Urban Fantasy

Exploring Modernity through Magic

Subjects: Literary Criticism, Science Fiction & Fantasy, General
Imprint: Lever Press
Paperback : 9781643150642, 352 pages, 6 x 9, August 2024
Open Access : 9781643150659, 352 pages, 6 x 9, August 2024
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The first book-length historical and theoretical analysis of the urban fantasy genre


Urban fantasy, the genre of fantastic literature in which magic and monsters meet modern society, is fairly young but has old roots. Stefan Ekman’s book, Urban Fantasy: Exploring Modernity through Magic, examines the genre in depth, including its inherent social commentary, its historical development, and its interplay between modernity and the fantastic.

The author draws on a wide range of urban fantasy texts from five decades, combining detailed analysis of dozens of novels and other media with broad discussions to provide a comprehensive understanding of the genre across three sections. The first section presents an overview of what the genre looks like today—both in terms of its common traits and its variety of settings—and how it has developed over time, including the history of urban fantasy scholarship. The second section examines urban fantasy’s core concern with the unseen, for example through a focus on unseen individuals overlooked by society or hiding within it, and on ignored urban spaces or labyrinthine undergrounds. The third section addresses how urban fantasy explores the relationship between the supernatural and modernity. Ekman offers readings of fiction by Ben Aaronovitch, Lauren Beukes, P. Djelí Clark, Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, Max Gladstone, Kim Harrison, N.K. Jemisin, and Megan Lindholm, among others.

Urban Fantasy will appeal to teachers and students of the fantastic as well as to urban fantasy enthusiasts and literary scholars. Ekman illuminates the genre’s evolution and defining traits, inviting readers to rethink urban fantasy as a creative tool for using magic to explore modernity.

Dr. Stefan Ekman is a fantasy scholar affiliated with Karlstad University, Sweden. He has published extensively on urban fantasy, critical world-building, and fantasy maps. He is the author of Here Be Dragons: Exploring Fantasy Maps and Settings (Wesleyan University Press, 2013).

"In this comprehensive and fascinating study of urban fantasy, Stefan Ekman shows how the genre emerged as one of the major expressions of modernity. Like cyberpunk fiction or the hard-boiled detective novel, urban fantasies reveal the disruptions and distractions of contemporary life while also offering glimpses of utopian possibility."

- Brian Attebery, author of "Fantasy: How It Works"

“In this fascinating and original book, Stefan Ekman compellingly argues that urban fantasy is a genre in its own right. The impressive breadth of fiction considered in the book is matched by in-depth case studies to develop this innovative argument and show that the genre is deeply concerned with the conditions of modernity. This book is a must-have for anyone interested in studies of fantasy and/or literatures of modernity.”

- Helen Young, Senior Research Fellow in Literary Studies, Deakin University