(Image taken from this Ecstatic Days post.)
The magnificent Carrie Vaughn, whose writing I really like, posted a timeline of the development (or transference) of the term “urban fantasy”. It’s an interesting timeline, but as I mentioned to her in an email, I seem to clearly remember around 2007 a couple of publicists or editors at major houses making a concerted and deliberate effort to introduce the term “urban fantasy” in a new context, in place of terms like “supernatural or paranormal romance,” probably to make it more palatable to an even wider audience. Am I wrong? Somebody fact-check me.
But, yes, that’s around the time you had to stop calling Mieville, K.J. Bishop, or even Charles de Lint writers of “urban” fantasy, because the words suddenly meant something else.
I don’t say this as a positive or a negative development–just saying I believe that’s how it happened. I also believe that just like “YA” is an umbrella for a wide variety of things, “urban fantasy” now no longer means just “paranormal romance.” But, for me, as with YA, it’s a category that doesn’t hit my core sweet spot, and therefore I’m not willing to wade through it to find the books that I might really enjoy. (Frankly, these days, I’m to be found in the general fiction section for the most part.) Someone who comes from the old-school urban fantasy and an appreciation for it–Damien G. Walter, I nominate you–should investigate and report back.
P.S. If you come back at me saying I hate current urban fantasy and how unfair that is, I will hand you your head. Be nice, k?