Where to find Contemporary Fantasy

Phew! Lots of reactions to my post about Urban Fantasy versus Contemporary Fantasy!

Thank you to everyone who responded. There were some interesting answers in there!

I found that your responses fell more or less evenly on either side of the question I asked. About half of the responses indicated that all fantasy set in the modern world was Urban Fantasy. On the other hand, about half of the responses did consider Urban Fantasy to be the more narrow, classic definition.

There were also a large number of emailers who confessed they’d never heard of Contemporary Fantasy before.

This is understandable, given the broader and more common interpretation of Urban Fantasy.

The other reason why many readers aren’t aware of Contemporary Fantasy being a “thing” is because Amazon doesn’t have it as a category.

The BISAC codes do, though. BISAC = Book Industries Standards and Communications.

Every retail store beside Amazon uses these international categories. You can find the official, formal list of those categories here. Authors and publishers must place their books in three (usually) of these categories when they publish them.

Contemporary Fantasy is catalogued as category number FIC009010. But you don’t have to worry about the category codes. Most retailers just use the names.

So how do you find Contemporary Fantasy, if the store doesn’t have an official category for it?

There’s a few ways you can do this.

Search for “Contemporary Fantasy”

This may have mixed results. Amazon, for example, rarely provides results that are exactly what you were looking for. They add in advertising, in-house published titles, Kindle Unlimited titles, and then titles the algorithms think you should prefer to read, rather than what you want to read. True results will be buried.

But if you are patient and drill down through the results, ignoring all the mis-hits, you should be able to find any books that have “contemporary fantasy” in their description somewhere.

On other stores, you should have better results.

Search for, or select, “Alternative History”

This is a sideways search. Authors can choose three categories on Amazon and elsewhere, so authors who write contemporary fantasy will usually first pick urban fantasy, because of the broadening of the category that I reported in the earlier post. Then they’ll have to choose two more categories, and one of those could be “Alternative History”.

A contemporary “open” fantasy (that is, everyone in the world is aware of the fantasy species living here on Earth) could easily be argued that it is providing an alternative history to the one we know.

Alternative history, though, is found in the Science Fiction sub-categories, which is why you might not think to look there.

You can search for it, or, on Amazon, actually select the Alternative History category. There is also a BISAC category for Alternative History, so all the bookstores should have a selectable category, too.

Mine the Urban Fantasy category

This tactic requires a bit of finesse, if you’re trying to find pure contemporary fantasy, not Urban Fantasy. The category is highly corrupted, because of the broad interpretation readers have. So everything but the kitchen sink is in there. If there’s magic and a modern setting in the story, authors will use Urban Fantasy as their primary category, because that’s where the readers go.

To sort out the pure contemporary fantasy stories, you’ll have to read the book descriptions. Sometimes authors are very helpful and actually mention “contemporary fantasy”. Sometimes you just have to go by the book description to decide which side of the spectrum the stories belongs in.

Search a Different Store

If there is a bookstore that makes it easier to find what you like, but you have committed to buying your books from a diferrent store, you can still use the first store for searching books and browsing. Then buy those books at the store where you usually buy them.

Kobo, for example, is a good store for searching because it doesn’t front-load search results with advertising and in-house publications. If you plug “Contemporary Fantasy” into the search bar, you’ll actually get contemporary fantasy books in your results. (And this is partly the reason why I buy my books from Kobo).

Ask Google, or an AI

You can source contemporary fantasy completely outside the retail book store environment by asking Google or an AI like Chat GPT to give you recommendations. Chat GPT and other AIs will differentiate between urban fantasy and contemporary fantasy, if you specify they must.

Also, you could simply ask Google/AI for books listed under the BISAC category for Contemporary Fantasy, and include the code number.

Read Book Blogs

This is a good way of finding not just contemporary fantasy, but recommended contemporary fantasy. There are some great fantasy book blogs out there. A few that I like and read regularly are Fantasy Book Critic, Fantasy Faction, and The Fantasy Hive, which is British and tends to focus on different books.

When these bloggers review books, they often add their sub-genre and the review itself will help you figure out if you’re dealing with urban fantasy or the broader contemporary fantasy.

Plus, if you like this way of finding new stories, then you might like to stop by the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off contest, where they list all the book bloggers who read, review, and judge the entries each year. This is a good source for more fantasy book bloggers.

Be wary, though; you will probably end up with a very long list of must-read titles!


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