Wednesday, November 08, 2006

If You Go Down in the Woods Today...


...you'd better not go alone.
It's lovely down in the woods today
But safer to stay at home...

Urban fantasy may be the new black. It is though, urban.
Nature is home alone. Natural, I suppose. People are no longer nurtured on hinterland horror.
Yerts and yetis are so last year. Last decade, probably.
No sasquatches. Abominable is no longer abdominal.
Maybe because there aren't too many incidents of people found in the forest with bloody limb wrenched from bloody limb. Maybe because there are not too many incidents of people in the forest, period.
Yet the elusive woods walker has a long mythic history and may be related to ogres.
The Grey Man of Macdhui in the Cairngorms may be one of that ilk. So may the Wodeswoses - those hairy half-humans unable to control themselves when in anger or in lust. They lurked around and abducted women, ate babies, etc.
The wilderness has given way to concrete and macadam. Bones are buried in back yards. People are hunted through the canyons between the highrises or beneath in subway vaults.
Suppose if Big Foot appeared in fantasy today he would like be similar to a Neanderthal among the sophisticated and upscale Vamps and Weres. A country mouse, in effect. No appreciation of Prada.
Fiction often explores - consciously or unconsciously - our hopes, our fears and our deep desires.
Wonder if it's because we consider the land tamed or because it's people and their animal tendencies we fear most now.
Any thoughts?

Gigglers:
Caterpallor: The colour you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

Glibido: All talk and no action.

29 comments:

December Quinn said...

I actually think it's just because we're generally so removed from nature now anyway.

I also think it's a little bit of snobbishness--people living outside urban areas are yokels, right? Who wants to read about them--unless it's a cozy mystery, or a full-on haunted house/Deliverance-style horror (yokels again)?

Ric said...

I resent being dismissed as a yokel.
Sad that a seeming majority of folks have never felt the magic of walking through a dark wood.
But, as Ms Vater says, Urban Fantasy is a subset genre that may soon disappear. Just a flash in the pan.

Bernita said...

I wonder about that, December.Good points.

Think she meant the market would soon get saturated, Ric, like chick lit, and the bar raises much higher for "new and fresh.".
An agent commented recently that they were getting tired of novels set in New York, for example.

EA Monroe said...

Elves and trolls have moved to the city where the pickings are easy... Call me a Woodsie. I would rather confront a bear in the woods than a "Suit" in the City. Maybe it's time to whip out that Okie rural fantasy? Ha!

Robyn said...

EA, are you an Okie, too?

It may also have something to do with our idea of the future. The woods, nature- untamed, as you noted- seems to be a place relegated to the past. For better or worse, the future means more tech, more cities, more people.

Cynthia Bronco said...

And yet, I just saw an episode of Scooby Doo which featured the Chupacabra.

EA Monroe said...

Hi fellow Okie Robyn! We probably don't live that far apart!

Cynthia: I've read some recent articles about the Chupacabra and thought that'd be an interesting story!

Bernita said...

I'd rather not confront a bear anywhere, EA.

May be a lot in that, Robyn.

In an urban or country setting, Cynthia?
I may be wrong but it seems to me that certain types of cryptids are on the endangered list, perhaps because they have been tied to place, perhaps because they are not directly linked with people.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Say, isn't that The Teddy Bear Picnic? :-)

Right then. From now on I'm calling my urban fantasy a "supernatural thriller". I don't want the genre to up and die on me!

And who's getting tired of novels set in New York?? Is upstate NY still okay! Aaaargh! I really need to write faster...

Bonnie Calhoun said...

That picture reminds me of the cover of a murder mystery I recently read, so that helps to reinforce the feelings you are trying to evoke! *shiver*

I love those words...I must make a list of them!

Bernita said...

Yup, Sonya.
Think the term "urban fantasy" is safe for a while yet.
Am sure she meant the city itself.

Thought it was a nice eerie picture, Bonnie.
Glad you enjoy them.

