Publisher and always-readable genre commentator Tim Holman reveals the full scale of the change that is sweeping through fantasy in his blog The Publisher Files. A lot has been made of how fantasy book sales are booming, but it now seems that the vast proportion of this is down to urban fantasy. Definitions are always hard to come by when you get into the sewers of genre classification, but I think what we’re talking about here is the books of, say, Charlaine Harris, which are burning up the charts in the UK on the back of True Blood, as opposed to traditional fantasy in an urban setting.
Not only that, but the trend is increasing. With sales of urban fantasy rising, Tim makes the point that it’s only natural that publishers will follow the dollar/pound/euro/whatever and buy less epic fantasy and more of the thing that most readers want.
Genres always move in cycles. Stories get tired and readers get jaded as publishers heap on more of the same. But for me, urban fantasy is really the new horror – the successor to the Stephen King-fuelled horror boom of the eighties, and drawing in some of the same kind of readers who walked away when that cycle died.
Which does cast an interesting light on next year’s World Horror Convention. The convention seems completely to have ignored urban fantasy and opted for a celebration of horror that is rooted firmly in the distant past, if the guest of honour list is anything to go by. At the least it’s a missed opportunity. At the most it’s a comment on why horror is perceived as a dying genre by many in the industry.