly for those who prefer sex-less urban fantasy to get worked up over what is, in the end, just market demand. Sex sells. Get ye hence!

    • Stace
      · May 19th, 2010 at 6:50 pm · Link

      Yes, people are certainly entitled to their own tastes, and they shouldn’t be forced to read something they don’t want to read. My problem isn’t with them having tastes, it’s with dismissing a genre–which contains a range of stories, characters, and yes, levels of romance and sex–as being somehow “not real fantasy” because it’s “chick books.” Like girls can’t possibly write, read or enjoy real fantasy.

      I’m not the one who groups UF into “girl books.” The only people I’ve seen who do that–and dismissively–have been men. I love men. I don’t want to pick a fight with any of them. I think they’re awesome. I just don’t understand why some of them have to put down the genre I enjoy.

      • The Mighty Buzzard
        · May 19th, 2010 at 7:03 pm · Link

        Most likely bad marketing and/or a bad first experience. That said, a large percentage of UF books (though not the best selling ones) do go heavy on the romance and therefore are “chick books”. That’s who they’re being marketed to and written for, so that’s what they are.

  20. The Mighty Buzzard
    · May 18th, 2010 at 10:31 pm · Link

    It’s not really a big secret why men don’t care for the romance bits of UF/PR. Aside from the initial honeymoon period of a relationship (can’t fight hormones), we pretty much never care about romance. If you’re getting romantic gestures from a guy beyond the honeymoon period, it’s because he wants to make you happy even if what he does to make you happy bores the hell out of him.

    Mark, you’re on the drugs. Two words: Dear Penthouse. We are so not afraid of reading graphical sexual material from anyone’s perspective. We simply require an actual story that does not lean on sex and romance to make it worth reading. Primarily the romance, to tell the truth.

    Nearly every romance angle I’ve ever read in PR/UF (over three thousand books and counting, primarily by female authors) has been the same four or five basic stories… over and over and over again. It’s extremely tedious.

    We’re most definitely not afraid of kick-ass chicks. See Tomb Raider games, Underworld, Blood Rayne, etc… The thing is, we prefer they uniformly kick ass. If they angst and flip-flop over romantic decisions for several books, they lose any respect we had for them.

    As a matter of fact, they don’t even have to kick too much ass so long as they drop the angst and wishy-washiness in their more personal decisions. Sookie Stackhouse being a prime example. She doesn’t tend to do much of the ass-kicking herself and she may spend several books having romantic issues but it’s for shit happens reasons. When she decides something, that’s her decision until something happens to change her mind.

    Simplification if you want guys to enjoy your books too. Treat romance and sex in a book like you treat salt on food. Applied correctly and in limited quantity it makes the story that much better, done poorly or leaving the story to lean too heavily on it renders the story unreadable.

    • Jaye Wells
      · May 19th, 2010 at 8:37 am · Link

      I think you’re getting to the heart of this matter. If I’m reading your comment correctly, it’s not that guys don’t enjoy reading about sex; it’s that they don’t enjoy romantic sex. i.e. sex with icky emotion attached. Bringing up Dear Penthouse is a perfect example. Those stories aren’t about romantic sex, they’re about titilation. The women in those stories are basically cookie cutter sexual objects, not self-actualized women. The examples you gave of kick-ass chicks, i.e. Underworld and Tomb Rader, feature females who are basically men with tits. They’re, for the most part, devoid of romanticized emotions about anything.

      So maybe Mark was kind of wrong. It’s not that men are afraid of the “power of pussy,” but instead that some men fear or loathe self-actualized women who have real emotions and longings beyond pleasing a man.

      • Mark
        · May 19th, 2010 at 8:42 am · Link

        Which is exactly the point.

      • Salis
        · May 19th, 2010 at 10:25 am · Link

        This kind of hyperbole isn’t doing anyone any favors. There’s a middle between extremes. Maybe some of those men aren’t interested in the books because they prefer a more plot-focused narrative. It’s really not necessary to demonize men as misogynists to explain why more women than men read these types of books.

        The analogy I’d use is hair commercials–when the product is basically conceived from day 1 as a product for women, marketed to women, it’s a little silly to complain when men don’t buy it. I see this as wanting to have the cake and eat it too.

      • Jaye Wells
        · May 19th, 2010 at 11:14 am · Link

        Sallis, you said,
        “Maybe some of those men aren’t interested in the books because they prefer a more plot-focused narrative. It’s really not necessary to demonize men as misogynists to explain why more women than men read these types of books.”

