Contemporary or Urban?

Contemporary or urban fantasy – I never realized there are two different types until I tried to explain why I like urban fantasy and I realized that my book, Burnt, didn’t contain all the traditional elements of an urban fantasy.

Contemporary fantasy (check out Wikipedia, Shadows in Mind and Hacker Space) is the umbrella term for fantasy fiction that takes place anywhere in our modern world. Urban fantasy is a sub-category of contemporary fantasy, from what I have read. Fantastical creatures such as gods, vampires and werewolves exist alongside humans but are hidden from or unknown to humans. The story is structured around a variety of scenarios.

Urban fantasy fiction always takes place strictly in an urban environment. It’s usually structured as a police type procedural – think detective or police – and there’s often a romantic sub-plot. It is not paranormal romance. If you take out the romantic sub-plot, the story will still stand as a complete novel (Jeannie Holmes). It is often written in the first person.


  • has a romantic element that is not integral to the story,
  • takes place in an urban environment, Sydney Australia and in Rapa Nui, Chile, south Pacific Ocean,
  • is structured around a thousand year old warrior in an ancient war, and;
  • is written in the third person.

All of which left me wondering what kind of story I have.

Genre titles don’t matter until marketing is involved. An urban fantasy tends to have a hero or heroine standing in a fighting stance on the front cover, holding a deadly looking weapon, ready to take on all comers.

Contemporary fantasy books, such as Neil Gaiman’s Amercian Gods, tend to have variable covers, usually with symbolism mixed with a less prominent picture of the main character, if the main character is there at all.

Since genres aren’t important for writing and my book hasn’t even sold, let alone actually have a marketing team behind, I’m going to call it contemporary fantasy.

But my blog will talk about the books I enjoy in contemporary and urban fantasy, because you don’t become a writer without picking up a love of reading and that’s what I want to share with you.


Caveat: all of the above descriptions are generalizations and there are always exceptions