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Saturday, August 01, 2009

what's the difference between fantasy and romance?

I am abusing Shaun's hospitality now, but while he is winding his way across country I am playing here on his blog. Mwahaha haha ahaha umm, ok sorry, *cough* getting carried away.

There are three major bookstores in Leicester (UK). In the city centre there are two Waterstone's, the big one near work and the small one in the main mall. We also have a Borders near our huge out-of-city shopping park (individual stores arranged around the car parks). The Borders used to be an electronics warehouse, so it's a strange place and I love it. I don't get there much since we moved.

Anyway, I love urban fantasy but I struggle to find what I am looking for. Waterstone's, I think, have a pretty good idea that Urban Fantasy exists and throw it in the SFF or Horror sections, depending on whether is says Vampires in big letters or something. The stuff they have in their paranormal romance section I would generally say ok to being there. All in all, it varies between stores, but it's usually in the same area as the rest of the fantasy so no biggie.

I went to Borders recently and was excited because they sometimes stock books Waterstone's doesn't get. So off I dashed to the SFF / Horror section. It has become pitifully small for a start; I was appalled at the general lack of a section in the enourmous warehouse, but then I noticed something. Not a single Chris McGrath cover amongst the lot. Eep. Ok I looked again, more carefully. Nope not one single urban fantasy title.

A suspicion started to settle itself in my mind and I slightly, sheepishly dragged my heels towards the romance section (yeah, British, easily embarrased, generally go the ebook route for my romance). Uh huh. The paranormal romance section was as big as the whole SFF area and sure enough there was all my urban fantasy. Now I know UF has a kind of kick ass chicks getting involved with supernatural types thing going on, but seriously, I think they misunderstood where Justin Gustainis was coming from calling his book Black Magic Woman--guys he means it in the "using the body parts of small children to do evil" way, not the "she cast a spell over my heart" way.

Maybe I need to suck it up and learn to live with it, but it really bugs me that Urban Fantasy is seen as romance. Romance has it's place and it's genre and is it's own thing; UF is something else and although there may be an audience overlap, UF also has an overlap with Horror and SFF. Twilight isn't in paranormal romance; it's in YA Fiction (it should be in the shredder, but that's a different rant). I can't help feeling that Borders are losing it, because really if I want kick ass girls smooching vamps I don't think I'd be too pleased when I actually cracked open my shiny new Rob Thurman novel and found out the hot guys on the cover weren't the love interest, they were the whole story.

So what are your misfiling peeves? Are you riled up that sci fi bestsellers (Cloud Atlas?) deny their roots and sit in the fiction shelves while Robert Holdstock languishes on the SF shelf or that the Nadia Stafford books were next to the Otherworld series because they are all Kelley Armstrong with no consideration to genre?

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  1. I've had a similar problem, except with the literature/classics section in Walden's Bookstore, a branch of Borders. Over the past few months, the amount of books have shrunk to a pitiful size of one fourth of the stand alone wall shelves. Last time I went, I could only find one or two books I needed for school, and they didn't have any I wanted to read for pleasure.
    However, look right next to it, you'll find a whole shelf of Twilight and all sorts of YA vampire books. >.< And everytime I'm there, there's little preteens squealing about Edward or something or other.
    Luckily, the fantasy shelves haven't been violated...unless you count The Host being placed among them. >.<

  2. Yeah I think The Host might be pushing it in Fantasy. Very frustrating to see the classics being chipped away in favour of the latest trash hit. Especially annoying given the classics and lit always have a steady audience.

  3. Have the same problem with Borders here in the States. For some reason, they insist on shelving urban fantasy in the romance section. Even if their computer says that it's in stock and in SF, I usually find it over in romance. {sigh}

  4. Anonymous5:36 PM

    My problem is the reverse - I usually see paranormal romance posing as SF/Fantasy. I mean sure, yay vampires and witches and urban settings, but I usually don't want to read a romance about it. If romance is an element, that's a-ok though.

    I also read certain series that sometimes are in YA and sometimes fantasy, which I find confusing. Granted, the books and their audience are kind of borderline.

  5. I am ok with the odd fantasy/sci-fi (*cough* The Host and Cloud Atlas *cough*) being shoved in fiction. My theory being that they will attract more people to the genre who wouldn't otherwise consider themselves a genre fan.

    But yeah, the whole Paranormal Romance thing really bugs me. The huge Borders in London (across from Foyles) has a gigantic PR section, which is a giant mixing pot. Nora Roberts' Northern Lights across from Vicki Pettersson's Zodiac Series...!

    One thing I miss about childhood was the lack of genre sections. There are classic tales next to alien stories across from the sweet valley high books. *sighs* Those were the days.

  6. Nice to see a familiar store name there - Borders.

    Kind of like when I go to a different state here and see familiar stores like Walmart or Walgreens. You probably don't have them over there.

    Morgan Mandel

  7. guys, it's lovely hearing all your thoughts on this thanks for stopping by.
    M - Asda (a big brit supermarket) is now part of the "Walmart Family".

  8. Well, where I used to live this wasn't a problem, but now that I'm in Florida, the case may be different. In California there was always a fairly large SF/F section.

    I prefer the way Powell's City of Books in Portland, Oregon shelves books. They take things that contain elements of SF/F/H and stick them in both the SF/F/H sections and the literary sections (if they're of the "literary" vein that is). That way they can be found in both places. They do the same with non-literary stuff that crosses genres. It's a great idea.

    As for urban fantasy: I don't really read the stuff, so I guess I have never had the problem of finding them.

  9. Powell's sounds like my kind of book store.

  10. Honestly, it's probably the best bookstore I've ever been in. Better than any of the chains, and better than any other independent store. However, to be fair, Powell's has been around for a while and is enormous. It's something like 4 stories of new and used books. It's had plenty of time to perfect itself.

    But...Powell's has done a lot to make itself a better store. A lot of independent stores get into a standard routine and never change with the times. Powell's tries to change. It's not been totally successful, but it has a system in place now that seems to work well for it. We'll see how the rush to online book selling will change that.

  11. I also miss the lack of genre in YA books...well, in almost all books at the library and stores. As a reader I'm okay with books being filed in sometimes rather odd categories, as long as the books are there, but I would think certain authors would get very frustrated having their books put under romance if that's not what those books are meant to be.