        As I stated earlier, I’m fine if this comes down to a preference about story style. My comments are addressed to those men who dismiss UF precisely because they’re “chick books.” Why not just say they prefer a different kind of story if that’s the reason? Also, I don’t believe anyone here used the word “mysoginists.” It is also not my aim to demonize men or paint every man with a broad stroke. But I do think it’s important to discuss why certain people have these attitudes.

      • Salis
        · May 19th, 2010 at 12:58 pm · Link

        Sallis, you said,


        For the same reason that some people dismiss Quentin Tarantino’s movies as violence porn, or call rom-coms chick flicks–sure, there may be a little dislike inherent in the nicknames, but they’re just a way to easily refer to something. “Chick books” is way easier to say than “A certain group of novels that feature a strong, independent female character where there is a focus on her steamy relationship with a dangerous but sensitive man”.


        Of course, no one did. But the assumption that a lot of men don’t like these books because they’re *threatened* by sexy women who are independent and intelligent (or whatever) really seems to me like its flirting with misandry. Yeah, okay, I know for sure there *are* people like that, just like there are Republicans who are fucking insane and think Obama wasn’t born in the US, but I don’t think they make the majority.

        I’d like to get away from that for a second, though, and ask people in general what they think constitutes urban fantasy? I’ve seen some really specific descriptions in the past (usually has a detective or investigation or hunting of some sort, involved relationships, etc), which surprises me, since I usually think of genres as more wide-open.

      • The Mighty Buzzard
        · May 19th, 2010 at 5:33 pm · Link

        Really doesn’t have anything to do with fear. It’s just vastly different from how a large percentage of men think and place importance on different aspects of the story; it simply does not speak to, or even make sense to, them.

        Men wouldn’t go around saying women are afraid because they don’t care about or understand the importance of our awesome new Snap-On ratchet. It’s a fairly disingenuous bit of ego pandering to say we’re afraid because we don’t appreciate or understand melodramaticised romance as the primary focus of a book.

        Yeah, those are broad generalizations but when you’re after as many in a demographic as possible, broad generalizations are what you’re working with.

      • The Mighty Buzzard
        · May 19th, 2010 at 6:24 pm · Link

        I wouldn’t say we dislike romantic sex in books so much as simply don’t care about it. It’s more a null value for romantic sex scenes than it is a minus. Replace all paragraphs focusing on romance with “blah blah blah” and you’ll get what we’re seeing.

        If it’s not advertised with romance and sex being the primary focus (in which case it just won’t be bought) and the rest of the book scores enough awesomeness points, it gets counted as a good book.

    • Salis
      · May 19th, 2010 at 12:59 pm · Link

      And apparently using brackets instead of quotes to set the quotes off better was a huge mistake, it ate the quotes. Oh well, you get the idea. 😐

      • Stace
        · May 19th, 2010 at 6:53 pm · Link

        But Mighty Buzzard, I’m afraid of ratchets. *bats eyelashes*

      • Stace
        · May 19th, 2010 at 7:07 pm · Link

        Salis, I don’t think anyone is assuming that’s why men dismiss urban fantasy as “chick books.” I think it’s a theory that we’re discussing, that may have some points in its favor and may not. But it’s certainly not misandry to discuss it.

        I do agree with you about too many UF MCs who are just not nice or interesting people. I don’t mind someone being a bit prickly, or a bit sarcastic, but when she’s outright mean and bossy I don’t want to read even one page about her, much less a whole book or series. I don’t like male MCs who are basically dicks, so why would I want to read a woman who is? Just because she’s a woman doesn’t make her not a dick.

        What I think constitutes urban fantasy? A story which takes place in an urban world with strong fantasy elements. The story should be tied into the elements of that world; in other words, the story should be able to exist as it does only because it happens in that world.

        Modern or not, female or male MC, first POV or third, none of these make it UF or not IMO. I think all you need is what’s above.

  21. Christina
    · May 19th, 2010 at 3:48 am · Link

    I wonder if, in part, this whole male/female issue has to do with marketing. The UF books *tend* (and maybe I’m over generalizing here and most definitely being tongue in cheek in a very serious manner) to have a cover that I think is marketed more towards women and less towards men (even though the women *tend* to be scantily clad). Compare the cover of a Laurell K. Hamilton book, for example, to a Butcher book. I think that cover combined with the synopsis on the back, can be… frightening to male readers. I mean my god! She’s a kick ass woman (hope she doesn’t kick my ass! yikes! Run away….!). But Butcher’s books–man that dude has a TRENCH coat. And he’s all… dude and manly and what not. Yeah, rar!

    The point is, however ridiculously put, is that some one, some where, along the line decided to market these books to women. And then realized that women were buying them in droves. So they marketed them in a more hardcore manner, and probably started looking for women writers who WROTE this kind of stuff. WHICH is not a bad thing… mostly.

