Contemporary fantasy, also known as modern fantasy or indigenous fantasy, is a subgenre of fantasy, set in the present day or, more accurately, the time period of the maker. It is perhaps most popular for its subgenre, urban fantasy.
Strictly, supernatural fiction can be said to be part of contemporary fantasy - since it has fantasy elements and is set in a contemporary setting. In practice, however, supernatural fiction is a well-established genre in its own right, with its own distinctive conventions.
These terms are used to describe stories set in the putative real world (often referred to as consensus reality) in contemporary times, in which magic and magical creatures exist but are not commonly seen or understood as such, either living in the interstices of our world or leaking over from alternate worlds. It thus has much in common with, and sometimes overlaps with secret history; a work of fantasy in which the magic could not remain secret, or does not have any known relationship to known history, would not fit into this subgenre.
Novels in which modern characters travel into alternative worlds, and all the magical action takes place there (except for the portal required to transport them), are not considered contemporary fantasy. Thus, C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where all fantasy events take place in the land of Narnia which is reached via a magic wardrobe, would not count as contemporary fantasy; on the other hand, the part of The Magician's Nephew, where the Empress Jadis gets to London, tries to take over the Earth and clashes with police and a crowd of cockneys, would qualify as such.
Contemporary fantasy is generally distinguished from horror fiction – which also often has contemporary settings and fantastic elements – by the overall tone, emphasizing joy or wonder rather than fear or dread.
In his preface to That Hideous Strength, one of the earlier works falling within this subgenre, C.S. Lewis explained why, when writing a tale about "magicians, devils, pantomime animals and planetary angels", he chose to start it with a detailed depiction of narrow-minded academic politics at a provincial English university and the schemes of crooked real estate developers: "I am following the traditional fairy-tale. We do not always notice its method, because the cottages, castles, woodcutters and petty kings with which a fairy tale opens have become for us as remote as the witches and ogres to which it proceeds. But they were not remote at all to the men who first made and enjoyed the tales". The same is true for many of the later works in the genre, which often begin with a seemingly normal scene of modern daily life to then disclose supernatural and magical beings and events hidden behind the scenes.
Contemporary fantasies often concern places dear to their authors, are full of local color and atmosphere, and attempt to lend a sense of magic to those places, particularly when the subgenre overlaps with mythic fiction.
When the story takes place in a city, the work is often called urban fantasy.
The contemporary fantasy and low fantasy genres can overlap as both are defined as being set in the real world. There are differences, however. Low fantasies are set in the real world but not necessarily in the modern age, in which case they would not be contemporary fantasy. Contemporary fantasies are set in the real world but may also include distinct fantasy settings within it, such as the Harry Potter series, in which case they would be high rather than low fantasy.
Contemporary fantasy can also be found marketed as mainstream or literary fiction and frequently marketed as magical realism, itself arguably a fantasy genre. Examples include Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich, and Mistress of Spices by Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni.
Bones of the Moon is a novel by American writer Jonathan Carroll, depicting the real and dream life of a young woman, Cullen James. Like many of Carroll's works, this work straddles the horror and fantasy genres.City of Ashes
City of Ashes is the second installment in The Mortal Instruments series, an urban fantasy series set in New York written by Cassandra Clare. The novel was one of YALSA's top ten teen books for 2009.City of Bones (Clare novel)
City of Bones is the first urban fantasy book in author Cassandra Clare's New York Times bestselling series The Mortal Instruments. The novel is set in modern day New York City and has been released in several languages, including Bulgarian, Hebrew, Polish and Japanese.City of Glass (Clare novel)
The City of Glass is the third book in the urban fantasy series of The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. In 2009, Walker Books published the third book of the series worldwide. It is a journey that explores Simon's and Clary's experience in the Shadowhunter city, and Clary works on saving her mother, as they travel from New York institute to Alicante, Idris.Dark fantasy
Dark fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy literary, artistic, and cinematic works that incorporate darker and frightening themes of fantasy. It also often combines fantasy with elements of horror or has a gloomy, dark (or grimdark) atmosphere, or a sense of horror and dread.A strict definition for dark fantasy is difficult to pin down. Gertrude Barrows Bennett has been called "the woman who invented dark fantasy". Both Charles L. Grant and Karl Edward Wagner are credited with having coined the term "dark fantasy"—although both authors were describing different styles of fiction. Brian Stableford argues "dark fantasy" can be usefully defined as subgenre of stories that attempt to "incorporate elements of horror fiction" into the standard formulae of fantasy stories. Stableford also suggests that supernatural horror set primarily in the real world is a form of "contemporary fantasy", whereas supernatural horror set partly or wholly in "secondary worlds" should be described as "dark fantasy".Additionally, other authors, critics, and publishers have adopted dark fantasy to describe various other works. However, these stories rarely share universal similarities beyond supernatural occurrences and a dark, often brooding, tone. As a result, dark fantasy cannot be solidly connected to a defining set of tropes. The term itself may refer collectively to tales that are either horror-based or fantasy-based.
