Fangs Lexicon

Over our time writing about urban fantasy, blogging about urban fantasy, talking about urban fantasy, running our podcast about urban fantasy, we have developed something of our own lexicon that may need explaining to newcomers. These phrases are useful shorthands when discussing tropes or they come up so much they've become something of an in-joke.

Adhesive Plot: Adhesive plot  is used to hold together a collection of fight scenes or sex scenes in an attempt to produce a book. The book isn't story driven or character driven. The plot only exists so you don't just have these scenes back to back. The action scenes or the sex scenes do not exist to advance the story - the story exists to present the action and the sex.

Anita Fug: When the protagonists repeatedly engage in sex but rarely in clean up afterwards. The resulting smell must be awful Anita Blake brought and epitomises this trope

Aurora Teagarden: While not Urban Fantasy, The Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris still stands as our record for packing the most offensive shit in a series. Still referenced with horror, dread and a kind of awe.

Blackety Black Black: Most of the time a white character doesn't have their skin colour described except in passing - white being assumed. To ensure that no-one misses their token inclusion or to further exoticise their POC, some authors spend a ridiculous amount of time describing the colour of their character's of colour's skin. This can either be long descriptions and/or needing to describe their skin colour every time he is mentioned. First coined when referencing how Laurell K Hamilton refers to Luther in the Anita Blake series

Biting of the Lower Lip: For some reason in paranormal romance, this keeps coming up in the dreadful Ikea sex scenes. It's a stand in for repeated “sexy” actions that are really not sexy. Anya Bast caused us to coin the phrase with so much lip biting, but she's hardly unique

Bonnie: Aka White Girl Dipped in Chocolate – when a Token inclusion has no cultural or historical markers, they have dark skin for Inclusions cookies but if you closed your eyes there'd be nothing differentiating them from the white cast. We also see this in a lot of mixed race protagonists whose POC parent is dead/absent. From Bonnie in Vampire Diaries

Chekhov's Junkshop: There is a literay term coined by Playwrite Anton Chekov that says one should not include a gun in a scene if no-one is intending to fire it. In other words, don't include unnecessary objects and plot points.

Sadly, we've graduated beyond Chekhov's gun and are now lost in Chekhov's junkshop, where not only do we have unnecessary guns that are not fired, but we have junk under foot we keep tripping over, we have useless things hanging from the ceiling we bump our heads on and generally unnecessary things clutterng up the place. These books are just over-written - sometimes, it's as simple as using 10 words where one would do, sometimes it's because of overdescription and sometimes whole scenes are just plain unnecessary. These books tend to feel padded, clumsy and very slow to read.

Clary Award: Award given to a character, usually a protagonist, for doing something that is not only foolish, but defies all common sense, is virtually self-destructive and almost destroys the suspension of disbelief because you can't believe anyone would do such a thing. Originally named for Clary from the Mortal Instruments series but it's sadly common

Dick Van Spike: A British character that is inevitably based on Spike from Buffy but whose accent has all the authenticity of Dick Van Dyke's in Mary Poppins. Usually this involves lots and lots of "authentic" British slang and curses rammed in (often at random) frequently with anachronisms. Also the characters tend to be enamoured with 1980s punk Britain

DNF: A book that was so bad we could not finish it.

Dresden Goggles: Similar to Beer Goggles, this refers to a male character (usually protagonist) who simply cannot look at a woman without considering her sexual attractiveness and how much he wants to have sex with her. Usually this is accompanied by ALL women (or all women between the age of 18-45, since older women are rarely considered) being sexually attractive. This man hardly ever meets a woman he finds unattractive or one he doesn't think of in sexual terms and will often tell us about it at length

Erasure: Complete absence of a marginalised group. E.g. a book with POC erasure would contain
nothing but white characters

Explained by the Woo-woo: When various isms or badnesses (such as abusive relationships etc) are dismissed because the magic/supernatural creature explains it. E.g. He's not a controlling arsehole and she's not in an abusive relationship – it's because he's a werewolf!

Fanpoodles: Fans who love an author/book/series beyond all reason and refuse to tolerate any criticism. Upon finding any less-than shining review of their beloved they will flock in, yapping annoyingly. We freely admit to being Fanpoodles ourselves to some wonderful authors, but we try to rein in the yapping.