    I think that, as much as it makes my quasi-feminist skin crawl, its not too terrible that men get interested (or re-interested) in this genre through male writers and then female writers. I suppose, in that sense, its about comfort level. BUT if they’re “brave enough” to give a UF book that has a female protagonist written by a female author a chance, then ho-fricken-ray! Seriously.

    • Stace
      · May 19th, 2010 at 7:19 pm · Link

      No, and that’s very true. And really, from an economic standpoint it makes sense to market it to women, especially women who also read romance; we buy the majority of books.

      I guess I just wonder why fantasy marketed to women isn’t “real” fantasy, and why it has to be dismissed and put down. It just makes me sad.

      • Christina
        · May 22nd, 2010 at 6:51 am · Link

        Ditto. Dit. To. I grew up reading fantasy and sci-fi (I was reading people like Asimov when I was in my very early teens along side people like Madeline L’Engle and Anne McCarthy) and I never felt like I needed stories to be marked as “woman friendly”–I loved my male protags as much as my female protags as long as the story was kick-ass. I think that some place along the line in the past… lets just say =/- 20 years some one did all this market analysis and went “Ho-lee COW! Look at the spending power them women folk have! Quick, market to them. MARKET TO THEM!” which lead to this labeling crap which in turn has lead to “this is a BOY book, this is a GIRL book” rather than “this is an excellent fantasy book with strong paranormal tones. If you like stories about ghosts, this is for you!” And, in turn, I think this blitzkrieg kind of marketing towards women has influenced the way certain genre/sub-genre of books are written. For every one really awesome paranormal/UF writer there is on the shelf (and I’m talking grab you by the you-know-whats storytelling with kick-butt characters and solid world building) there’s two authors who I can’t figure out how in the hell they managed to get their book published as its the antitheses of good storytelling. Which almost always insults my intelligence as a reader AND a woman because it always feels like publishers are attempting to dupe me into buying junk just because I’m a woman who happens to like genre fiction.

  22. Stephanie Draven
    · May 19th, 2010 at 6:56 am · Link

    I guess my feeling on this is that genre and gender snobs are not worth stressing about. There’s awesome fiction to be found in every genre if you find the right author that tickles your fancy. And if men don’t want to read stuff because they’re afraid they’ll catch girl cooties, well, how much should we worry about it when women account for 68% of book sales?

  23. Betsy Dornbusch
    · May 19th, 2010 at 9:05 am · Link

    I think they’re chick books and I tend to lose interest in a few chapters. I’m writing an urban fantasy with two male protags in their 20s. I tend to write a lot of males, anyway. I know this sounds hypocritical because I’m married and I’ve written erotica and nary a story without some romance, but what is it about women, in fiction and RL, that they have to have a guy around? Either that, or they’re so “anti-guy” it’s obnoxious. It wears me out. I’d love to read a story with no romance at all. (Nothing against it, but I’d like to see something different sometimes.)

    But they’re tough to find. I do think that’s why Gaiman does well. Some of his stories either have no romance or it’s very downplayed.

    But mostly I think men don’t read urban fantasy because of the snark factor, the voice. The characters are all women who seem to have something to prove. The voices are so overtly “woman” that it turns guys off, I think, and I wonder if it’s not like sitting around with a woman who acts like that. I don’t know women with obnoxious attitudes born of some base insecurity (or a purposeful don’t-care attitude) in real life, and I wouldn’t hang out with one if I met her. I feel the same about UF. But then, I know I’m in the minority in that.

    • Salis
      · May 19th, 2010 at 10:30 am · Link

      The voice brings up an interesting point. Why is it that so many of these female “kick ass” characters are… well, female kick ass characters? It seems like that nihilistic attitude is the default. I mean, sure, it can be entertaining with either sex (who doesn’t like a disgruntled hitman?), but when overdone it’s as bad as anything else that’s overdone.

      Thinking about it, it’s startling that there aren’t more “fun” female characters. I don’t get it. It’s easily possible to be both “I don’t give a shit” and simultaneously *not* unpleasant (see Psych). It almost seems like it’s the old feminist “whatever man can do, we must do too” approach, where the female character must KICK ASS LIKE A HEARTLESS MAN to establish herself as independent and respectable.

      • The Mighty Buzzard
        · May 19th, 2010 at 6:15 pm · Link

        Beats me why there aren’t as many fun female characters as kick-ass ones. I’m fine with ass kicking stories, I’m fine with funny stories, and I’m fine with a good mystery that has little in the way of violence. I simply don’t care for stories that can’t stand without the included romance. More power to anyone who does, it’s just not my thing.

