Well, not just Jim Butcher; CE Murphy and Charles Stross were equally engaging on The Ultimate Urban Fantasy Panel, but I’ve seen them both before: for me, this was my Jim Butcher introduction, and I’d happily listen to him again.
Then they suggested that perhaps what editors were really talking about was Paranormal Romance.
I think there are plenty of readers out there who would disagree with both statements, hmm?
Anyway, Jim Butcher went on to suggest that Urban Fantasy is updated Grimm’s tales – and I like that definition. Not least because Grimm’s tales were set in the forest, because that’s where they lived. The move to the cities is a modern twist; one I don’t see as essential for inclusion in the genre, despite the ‘urban’ tag (hence, Desprite Measures is set only partially in the city of Inverness; much of the action takes place in the surrounding countryside).
CE Murphy’s opinion, which I also agree with, is that UF focusses on world building, while PR is about relationships.
The panellists all agreed that the current trend is for hard boiled detectives meet magic, with noir influences.
The Dresden Files
I think most of us were surprised, and not a little amused, by Jim Butcher’s confession that he started The Dresden Files to show his creative writing professor that she was wrong! He followed all her rules, constructing major and minor plot arcs, filling out character profiles, etc., and started the book to show her that it wasn’t going to work. Thus was born the huge series of Dresden Files books (he is now writing number 16), which is set to (probably) be 20 strong.
Um, yes. He really showed her… 😉
He also admitted that he now relies on fan-written Wikipaedia to keep track of what happens in the series!
Actually, I do understand the problem here; by the time you’ve gone through multiple drafts of a single book, let alone 16 books, it can be hard to remember what made it into the final cut. Charles Stross did, however, caution against totally believing fan-written material, on the grounds that as a result of his fans expanding his world building for the role playing game based on his series, The Laundry Files, the Wiki entry includes things that he never wrote!
The panel rounded off with Jim Butcher reflecting that when he reads his own finished work he is often surprised by what he actually ended up writing – and that this shows how well authors deal with reality!!