Some writers also use "dark fantasy" (or "Gothic fantasy") as an alternative description to "horror", because they feel the latter term is too lurid or vivid.Faerie Tale
Faerie Tale is a supernatural thriller, falling within the subgenre of contemporary fantasy, by American writer Raymond E. Feist, first published in 1988.
It was translated and published in Dutch as Een Boosaardig Sprookje in 1989.Glen Cook
Glen Charles Cook (born July 9, 1944) is an American writer of science fiction and contemporary fantasy, known for The Black Company and Garrett P.I. fantasy series.Magic Street
Magic Street (2005) is an urban fantasy novel by Orson Scott Card. This book follows the magical events in the Baldwin Hills section of contemporary Los Angeles, including the life of protagonist Mack Street, his foster brother Cecil Tucker, a trickster identified variously as Bag Man, Puck, Mr. Christmas, and numerous other members of this upscale community of African-Americans.
The storyline frequently refers to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and elements of Western and European folklore. In the author's note, Card credits friend Roland Bernard Brown with goading him into writing a novel featuring a black hero, and "thanks to Queen Latifah for putting (the Yolanda White character) on a motorcycle."Silenus
In Greek mythology, Silenus (; Ancient Greek: Σειληνός Seilēnos) was a companion and tutor to the wine god Dionysus. He is typically older than the satyrs of the Dionysian retinue (thiasos), and sometimes considerably older, in which case he may be referred to as a Papposilenus. The plural sileni refers to the mythological figure as a type that is sometimes thought to be differentiated from a satyr by having the attributes of a horse rather than a goat, though usage of the two words is not consistent enough to permit a sharp distinction.Sleeping in Flame
Sleeping in Flame is a novel by the American writer Jonathan Carroll. Originally published in 1988, the novel was nominated for a World Fantasy Award the following year.Tea with the Black Dragon
Tea with the Black Dragon is a 1983 fantasy novel by R. A. MacAvoy. It was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1983, the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1984, and the Locus Award for best first novel in 1984; it also earned MacAvoy the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. It also found a place in David Pringle's Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels (1988).The Dark Artifices
The Dark Artifices is a trilogy written by Cassandra Clare. The series is chronologically the fourth series in The Shadowhunter Chronicles and a sequel to The Mortal Instruments. It is set in Los Angeles. The series is about a sacred bond of "parabatai", two bonded Shadowhunters, and it is more valuable than any bond in this world. This bond makes the two more powerful and strong, but there is only one drawback - it is forbidden to fall in love with your parabatai. It so happens that Emma and Julian, two parabatai, have fallen in love. The Dark Artifices is a trilogy about their struggle against their enemies and how the two protagonists deal with their forbidden love and the resulting consequences.The Dresden Files
The Dresden Files is a series of contemporary fantasy/mystery novels written by American author Jim Butcher. The first novel, Storm Front, was published in 2000 by Roc Books.