        I also need to have a certain level of empathy with the MC or the book is going to end up DNF’d. Being highly amused by the MC would also work though. Which is why I can read Lynsay Sands’s or LKH’s books just fine but others don’t float my boat.

      • Stace
        · May 19th, 2010 at 7:28 pm · Link

        YES. Absolutely. I do not like those characters, and I don’t want to read or write them. I don’t feel the need to fight with people all the time, and I don’t want to be around people who do.

        But as to why there are so many of them? That, I have no idea.

      • Betsy Dornbusch
        · May 20th, 2010 at 9:20 am · Link

        I think of Dean Winchester as being the ultimate fun badboy. He’s got a great sense of humor but he takes his job seriously. Damn, he actually likes it. Easy on the eyes, too. I mean, he’s snarky and of course it is an emotional defense, but it’s not like he acts like the whole world is out to get him (even though it is).

        I guess what’s missing is resentment. I find female characters in UF to be chock full of resentment. It makes me think “Get over yourself already.”

        And frankly, I think it’s easier to imagine a guy with his personality rather than a chick. Guys in general just tend to get on with it and not waste a lot of time moaning “Boo hoo I have special powers and I have to fight ghosts and it’s skeery and I’m ostracized by society,” like I see in a lot of female UF protags. But maybe it’s just me and the culture we live in, too. I know a hell of a lot of women who have it so easy and yet still resent the hell out of life. Not so much with the guys.

        If I ever get back to writing a female protag in UF, I’ll write one with NO resentment. She’s damn well going to LIKE her job.

  24. synde
    · May 19th, 2010 at 10:30 am · Link

    I have shared this post with my fellow booksellers..they all agreed that the genre is changing and that there is some headway with the boys vs girl authors, and whose buying who.
    Many of them thought as Mark and Jaye stated that it is more that guys are afraid of a woman who knows what she wants..to be pleased, to kill or to kick some but..A woman who knows their own mind.
    We have all taken a challenge to handsell female UF author to a male reader..we will see how that goes.

    • Tiffany @ KindleVixen
      · May 19th, 2010 at 10:37 am · Link

      Interesting, in my experience men want a woman who knows what she wants …. at least the men worthy of my time lol.

    • David M.
      · May 19th, 2010 at 4:40 pm · Link

      I’m really curious to know if the fellow booksellers were men or women or both.

      Many of them thought as Mark and Jaye stated that it is more that guys are afraid of a woman who knows what she wants..to be pleased, to kill or to kick some but..A woman who knows their own mind.

      I keep hearing people say men are afraid of these stories that have empowered women in them. I would argue that they aren’t afraid, they simply aren’t entertained by these stories. There really is a difference.

      Now that I think about it, the stories that I dislike the most are those that have a supposed heroine who “knows her own mind” and then starts losing her mind for a pair of tight jeans. Frankly, I encounter this often in the UF genre, so much so that I think there is a specific audience for this formula…and I’m guessing it’s not men.

      With that said, maybe guys aren’t afraid of “powerful” women in their stories, maybe they are afraid of wasting their time and money on books they don’t like?

      • Stace
        · May 19th, 2010 at 7:50 pm · Link

        Oh, I can see that not being entertaining for a man. They don’t not entertain me, but I do find it irritating when women start acting like idiots because of a man, or when–like I said above–insta-love happens.

        But what bothers me isn’t them not liking them, it’s putting them down and saying they’re somehow not good enough or not qualified to be called fantasy, you know?

      • Moonsanity (Brenda)
        · May 19th, 2010 at 8:04 pm · Link

        However I do enjoy it when a man acts like an idiot over a woman. LOL 😆

      • David M.
        · May 19th, 2010 at 8:51 pm · Link

        But what bothers me isn’t them not liking them, it’s putting them down and saying they’re somehow not good enough or not qualified to be called fantasy, you know?

        I completely sympathize with that, and I’m certainly not defending any comments diminishing UF or women authors.

        Moreover, I completely agree with your definition of UF from above, “A story which takes place in an urban world with strong fantasy elements.” That’s what I want to read right now, but to be honest it’s extra work for me to find books that might meet my criteria for “Good UF”. It’s not hard, but it’s extra work that I would not do if I were picking an SF/F book. For that to change, the genre has to change and the industry has to change it, because right now I think that most UF is marketed towards women. I will certainly admit to feeling like a stranger sometimes.

        By the way, thanks for the post and your comments. If it helps any, I will be picking up Unholy Ghosts because it sounds like my kind of book. Plus, if I want the direction of UF to change, I need to buy more books that meet my criteria of good…money talks, after all.

