Often, when I hear people talking about urban fantasy, I hear words like Twilight and paranormal romance. I resent this. I don’t have a problem with paranormal romances, just so long as I don’t have to touch them. Neither do I have a problem with strong female characters and romantic subplots, which are seen by some as part of what defines urban fantasy. I do have a problem with vampires who merely sparkle in the sunlight. Were I a vampire, I would be embarrassed to leave my crypt until the sparkling thing blew over.
I bring this up because I think there’s a difference between the perception of what urban fantasy is and what it actually is. I agree with Genre Bender that the difference between urban and regular fantasy is that urban fantasy is that urban fantasy takes place in a modern setting, and I have noticed that the line between paranormal romance and urban fantasy is blending, but I don’t think that “a kick-ass heroine (often wearing leather pants and wielding a semi-automatic)” is a necessary part of the formula. There is merit to said kick-ass chicks, but urban fantasy, as a whole, can take them or leave them.
What urban fantasy needs is the fantasy. Magic, monsters (though you might want to steer clear of vampires and werewolves until people get over this whole Stephanie Myers thing), strange happenings in general. Romance, hard-boiled detectives, and leather pants are all optional. Hell, strong female protagonists, no matter how much they feature in today’s urban fantasy, are optional. The reason that people are seeing these elements are non-optional is that they’re some of the most common elements.
I’m sure that I’m not the only one who’s interested in seeing more urban fantasy that isn’t chick-lit. I’ve devoured Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books, but that’s about all the urban fantasy that there is that isn’t targeted at women. I’m not saying that books targeted at women are bad (except for Twilight, though that’s because it’s Twilight, not because it’s targeted at women), I’m saying that I’m not normally interested in reading books targeted at women.
This is part of why I write. I can’t be the only male who likes urban fantasy and wants to read non-chicky urban fantasy that doesn’t star Harry Dresden.