December Quinn said...

Totally hearing you, SW. My blood went cold when I saw that on RV's blog.

Hopefully my concept is original enough...ack!

December Quinn said...

BTW, Ric, you knew I wasn't personally dismissing you as a yokel, right? I'd love to see some suburban fantasy! Or country wilds fantasy. Mountain fantasy? Forest fantasy?

Rashenbo said...

Oo, nice picture today Bernita. I like it! It ties in well I think. I like a strong feel of setting and mood... wherever it may be found.

Ric said...

We love the woods - fantasy, faeries, all that stuff.
Actually, WIP is kinda fantasy, but from a different angle - Bernita has seen the beginning - Something new and different??? Hope so.
Anybody wants to see some, send me an email.

anna said...

I think all the werewolves
trolls and such are still there
just evolving with the times.
We now just give them different names.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Rashenbo.

Ric has a fascinating scenario.

Marie said...

I like that picture. I've always loved forests. Give me nature any day.

Erik Ivan James said...

I went deep into the woods yesterday. I go there often.

Bernita said...

Some seem perfectly at home in the city - just like racoons - Anna, others haven't made the transition.

Yes, Marie, though I don't turn up my nose at electricity and other utilities.

Erik: "You'd better not go alone..."

Robyn said...

Just had to add that my kids' favorite musical is Into the Woods.

"The way is clear,
The light is good,
I have no fear,
Nor no one should.
The woods are just trees,
The trees are just wood.
No need to be afraid there--
There's something in the glade there...

Into the woods
Without delay,
But careful not
To lose the way.
Into the woods,
Who knows what may
Be lurking on the journey?
Into the woods
To get the thing
That makes it worth
The journeying.
Into the woods--
Into the woods!
Into the woods,
Then out of the woods,
And home before dark!"

JLB said...

I really love your thoughts Bernita, although I'm not sure if it's true that we've lost our fear of the forests.

I've been helping with some research for a forest biologist's upcoming book, and one recent tidbit I read about concerned the reasons people (and their children) have become increasingly removed from greenspaces... one is actually related to the "stranger danger" fears that are so big in our culture... fears that lead parents to keep their kids inside, out of forests and parks, often with the ideal intention of protecting them, but with the unfortunate consequence of removing them from a healthy contact with the natural world.

PS - Yokel here, and proud of it! :D I just can't get comfy in the urban environment like I can in the peace of the forests.

Bernita said...

Delicious, Robyn!

JLB, am reaching to understand something here, and am linking the lack of certain kinds of fictional monsters to urbanization. May be too much of a stretch.
Perhaps it's simply a question of forests being dismissed more than anything.
When we first moved to the Big City, I endured a kind of culture shock...and I missed trees most of all.

Gabriele C. said...

I love the woods.

And one of the things I love about writing A Land Unconquered is that I get plenty of chances to include woods. And bogs. And mountains. And cold, swift running rivers.

I have a good amount of untamed nature in the other NiPs, too, but none is so intense about it as A Land Unconquered. Storm over Hadrian's Wall may come closest.

cyn said...

love the post, bernita. i never considered writing UF because i live in an urban city. i want something more exotic, so to speak. china has the bigfoot equivalent, too!

Steve G said...

If go to the woods, I'll be sure to carry a little red basket. If I stay in the city, I'll be sure to carry a....

jason evans said...

I'll echo the sentiment that the more we are disconnected from nature, the more it becomes an almost sci-fi, fantasy environment. Not a natural place for our fears (no pun intended).

Bernita said...

A necessary resonance in historicals, I think, Gabriele.

Steve as Little Red Hooding Ride...I always wondered why she didn't have a Glock in her basket...

You've hit on the same though I've had, Jason, though you've expressed it better.

Bernita said...

Ack, missed you, Cyn, first run through. I apologize.

Thank you.
Not surprised, some of these myths/legends/folk beliefs are more universal than we are sometimes led to think.