  25. Pamk
    · May 19th, 2010 at 10:53 am · Link

    My sons love this type of book. One is 14 and the other id almost 21. When I went book shopping with older son I read him the back cover for KMM 1st fever book. He threw it in the buggy and wouldn’t let me put it up lol. And my younger loves Kelly Armstrong’s YA and Rachel Vincent’s YA and they have girl leads. He and the girls in his class share them. They think he’s cool for reading the same thing they do lol.

  26. Melissa
    · May 19th, 2010 at 11:04 am · Link

    Hey,i just love to read and I don’t care what other people think! I do feel for you and your struggles though! I’m an artist so i do understand the prejudices out there! I think you will get the respect you deserve if you just keep using your own authentic voice.I also had an older brother who introduced me to Fantasy and science fiction,Tolkein,Heinlen,Conan the Barbarian comics and I’ve expanded my tastes from there.I love fantasy, romance,erotica,urban fantasy(especially Charles de Lint) and i love some laughs in there as well! Some have romance, some have sex, some don’t and they all have there place for me depending on my mood! I just enjoy each author and their unique voice. That’s what’s important to me, good writing, interesting characters and plots that surprise me and keep me intrigued enough to keep reading with all the other distractions in life! Something that takes me away from the mundane. From what I hear you have that unique voice and i was here to check that out some more! Looks like I’ll be checking out your books as well! Really looking forward to reading your new series and good luck to you! Just remember one third of the people will like you,one third won’t and the other third doesn’t give a damn!

    • Stace
      · May 19th, 2010 at 7:53 pm · Link

      Ditto! :) They all have their place, and what most matters are good characters, good stories, and good writing.

      Oh, and if you’re interested, the first five chapters of the book are available for download right here on the site; it’s in my last two blog posts and also on the UNHOLY GHOSTS page (click on the Books page, then the title).


  27. Stephanie Takes-Desbiens
    · May 19th, 2010 at 1:13 pm · Link

    So far I am impressed. I made a mention of the new book on my blog http://www.fangswandsandfairydust.com as the first few pages I have had a chance to look at were really well written. I especially liked her wiggling her toes.

  28. Athena W.
    · May 19th, 2010 at 9:35 pm · Link

    What I cannot stand within the genre is when a supposedly kick ass heroine who has been trained into being a lean, mean, kick ass machine converts into an overly hormonal prima donna. While I won’t point out any names, I very recently got done reading a story in which the heroine had been training to kill and destroy vampires her ENTIRE life. She is seriously prejudiced against the species and yet when the “hero” struts onto the stage she suddenly loses her mind (and her panties) All of her prejudices and concerns are immediately put on the back burner and eventually trickle off completely. Her supposed training leaches away until the dreaded cliche scene “passion within peril” where the main characters are so hot for each other they tear each others’ clothes off while they have a few spare moments in the bad guy’s lair. Jay-sus. You call yourself professional? You call yourself a cold stoned elite assassin? I call you a dumbass. But tomatoe, tomahtoe, right? It is absolutely infuriating when I expect to get a woman who slaughters her foes without remorse and maybe a smirk, but get a estrogen leaden freak who will rip her clothes (and the hero’s) off at a moments notice. My advice to her? Get a vibrator. Don’t forget the batteries.
    I personally think that guys fear getting this type of drivel. I know I do. The thing is, PNR and UF are so closely tied together that sometimes the community at large switches the genres around. Which is understandable considering that PNR and UF authors often jump from one genre and back. I know the book I was reading was labeled a UF (said so on the spine and everything) but it was clearly a PNR. Going to the author’s web site she had a slew of books she and her publisher labeled as PNR, yet she designated this book as UF. I, frankly, was confused (and horrified). My thoughts were along the lines of, if you think THIS is UF what the hell do you consider PNR? IMO UF should be able to stand as a story without all the sex and foreplay. Of course, if your story loses a few hundred pages when culling those…uh…characteristics then perhaps one should reconsider what they designate as UF and PNR. Stacia your Demon series can definately stand as a story and series without sex. It isn’t gratuituos and furthers the stories, all the better. I loved them, my friends and I read them to each other and whenever someone mentioned drinking we’d take a shot ourselves. Ah, good times.

    • Stace
      · May 19th, 2010 at 9:51 pm · Link

      OMG!! Are you serious? You made a drinking game out of my books?! That is SO AWESOME!! Thank you!

      Hee, I’m totally delighted by that. I don’t think anything has ever made me feel better. And yeah, lol, they do drink a lot in those books, don’t they? I thought that would be fun to write; I was thinking of things like the Thin Man movies, where everyone drinks cocktails all the time and there’s lots of snappy dialogue.

