by Terry

Not long ago, we attended a Science Fiction and Fantasy writer's conference that proved to be one of the best we have attended so far.  The speaker's, presenters and panels were nearly always well prepared and highly informative.  Members of one of the panels, however, seemed to struggle a bit in their attempts to wrap their arms around the targeted subject matter, which was Contemporary and Urban Fantasy.  This was an important issue to us, since we do almost all of our writing in the Contemporary Fantasy genre.

Each of the five panelists was a published author in the subject genre/sub-genre, yet they failed, individually and as a group, to come up with a meaningful definition for Contemporary Fantasy, beyond saying that the principle action of such stories needs to be in the real world as we know it and must involve some level of fantasy.  Our reaction was this approach was rather like defining a human being as a mostly hairless, ape-like animal.  While both definitions are essentially accurate, neither comes close to truly describing their objects as the living, breathing, thinking and doing things they really are.

Yes, it may be going a little far to compare Contemporary Fantasy to a human being, but the fact is no other writing genre is as complex, as imaginative in its nature or has as much potential.  Consider the wealth of Contemporary Fiction writing that abounds in your local bookstore (or ebookstore):  Classical Fiction, Adventure, Romance, Mystery, Thriller/Espionage, Young Adult, Christian and more.  Then look at what the realm of Fantasy/Science Fiction has to offer and imagine the limitless adventure there is to be found in combining these two major genres.  This combination has produced the varied genius found in the Harry Potter series, The Chronicles of Narnia, War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man.

Unfortunately, attempts to describe the variety and creativity found in the Contemporary Fantasy genre by presenting a list of book titles generally fail to stimulate the mind.  Indeed, Contemporary Fantasy, outside of the Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy sub-genres, hardly dents the sales charts.  Since there are more people acquainted with the film medium, perhaps the best way to display the special nature of the genre is through examples from the movies rather than from literature.  Come see where imagination has truly taken hold of a genre.  Consider the following list and savor your memories of each one. This is just a taste.

ET, the Extra Terrestrial
Groundhog Day
Meet Joe Black
The Green Mile
Big Fish
King Kong
The Spiderwick Chronicles
Edward Scissorhands
The Lawnmower Man
The Legend of Bagger Vance
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Family Man
Galaxy Quest
Tuck Everlasting
The Lake House
Night at the Museum
The Sixth Sense
The Astronaut Farmer
Bridge to Terabithia
It's A Wonderful Life
Evan Almighty
The Indiana Jones series
Sliding Doors
Forever Young
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Batteries Not Included
The Birds
Short Circuit
Army of Darkness
Heart and Souls
The Preachers Wife
Practical Magic
Honey, I Shrank the Kids

The fact is, people have fallen in love with Contemporary Fantasy in the movies without even realizing that a number of these films started out as novels or short stories.  Most readers and even many authors have yet to see the vision the genre has to offer in written works.  In future blogs we will speak more of this our favorite genre and its possibilities in hopes of maybe stoking a fire.