urban fantasy n.

a genre of fantasy that uses a (modern) city as its primary setting; a work in this genre

SF Encyclopedia


SF Criticism


  • 1978 Heights (Boston College) 13 Nov. 11/2 page image

    The wicked witch Evilene runs a nasty sweat shop on the West side, and don’t nobody mess around with this Mamma or she’ll sic her motor cycle gange [sic] on you, the Flying Monkies. Poppies are out in this version; they have been replaced by a seductive group of streetwalkers whose alluring aromas almost do our heroes in. The Wiz, as you can see, has become a real urban fantasy.

  • 1987 R. Kempley At Movies in Washington Post 13 Dec. g4/2

    Spielberg’s Amblin' Entertainment is also offering ‘*batteries not included,’ an urban fantasy with Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. They play the proprieter of a small café who lead the tenants of a dilapadated department building in a battle with would-be developers. Some teensy-weensy aliens get into the act in this socially self-conscious fantasy for the young at heart.

  • 1990 J. C. Bunnell Role of Books in Dragon Magazine Nov. 32/1

    Hawk & Fisher (identified as the first in a series) is also an urban fantasy in a medieval setting, but suffers from a severe case of dual identity.

  • 1992 Locus Aug. 5/1

    I know there are great exceptions, like urban fantasy.

  • 1997 Science-Fiction Studies Mar. 145

    Even though he writes passionately against the genre of alternate histories being included among sf subgenres, two of his most expansive ruminations are on steampunk books, Tim Powers’s Anubis Gates and Gibson-Sterling’s Difference Engine, which became occasions for passionate lectures on Dickens’s contribution to urban fantasy.

  • 1997 J. Clute Urban Fantasy in J. Clute & J. Grant Encyclopedia of Fantasy 975/1 John Clute

    Urban fantasy, a city is a place ; urban fantasy is a mode. A city may be anicon or a geography; the UF recounts an experience. A city may be seen from afar, and is generally seen clear; the UF is told from within, and, from the perspective of characters acting our their roles, it may be difficult to determine the extent and nature of the surrounding reality. UFs are normally texts where fantasy and the mundane world interact intersect and interweave throughout a tale which is significantlyabout a real city.

  • 2001 E. Bull War for Oaks (dust-jacket)

    Acclaimed by critics and readers on its first publication in 1987, War for the Oaks is one of the novels that has defined modern urban fantasy.

  • 2003 R. Horton Short Fiction in Locus Apr. 15/1

    Strange Horizons (<www.strangehorizons.com>) is one of the best, notable for its focus on what I've called ‘soft slipstream’: near future SF or urban fantasy, relatively conservative in telling and subject matter (with occasional more outré outbursts).

Research requirements

antedating 1978

Earliest cite

The Heights (Boston College student newspaper)

Research History
Garrett Wollman submitted a cite from the dustjacket of a 2001 reprint of Emma Bull's "War for the Oaks".
Garret Wollman submitted a 1997 cite from John Clute's entry on "urban fantasy" in Clute and Grant's "Encyclopedia of Fantasy".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1997 cite from SF Studies.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1994 cite from an article by Terri Windling in Windling and Datlow's "The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 2003 cite from Rich Horton's review column in Locus.
John C. Bunnell submitted a 1990 cite from his column in Dragon.
Stephen Dedman located a reference to a 1985 anthology titled "Urban Fantasies", edited by David King and Russell Blackford; we would like to obtain a cite from a copy of this book.
Bill Mullins submitted a 1987 cite from a movie review in the Washington Post.
Simon Koppel submitted a 1978 cite from The Heights, in a review of "The Wiz" from a Boston College student newspaper.

Last modified 2023-12-05 12:11:58
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.