      But I agree. Romance plots or subplots shouldn’t be some kind of crutch. When characters start behaving totally out of character, just so you can get some sex into a book…that’s just bad writing.

      I do wish it was easier to tell the difference between the strongly romantic UFs that straddle the PNR line, and the ones that don’t. I always made it as public as I can that the Demons books were really close to PNR, but of course not everyone is going to see that. And the Downside books really don’t have much romance in them at all, and they have such a different tone and are so much darker.

      That’s actually one big reason I put up the chapters for people to download. It might be too much for some people and I want them to know what they’re getting, you know?

      Anyway. Thanks again, so much!

      • Salis
        · May 20th, 2010 at 10:30 am · Link

        I think what leads to the “that’s not real fantasy” line (which I’ve never used myself, but I admit it could be construed that way) is the feeling that Paranormal Romance is essentially taking over Urban Fantasy and making the latter category worthless.

        This really sucks for people who are writing something that is more traditional urban fantasy, in the literal sense of the phrase, a fantasy in an urban environment or theme. They have to ask themselves, “What is the first thing people think of when they hear the phrase ‘Urban Fantasy’?” Unfortunately, for a lot of people, the reply is, “Hot leather and a tramp stamp”.

        Let me be absolutely clear: I’m not suggesting the author of this blog or any other authors who have posted here write these sorts of books… only that there are tons of them, and the associative damage has been done.

        It would be like if an erotic romance movie (no matter how classy) were being advertised as a “political thriller”.

        Likewise, I can understand if the spillover antagonism from this sad turn of events catches some authors in the cross-fire and makes them feel like their work is being put down.

      • Stace
        · May 20th, 2010 at 3:22 pm · Link

        *sigh* Yeah, Salis, I totally agree. I guess one of my points in posting was to say, hey, there is some stuff in UF that isn’t really PNR, and maybe if you try it you’ll like it, you know? Don’t just automatically dismiss all of it. (I know you weren’t doing that, and I know you weren’t claiming me or my friends who commented are writing that. My “don’t just dismiss it” is aimed at the universal “you.”)

        What makes me sad is that I see and hear a lot of readers who want UF, and want it to be UF, not PNR, and they’re beginning to lose hope. Whereas I think the genre is really starting to kind of find its feet now, if you know what I mean, and starting to grow in the direction a lot of us would like to see it grow into. I think it’s starting to take chances and branch out–at least I hope so.

        I guess only time will tell, huh?

        Hey, thanks a lot for your comments here. I don’t remember seeing you around before, so it’s always great to have someone new come over and get involved.

      • Salis
        · May 20th, 2010 at 4:51 pm · Link

        I mostly stick to AW (okay, I didn’t post there for months on end recently because I realized the time is better spent writing), so that would explain that.

        This topic is always interesting, though, tons of viewpoints. If you’re willing, I’d love to hear your suggestions of, say, the top 10 UF out there (within the last decade, say, to keep it current).

        I’m always looking for something good in that area.

  29. Athena W.
    · May 20th, 2010 at 11:00 am · Link

    Tee Hee! We love them and we like to pull in new people when we do a read aloud (the more the merrier). It is so much fun when you get people who are new to the series. Just open up a bottle of gin and your good to go. I think the biggest round up of people we got was 12.

    • Stace
      · May 20th, 2010 at 3:15 pm · Link

      That is seriously the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. Thank you so much for telling me about it, I’m totally stunned. And, you and your friends sound awesome. I want to come to a drinking read aloud!

  30. Steve
    · May 27th, 2010 at 11:37 pm · Link

    Ditto. Dit. To. I grew up reading fantasy and sci-fi (I was reading people like Asimov when I was in my very early teens along side people like Madeline L’Engle and Anne McCarthy) and I never felt like I needed stories to be marked as “woman friendly”–I loved my male protags as much as my female protags as long as the story was kick-ass. I think that some place along the line in the past… lets just say =/- 20 years some one did all this market analysis and went “Ho-lee COW! Look at the spending power them women folk have! Quick, market to them. MARKET TO THEM!” which lead to this labeling crap which in turn has lead to “this is a BOY book, this is a GIRL book” rather than “this is an excellent fantasy book with strong paranormal tones. If you like stories about ghosts, this is for you!” And, in turn, I think this blitzkrieg kind of marketing towards women has influenced the way certain genre/sub-genre of books are written. For every one really awesome paranormal/UF writer there is on the shelf (and I’m talking grab you by the you-know-whats storytelling with kick-butt characters and solid world building) there’s two authors who I can’t figure out how in the hell they managed to get their book published as its the antitheses of good storytelling. Which almost always insults my intelligence as a reader AND a woman because it always feels like publishers are attempting to dupe me into buying junk just because I’m a woman who happens to like genre fiction.