Hauptman effect: A man, usually love interest to the protagonist who is over “protective” of “his woman.” This usually includes telling her what to do, sometimes locking her up, refusing to let her go anywhere alone and often attacking any other man who expresses an interest in her/looks at her/dares to come within 10 miles of her. This is supposed to be romantic. Named after Hauptman in the Mercy Thomas series

Highlander Minority: There can only be one Token minority character. When we get two Tokens of the same minority together, one often dies

Keille Independence: A version of Spunky Agency that, again, tries to present independent, strong women and falls flat. In this case, to show how strong and independent she is, the character is angry and has no control of their temper, refuses to respect any authority no matter how valid - and she is often violent. Instead of being strong, these women seem almost to have anger management issues and give the impression that they should be arrested and the only reason she isn't is because she is female/cute/small Named after Keillie Riviere in Black Dust Mambo - who has never met someone she hasn't physically attacked

Ikea Sex: Sex that is extremely mechanical, not sexy and sounds very much like “tab A in slot B”.

In the Grim Darkness of the Future, there is only PrivilegeMany books present a dystopian alternate world - maybe there's been a plague, a zombie apocalypse, alien invasion, a spell gone wrong, maybe mankind's collective foolishness has finally gone over the top. Either way, there has been some grand cataclysm and humanity is now a remnant of what it once was. But, whether humanity is reduced to scattered refugees or are now recovering, one thing is common - they'll be cis, straight, white and able bodied; with minorities either absent or undererpresented

In some ways this is similar to Erasure or Tokenism but it has worse implications. Because humanity has been reduced by cataclysm, the lack of diversity implies extermination - that the zombies/aliens/blood thirsty Morris Dancers targetted marginalised people. Given the world's history of genocide especially against the marginalised, that's problematic to say the least

Inclusion Cookies: Including a marginalised character or referencing marginalised people in order to prove how inclusive and forward thinking a series is (or to shut up marginalised people complaining about Erasure) The inclusion is normally a Token and extremely stereotyped.

LA Banks effect: The idea that because a book contains marginalised characters, people from that marginalisation (and/or their allies) will love and praise the book far beyond what it deserves. For example, a book or author writes extremely good gay characters, so people declare how much they love it... despite the book being rather poor or outright awful

Lesbian Shark: There are some sharks where if they stop moving they cannot get oxygenated water to pass their gills and therefore suffocate. So it is with the lesbian shark - the lesbian - or gay male - character feels compelled to mention they are gay every other sentence. Often this is because they have zero other characterisation and sometimes it's just to pull every last crumb of exclusion cookie from the representation Based on the lesbian sister in Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job

Love at First Woo-Woo: We have all heard of love at first sight. Love at first woo-woo is the paranormal romance version - two charactrs meet and their magic powers/werewolfness/whatever means they are instantly in Twu Luv. No need for development or explanation.

Loving Contempt!: Boy meets girl. Boy hates girl... and what comes next? Inevitably the boy and girl fall in love. A common romance trope - the protagonists start off hating each other and then fall in love. Awww, sweet. And it can be well done - but it can also be done where one partner showers the other other with contempt, derision, denigration and general out-of-line unpleasantness. This can serve one of two (or both!) destructive ideas:
1) You should tolerate abuse because it's a sign of secret attraction
2) No matter how firm and clear their "No" is, if you push they'll eventually give in to your charms.

Magical Healing Vagina/Penis: All trauma, no matter how horrific and no matter how debilitating the psychological consequences may be, can be cured with sex. Sometimes once is all that's needed, but for good measure repeated humping will get the job done. It doesn't matter if the victim was having flashbacks, night terrors, panic attacks, paranoia or even near catatonia - get them laid and DING they're healed.

Marginalised Side-kick: A large number of protagonists in the genre have a best friend/supporter who is a POC or GBL who largely exist for the greater glory of the straight/white person.

A {marginalised} Maris: A marginalised character who is repeatedly referenced or a marginalisation that is repeatedly referenced but never actually appears in the books or series Original reference is from Frasier where Niles' wife, Maris, is often mentioned but never seen. Coined after Teen Wolf where a gay character was repeatedly referred to but not seen on screen for many episodes

Minority Decay: Sometimes a show starts and we get very eager – why the pilot has several POC! And GBLT people! And disabled people and older people – why the diversity is stunning!

