Friday, March 13, 2009

Book Rambling: Urban Fantasy Categorization

When it comes to the urban fantasy/paranormal type of novel, how do the publishers come up with the classification?

This is something I'm wondering about as I can think of a number of authors/series/books that are all paranormal in theme, yet they're shelved in different areas of the bookstore (at least at Indigo). The examples I'm coming up with off the top of my head are the Laurell K. Hamilton books (both series), Patricia Briggs Alpha and Omega and the Mercy Thompson series', Tanya Huff's Blood series and the Sherrilyn Kenyon Dark Hunter books.

In recent years the Anita Blake and Merry Gentry books have been moved from General Fiction to Horror. Personally, I'm inclined to think that if they were going to be changed to any category it should have been Romance with the way the books after Obsidian Butterfly have changed. However, the Horror section of the bookstore is well represented in the Paranormal books category: There's also the Anne Rice books, Kim Harrison's series and the Kelley Armstrong books. I'm sure there are others as well. These are just the ones I know about.

Both Tanya Huff and Patricia Briggs are located in Fantasy. I can see a double reason for Briggs: aside from the fantastic elements of these two series, she's got some other fantasy series as well, so it makes sense to keep all the books by the one author together. Which explains why Nightseer by Laurell K. Hamilton can usually be found in Horror, even though in my mind it is out and out fantasy. Tanya Huff, however is slightly less understandable. If the Blood series is in fantasy, why aren't the Kim Harrison (although I believe the most recent book, White Witch, Dark Curse, is in fantasy) books or the Laurell K. Hamilton ones? Both the Anita Blake and the Blood series have vampires, werewolves, demons etc in them. Admittedly, the Blood books are somewhat funnier, with some running jokes and the like. On the other hand, the final book in the Smoke spin-off is downright scary. It set me to using a nightlight for the next couple of nights after I finished it.

Kenyon's Dark Hunter books are all located in Romance, but otherwise they are very similar to the first authors listed. This one I can see, as they are all the 'guaranteed happy ending' type which I believe is typical of the romance novel (Kenyon is the only author I've read from this section so far). I've seen the same formula in the Five Hundred Kingdoms series by Mercedes Lackey, which has at some points in the past been located in Romance.

Does anyone have any answers to this question?
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