    • Stace
      · May 29th, 2010 at 2:30 pm · Link

      YES! That’s totally what it feels like, like “Those dumb women will read anything.” And they figure women will buy anything with some sex in it, or with This Type of Storyline or That Type of Storyline.

      Granted, so much of it is subjective. And just because we don’t like it doesn’t mean a lot of people won’t. But I do hate the idea that because I’m a woman my writing must be X, or I’m not allowed to write Y; just as I object to the idea that because I’m a woman I must like reading books with X or hate books with Y.

      It has twisted the genre, and I find that upsetting. Sigh. I guess all we can do as woman, as writers, and as readers is try to make our feelings and tastes known, and do our best to get the stuff we like out there, and to support it.

  31. InkGypsy
    · June 2nd, 2010 at 3:37 pm · Link

    The main* hurdle as I see it is this:
    Sure the covers are sexy but it’s really women’s ideas of what they think men think is sexy, not what men actually find sexy.

    Without launching into a massive reply to explain, what kind of man wants to read about a woman who doesn’t need or want him (or men in general)? Whether or not this is what the MC is like inside the covers, on the outside the covers show women as kick-ass strong (don’t need your male muscle to survive in my world), sexy (no man required for this either thank you), alone (got the smarts, the looks, the savvy etc to get what I want, when I want) and with a yen for the paranormal (ordinary human males are too mundane for me).

    Of course, it’s also a trope that heroes tend to be alone – no permanent partner or live-in family, though they probably have some good value buddies to call on if they need to. It’s the detective/ hero-saves the world/ undercover agent/ military genius/ rebel/ etc standard. It’s easier to manage and a well-loved standard for kick-ass stories. Women TEND toward community though (yes, I’m generalizing but that’s the whole problem from every angle here) – women group up, love having families/children, are joiners, groupies, have people over etc. They’re also doers, independent thinkers, jump into the fray with little hesitation when those they love are threatened, are smart (and often subtle about it), active, work out, work hard, connive, etc etc

    How to portray the type without being seen as typical? It’s a quandry, for sure, but there has to be more options than the typical UF tough chick cover!

    (As a side note, Patricia Briggs’ new Alpha Omega MC is a refreshing change simply because this woman IS in a permanent relationship and she has a good blend of kick-ass and femininity, including using less obvious ways to get done what she needs to. It probably helps that she’s just as paranormal as her mate to put them on equal terms – like humans.)

    Think about pulp covers from the 40’s, 50’s etc or the James Bond posters or even Kill Bill & Tomb Raider. The male-centric covers are obvious – guy in the middle can do it all himself and the girls flock, but if you swapped the guys and girls to have a girl in the middle with guys BEHIND (ie not touching and personally involved etc) guys would still be more likely to pick that up than a UF. Why? Action is shown on the cover/posters. This is what the female-only Kill Bill and Tomb Raider posters/covers have that UF covers don’t – they show tough chick IN ACTION with no hint of relationship. The fact that they look sexy doing it is part of the appeal. They not concerned with sexy – they are because they are active/assertive. UF covers mostly have ‘sexy’ women holding a weapon walking or standing or sitting with their focus off screen or on the reader. They’re not involved in the action of their profession. First and foremost they are ‘woman’ (who, incidentally, is saying ‘look at me’ instead of ‘look at what I can do’ like an equal opportunity kick-ass pro would).

    I have no good solution to the inequality of perception, although I would suggest marketing try something different, perhaps looking at just what it is about men’s covers & movie posters that appeal to them as per above. I think it’s very possible this typical cover presentation has had an effect on what’s been written too – first to churn out the same-old, same-old and then later to push writers into breaking the mold and finally writing something with more teeth (so to speak). Go Stacia! I just wish someone would do something so the marketing would do the same. It can get kind of insulting (I actually typo-ed insluting there first! LOL) to be seen only reading that ‘type’.

    [*I say ‘main’ because I think other points about story content commenters have made are very valid but I’m mainly commenting on the ‘girl-books’ label that has guys not even giving UF – or at least UF written by women – a chance.]

  32. InkGypsy
    · June 7th, 2010 at 10:41 pm · Link

    Erg. After taking some leisure to read all the ‘read more’ sections of the FAQ I realized there’s a teeny tiny chance (OK, not so teeny tiny) that I may have come across the wrong way in my comments… (which should teach me to not attempt to write comments with a toddler on my lap…)

    1) In my ‘but women tend to..’ section (a paragraph I probably should have deleted in hindsight as it kinda got off-topic.. sorry!) it may seem like I think the loner MC is overdone. Not exactly. I have hermit tendencies myself and continuous moving as a kid (and an adult) hasn’t made for a good environment to put down roots. I love seeing women on their own make a difference and evolve – gives me hope for me. 😀 I’m just also aware that my tendencies are kinda in the minority for a woman BUT I do believe many people feel themselves to be more alone than one would think too, so the loner MC will normally strike some sort of sympathetic chord. It just that this ‘type’ tends to be represented similarly (and therefore shallowly) on the cover, despite the very different individuals on the pages inside.