But as the series progresses, these characters start to die off. Or spend a lot of time hanging around in the background doing nothing. Or sometimes just falling into a plot hole and not being seen for episodes at a time; before you know it, all that potential has dried up to nothing. The most likely cause of this is Tokenism. The creators know they need inclusion – but don’t actually have any storylines for those characters so they just fade out or into the background.

Pass at Writing X people: Where an author has been so bad at writing a marginalisation and the portrayals are so poor that we would prefer them not to write black/gay/etc characters any more and give them a pass. We'd prefer to be erased than for them to keep writing these characters

Pilot Diversity: When a show packs its pilot episode with diverse characters, giving an impression of inclusion - but they all disappear very quickly, either dying, falling into the plot box or just disappearing. Most extreme example is Under the Dome

Plot Hole/Box
: When a character disappears for several episodes or books without explanation we refer to it as having "fallen into the plot hole." This happens a lot to minority side characters who only show up when the (non-minority) main characters want something - after which they're returned to the Plot Hole/Plot Box until they are needed again. It generally emphasises the sidekick, token or generally lesser status of those characters especially if they have few or no storylines of their own.

Belated Inclusion: When a series is long established, only then does the author bring out the minority characters. It feels like they're waiting until they have an established fanbase before they can "risk" the minorities - either that or it's a belated reaction to criticism of erasure.

Salem Witches: Any story with witches in it will, at some point, mention Salem. It's a rule. In Urban Fantasy there weren't any non-magical humans in Salem - just ranks and ranks and ranks of witches - probably stood up because there'd be no room to sit down

Second Wave Inclusion:: A series is completely lacking in inclusion; there’s not a minority in sight (maybe in some of the crowd scenes). Until about half way into season 2, or book 4. Then minorities start sneaking in… It’s like the creator had to be sure they had a fanbase before risking it with minority characters. Or they were called out by critics about their erasure and hastily threw in a token. Or they’re just one of those people who thinks you need to have a super-special reason to include minorities and “it wasn’t the right time” (it’s always the right time for non-minorities, you’ll notice).

Of course, being in the Second Wave of characters, they will have to be worked on to get the same fan appreciation and presence as the long established characters – which is sad, because they’re often Tokens or afterthoughts.

Standalone Stuffing:  Where the author decides that a reader should be able to pick up any book in a series and read it without reading the ones before. Sometimes this works - and sometimes it means you get a book that is so crammed with recapping, info-dumps and clarifications that it's 3 times as long as it needs to be, grossly padded and a horribly stilted read. Resign yourself to the fact no-one should be reading book 16 before reading books 1-15 and cut the recaps (with a nod to @SafiyaOutlines)

Spunky Agency: Trope usually displayed by female protagonists. To show they are strong and powerful and independent and have agency, these women will defy all the menfolk around them and do what they want! Unfortunately, their plan/actions are so mindbogglingly foolish that rather than being empowering it instead just makes all the men look RIGHT and that she should just sit down, shut up and do what they told her.

Superdamsel!: :We see women who are supposed to be super powerful. They're amazing fighters, they're vampires, they're werewolves, they're super-powered dangerous arse-kicking heroines of dooooom! And yet? They need rescuing. They're victimised. They are kidnapped, they are beaten and need help. They may be super powerful but they're still damsels in disteress.

Tasty POC: Sometimes when reading character descriptions I feel like I'm reading a recipe book - chocolate, cinnamon, caramel, cocoa, coffee. I can almost get hungry reading these books. POC as food is both prevalent and reductive especially since white skin tone is rarely described at all and, if it is, rarely as food. Extra bonus if you throw in "spicy" or "exotic" scents

T-Dog Chain: When a Token minority character dies off, they are often replaced quickly by a new Token (often indistinguishable simply because neither Token had any distinguishing feature). This allows the show to kill off a character, yet maintain it's "diversity" through tokenism. Named for T-Dog on The Walking Dead who died and was replaced by Oscar... who died and was replaced by Tyrese.

Token: Including a single marginalised character for the sake of Inclusion Cookies the portrayal is normally very stereotyped, exists to serve the privileged protagonists or is otherwise annoying, offensive or aggravating

Yahoo Palace: Also Love Grotto and Va-jay-jay. Urban fantasy's ongoing terror of saying the word “vagina” has produced no shortage of ridiculous euphemisms