Thu
Jan 20 2011 5:29pm
Do You Like Your Urban Fantasy On the Down-Low or Out in the Open?

Tor.com Urban FantasyHere at Tor.com, we've got entire floors teaming with brainy werewolves, goofy wizards, intelligent unicorns, brooding vampires and sexy trolls.  But is it better to keep these fantastic secrets locked in a vault, or have it all out there in the open? 

We asked our Facebook friends over on Tor Urban Fantasy which they prefer in their UF: an Open World in which everybody knows about magical creatures (like The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews) or a Closed World in which such things are a secret (as in The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning)?

Here's a little of what we've heard so far:

Melissa Walker Castro said: “I love both, but closed worlds make for some interesting drama. Plus, it adds a sense of mystery to the plot.”

Pip Hunn said: “Transitional! I love reading about the reactions of people when they discover the supernatural exists among them... Or when the unusuals try and go into hiding / exile.”

Beth Davis Cato said: “It really depends on the story!”

So...all  you secret Magicians and Ghoul Wranglers, what do think?  Do you like your Urban Fantasy closed or out in the open?

6 comments
ROBINM
1. ROBINM
I enjoy both styles, but Closed can get old. If Humans discover the big secret they must DIE along with whoever told them.
ROBINM
2. DarrenJL
Closed. Open gets banal really quick. The fantastic needs to be mysterious, to work for me. Dragons delivering pizza is good for a laugh, but then I get bored.
ROBINM
3. Darren A. Jones
In general, I like Closed better. The Dresden books are my favorite urban fantasy.

However, I really liked the "transitional," as commenter Pip Hunn called it, in "Digital Knight" by Ryk Spoor. How would the world react if we actually found out there were werewolves?
ROBINM
4. Rowanmdm
I really like the combo worlds likePatricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series. The existence of some supernatural beings are known to the general public (lesser fae and werewolves), but many still are not (greater fae and vampires). It's interesting because Briggs can explore both the open and closed concepts at the same time.
Allana Schneidmuller
5. blutnocheinmal
The secret history angle of closed is very fun, but transitional can be too. Open, as long as it's treated right (not like it's hum drum every day oh look is that a vampire? how droll).

I agree on Patty Briggs. She started her series with just the lesser fae, and the werewolves on the brink of revealing themselves. Watching the way the world handles it is very fun.

Eileen Wilks had an interesting take, mostly closed in an X-files sort of way, and then the winds turned, as it were, and magic swept through the world, throwing all kinds of strangness back into the world. And then ebbing, but still unstable, with magic wreaking havoc with technology from time to time. (Much the way magic ebbs back and forth in Ilona Andrews's Kate Daniels series.)

I also really like Kim Harrison's take on an "open" society in The Hollows, where bio-engineered food helped spread a superbug that killed off a huge part of the world's population - leaving the non-humans a rather large percentage who then out themselves. So, about a generation later, you've got a pretty much open society, but self-policed and somewhat self-segregated.
ROBINM
6. greggarious
I've not thought about it in these terms before. To us readers, it's all open, because WE believe! Often times it's the characters who are surprised by what they encounter, and it's the details of those beings that intrigue us. The moth-monsters in Perdido were always revealing something new (unbelievably to me, as if the author didn't really know what they looked like or how they functioned either).
I liked the character who could not afford to believe any of the magic he encountered; it was too threatening to his self-preservationist worldview. In fact he was even called The Unbeliever (I know, Epic, not Urban, Fantasy).
But it's never a surprise to ME when the closed becomes open. I've known since I was 3 that vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, wizards and buff chicks in chain mail bikinis were real.

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