    2) Do I dislike the typical UF cover. NO! I love them. I’m drawn to them and will totally buy a book of an author I haven’t read before with a good UF cover. I’m just aware of how people look at me when I happen to have them in public, though that could just be the town I’m currently in which is filled with suspiciously zombie-like types who require you dress/behave/read/etc according to some unwritten code of Stepfordness…

    Re inside the covers, well that would easily qualify as a thesis topic… but I do think UF overall is much more than ‘action for girls’. It’s a wonderfully wide-ranging genre with something for almost everyone. It’s the perception that’s the problem. And I do think perception took a dive thanks to Twilight and its fans. Though Stoker popularized the whole ‘monsters have feelings’ idea I don’t think vampires were ever not respected as true monsters at their core until they became sparkly.

    Did that help?

    • Stace
      · June 8th, 2010 at 12:00 pm · Link

      Hey, I don’t think you came off badly at all, so please don’t worry. You didn’t offend me; you stated your opinion. We don’t do getting offended by other people’s comments/thoughts here. :)

      I actually think your comments about covers/poses is a really good one; I’m considering making it the basis for another post, if that’s okay with you.


  33. Christopher Parvin
    · June 29th, 2010 at 4:40 pm · Link

    I really enjoy urban fantasy, after years of reading Lord of the Ring style epics, it’s a very welcome change. I also don’t mind emotional plots, love interests etc. My problem is when that becomes more important than the main plot. I have to admit I’ve been lazy in the past. I pick up an urban fantasy and there’s some half naked man (not a complete turn off as I’m gay) on the cover and the blurb talks about how she must choose between the good guy of the evil guy (probably a vampire in today’s market) while saving the world and I put it back. It is promotion. It makes the books appear as if romance is all the novel is about. I know it’s judging a book by its cover but sometime I really can’t help it.

    I just prefer my fantasy with a bit more fantasy and not so much love. It’s not about action; I always feel a tingle when a character has some kind of spiritual development or poignant tear jerking moments. And at times I think sex feels so nonchalant when in dire situations and sucks the energy from a story (of course it can have the opposite effect too. I’m aware of the lust generated by dire situations). It’s just personal taste. I think writers like Kelley Armstrong has struck the right balance were sex and relationships don’t overshadow, but are still important. It’s just when everything else takes a side bar, or the main plot it interpreted one too many times due to the attraction of a new character or more frustration released by sex that I start to lose interest.

    It’s hard because I really love women protagonists. If anything I’m more likely to put a book back, or at least to the bottom of my reading pile because it has a male lead which in fantasy has been bloody raped for all it’s worth.

    I would never call anything girl fiction though.

  34. TymCon
    · June 29th, 2010 at 5:08 pm · Link

    You want to know what? I actually like reading a womans perspetive in urban fantasy more than a mans perspective. It’s one of the only genres who don’t sidestep alot of issues. Strangely enough i liek male perspectives in fantasy more but that might be because the male point of view in fantasy gets more attention. And i usually buy the book that i’ve heard of the most. Gotta save that money 😆
    I must admit in Kim Harrisons book she does have a bit of sex in her books, and maybe a bit too much description. But so what? One scene doesn’t define a book.
    Can you imagine if George rr Martin was defined by one of his sex scenes. Hell, i’m onyl at crown of swords and he’s probably get shunned if people defined him by a few of his descriptions.
    No offense to Geroge rr martin, i love his work, but it is the point.
    By no means am i a feminist (being a 17 year old boy kind of gets in the way) but even i have to admit diffrent rules for censoreship goes for diffrent genders.
    So i’ve completly lost the point of this post. I preety much wanted to say that it’s not just women who read urban fantasy.
    Ps: Kind of embarrising that I used another Author’s name in another Author’s blog, but…yeah i liek her books.
    Pss: I’ll probably buy youres

  35. TymCon
    · June 29th, 2010 at 5:18 pm · Link

    Oh forgot to mention this. I doubt it’s fear of women sexuality (Unless it’s subconcious). But meh im below th eage of adult. What do i knowXD


  1. For those wondering | Stacia Kane
  2. Gender and the shifting definitions of epic and urban fantasy | Cora Buhlert

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