Fantasy began as myths, legends, tales boomed forth in smoky caves by the tribal storyteller. Fairytales and epic fantasy, the stuff of Andrew Lang and Tolkien, were the soup du jour for long years. Then came Stephanie Meyer and her sparkly vampires…and voila! Urban fantasy was born.
To be honest and precise, however, urban fantasy existed long before Stephanie Meyer. Perhaps the most popular pre-urban fantasy urban fantasist was Susan Cooper and her Dark is Rising series (fantastic books, by the way–full of creativity, excellent writing and devoid of sparkly anything). There were also writers such as John Gordon and his Giant Under the Snow (another amazing book, well worth pursuing and owning). Reaching further back, GK Chesterton’s Man Who Was Thursday clearly qualifies for the mantle of urban fantasy, as do several of Charles Williams’ books, such as The Greater Trumps, The Place of the Lion, and Descent Into Hell (the only caveat being that most readers would find them rather difficult to read).
That said, urban fantasy as a sub-genre has been around for quite some time and, frankly, I’m getting rather tired of the narrow confines of such a niche. It is high time that fantasy evolve some additional sub-genres, some additional branches grafted onto the old apple tree (speaking of apple trees, some would argue that the Bible qualifies as the original fantasy, but I would argue in return that truth is much more effective and dangerous when conveyed by a vehicle so fantastical and outlandish as the Bible that it could only be true, being too bizarre for anyone to come up with on their own). I would modestly propose, therefore, that two new sub-genres of fantasy hereby be initiated: rural fantasy and anti-nihilist fantasy.
Rural fantasy, of course, would always involve rural settings, farmers grimly clinging to their shotguns, confused urban dwellers out for a visit, barnyard animals, crops (subsidized or not), Monsanto, and efficient farm boys and farm girls able to drive tractors and learn swordplay with equal aplomb.
Aplomb is an odd word, isn’t it?
Anti-nihilist fantasy would be just that: stories possessing anti-nihilist philosophy. No grimy anti-heroes allowed, as they’re far too smelly and far too irritating to ride along with for three hundred pages. Anti-nihilist fantasy would be rather retro, a throwback to Tolkien, but not just in desperate plagiarism, but in true acknowledgment of absolute truths and the greater trumps of courage, honor, sacrifice, devotion and redemption. Beauty as well, but beauty with a meaning and beauty for a reason.
Call me crazy, but I think I’m onto something here.