When you present the Cookie Monster with a cookie, he’s going to love it because he’s the frickin’ Cookie Monster. He’ll eat it and say, “Nom nom nom!” even if it’s kind of bland and stale. But if you present the Cookie Monster with a kind of cookie he’s never had before —a rich, moist, warm one, say, plus a glass of milk—the Cookie Monster will probably have a sugargasm and he’ll say, “Nomnomnomnomnom!” There will be crumbs and blue fur everywhere, and slightly alarmed innocent bystanders will cover their children’s eyes in the name of decency.
Urban Fantasy readers (like me, anyway) are kinda like the Cookie Monster when it comes to novels in the genre. Give me a UF novel and I’ll devour it happily, saying “Nom nom nom!” all the while. But I think I’m about ready for that book that sends me into unchained fits of turbo-nomming. I need a more varied diet in my UF reading, but I need other writers to help me out a bit here—and maybe some suggestions from readers who can point me in the direction of something I haven’t seen yet.
What I’d like to read are more stories told from the point of view of characters who aren’t your everyday UF hero(in)es. Instead of a shifter, vamp, faery, demon, or a half-version of any of the above, can we get a story told from the point of view of a wight who’s a mite misunderstood? How about a dude who escapes from a mad gene-splicing scientist with the head of a cuttlefish? I want to get inside the head of a half-mad half-squid, you see, and hear about his struggle to hold on to his humanity while he pursues vengeance against the butcher who replaced his whiskers with tentacles, and weep with him as he tries to reconnect with his wife and daughter, both of whom happen to be allergic to seafood.
Gnomes, trolls, goblins, kobolds—I don’t think anybody’s written the definitive work (correct me if I’m wrong!). I’ve seen some mermaid stuff in YA fiction—I’m thinking Emily Windsnap—and I might be missing a whole lot more because I don’t read much YA. There’s probably a centaur book or two out there, maybe a hipster hippogriff. But I definitely haven’t seen any attempts to write these sorts of characters in the adult UF market. Then again, I might be the only guy demanding such stuff, which would explain the short supply.
I don’t know how much demand there is out there to hear stories about Druids—I guess I’ll find out next year when my books hit the shelves!—but one reason I chose a Druid to be my main character was to attempt to introduce something new-ish to all the Cookie Monsters out there. I know that vampire/shifter/magic-girl love stories are popular—I completely understand because I like them too—but I can’t believe that’s all people want to read. I think there are vast opportunities in UF to tell some fresh tales, from the harrowing to the humorous, but somehow the genre has worn itself into a few distinct ruts already, and instead of treading new ground, people are throwing themselves into the same few grooves. If you think it’s too risky to try something a bit “out there,” well, I can always point to my publisher (Del Rey) and say look, there are editors in the biz willing to take a chance on an unorthodox hero, because they’ve taken a chance with Atticus O’Sullivan. (Harry Connolly’s hero, Ray Lilly, is not your average bear, and neither is Stacia Kane's Chess Putnam—and look! They're both with Del Rey! ;))
I hope to try some new cookies soon. If you’re a writer, I hope you’ll find time to experiment in the kitchen of your word processor. And if you know of any unusual UF narrators out there now, please let me know in the comments! Nom nom nom!