The books are written as a first-person narrative from the perspective of the main character, private investigator and wizard Harry Dresden, as he recounts investigations into supernatural disturbances in modern-day Chicago. Butcher's original proposed title for the first novel was Semiautomagic, which sums up the series' balance of fantasy and hard-boiled detective fiction.As of 2019, Butcher has written 15 novels set in the Dresden Files universe, plus a number of short stories (some of which are collected in the anthologies Side Jobs and Brief Cases). The series has also been released in audiobook format, narrated by James Marsters. Other works set in the same fictional universe include graphic novels (several new stories, plus adaptations of the first two novels), and The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game. In 2007, a television series based on the novels aired for one season on the American Sci-Fi Channel.The Hardwood Pile
"The Hardwood Pile" is a contemporary fantasy story by American writer L. Sprague de Camp. It was first published in the magazine Unknown for September, 1940. It first appeared in book form in the collection The Reluctant Shaman and Other Fantastic Tales (Pyramid, 1970); it later appeared in the collection The Best of L. Sprague de Camp (Doubleday, 1978), and the anthology Bestiary! (Ace Books, 1985) The story has been translated into French and German.The Man Who Could Work Miracles (story)
"The Man Who Could Work Miracles" is a British fantasy–comedy short story by H. G. Wells first published in 1898 in The Illustrated London News. It carried the subtitle "A Pantoum in Prose."The story is an early example of Contemporary fantasy (not yet recognized, at the time, as a specific subgenre). In common with later works falling within this definition, the story places a major fantasy premise (a wizard with enormous, virtually unlimited magic power) not in an exotic semi-Medieval setting but in the drab routine daily life of suburban London, very familiar to Wells himself.The Mortal Instruments
The Mortal Instruments is a series of six young adult fantasy novels written by Cassandra Clare, the last of which was published on May 27, 2014. The Mortal Instruments is chronologically the third series of a proposed five in The Shadowhunter Chronicles but it was the first one published. It follows Clary Fray (who interacts with a group of Nephilim known as Shadowhunters) while also discovering her own heritage. The Shadowhunters protect the world of mundane people, who are also called mundanes or "mundies", from dark forces beyond their world.
The book series has become one of the most popular within the young adult genre of paranormal romance/urban fantasy, but Clare did not originally intend to write the series for teens. When she began writing City of Bones, she did not view it as a young adult work, but first and foremost as a fantasy novel, where the main characters just happened to be teenagers. When she was approached by a publisher interested in aging up her characters, she ultimately decided that she "wanted to tell a story about characters at that crucial life stage just between adolescence and adulthood, where your choices determine the kind of person you're going to be rather than reflecting who you already are." The decision to launch her novels as Young Adult books has propelled Clare to the top of the Bestsellers list and has established The Shadowhunter Chronicles as some of the most popular works read by a largely young adult audience.The Reluctant Shaman
"The Reluctant Shaman" is a contemporary fantasy story by American writer L. Sprague de Camp. It was first published in the magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories for April 1947. It first appeared in book form in the collection The Reluctant Shaman and Other Fantastic Tales (Pyramid, 1970); it later appeared in the magazine Science Fiction Yearbook no. 5 (Popular Library, Inc., 1971) and the collection The Best of L. Sprague de Camp (Doubleday, 1978). The story has been translated into French and German.The Saga of Darren Shan
The Saga of Darren Shan (known as Cirque Du Freak: The Saga of Darren Shan in the United States) is a young adult 12-part book series written by Darren Shan (pen name of Darren O'Shaughnessy) about the struggle of a boy who has become involved in the world of vampires. As of October 2008, the book has been published in 33 countries around the world, in 30 different languages. A film based on the first three books in the series was released in theatres on October 23, 2009. Blackstone Audio has also released CD recordings of all 12 books in the series, read by Ralph Lister.Wizard of the Pigeons
Wizard of the Pigeons is a 1985 urban fantasy novel set in Seattle by Megan Lindholm, issued as a paperback original by Ace Books and reprinted in hardcover by Hypatia Press in 1994. Several UK editions have also been published. The book explores the themes of homelessness, poverty, and mental illness.
The novel has been classified as modern Arthurian fantasy, with the title character identified with Merlin Ambrosius. This book is also categorized as Urban Fantasy. Roger Zelazny called it "terrific".