Reflections on Urban Fantasy

Fantasy author Daniel Abraham a.k.a. MLN Hanover has some interesting observations on rape in urban fantasy.

I don’t fully agree with him, because there is a lot of rape in urban fantasy. Aside from Mercy Thompson, there’s also Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse, Rachel Caine’s Joanne Baldwin, Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville, Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine, Keri Arthur’s Riley Jenson, J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas (not really urban fantasy but SF romantic suspense), Beverly Barton’s Mercy Raintree and that’s just of the top of my head. And all of those books and authors are selling pretty well. What is more, Iron Kissed, was also the point where the Mercy Thompson series really took off and went to hardcover, the Alpha and Omega spin-off series came out (which also has physical and sexual violence perpetrated against its heroine) and Patricia Briggs’ older epic fantasy novels were reissued.

Though I agree that other genres, epic fantasy for one as well as the whole crime fiction/suspense/thriller complex and old-style historical romance (the sort of books that used to be called “bodicerippers” for obvious reasons), are much worse about rape. And given the problematic baggage of rape in the romance genre (it has largely died out by now, but was very common from the early 1970s to the early 1990s), it is certainly telling that one of the reviews outraged by the rape in Iron Kissed is from Dear Author, one of the biggest romance sites on the web.

I also applaud his decision not to subject his heroine to rape, because

a) gratuitous rape used as a plot device or instant trauma is annoying, particularly when it seems as if rape is the only bad thing that can ever happen to female characters, and

b) male authors, including very good male authors, usually suck at writing about rape. I took a class on John Irving at university and the sheer amount of rape in his books always made me cringe. And while I love the Modesty Blaise books by Peter O’Donnell (and Modesty is definitely a precursor to today’s arsekicking urban fantasy heroines), I always hated the rape scenes (there’s more than one), particularly because Modesty’s reaction never rang true emotionally. And O’Donnell was one of those male authors who got women and even wrote under a female pen name.

As for the ambition thing, yes, I totally agree. Interestingly, there also is a school of thought that equates the violent transformation into a vampire or werewolf with rape.

Daniel Abraham also has a followup post to the first post with some links to discussions elsewhere. Some good stuff there.

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One Response to Reflections on Urban Fantasy

  1. Pingback: Urban Fantasy and Fandom Hate | Cora Buhlert

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