Does technology kill mysteries in urban fantasy?

#1
I've wrote many stories through the years, but I always go back to the genre I want to write the most, Urban Fantasy.
I've been inspired by horror and mystery in the genre, but I can't come to gripes with writing a story, in a modern scenario, where any type of supernatural phenomena would be hidden or veiled. I feel like technology has ruined it.
All the stories set in urban scenarios with any degree of fantasy nowadays rely on certain gimmicks and requirements to even make sense. For example:
If people have some type of supernatural abilities: Congratulations, you have a superhero world, with rules, conditions and expectations. Everyone would be aware of it, and to some extent, the world itself would be shaped by it.
If supernatural creatures exist: There's no way it could be a prevalent thing in the world, and also secretive. Everyone would know about it and society would be shaped by that, some way or another.
If a supernatural phenomena occurred: The story would then have to be about how that supernatural phenomena affects/affected the world, and it would shape the whole story around it.

The only ways to avoid those aspects, as far as I could think, are the ways people already use:
- Set the story in the past, before everyone had cell-phones and global communication.
- Straight up just ignore the existence of technology and pretend it doesn't exist.

Both of the solutions are unsatisfactory to me, and that sucks.
I don't know if this is something fixable either. The genre in itself has been reshaped and adapted, which is why the super-hero theme overtook it. I kind of miss the old, old days of Supernatural (the series), SCP, that kind of thing.

Sorry for ranting. At most, I'd hope someone has thought about that too and maybe could give me some insight, or offer any examples of successful stories in the genre that are set in modern scenarios.

Edit: To add, as I noticed I wasn't really very clear. The "point" of the story is for the supernatural to not be known. That it is hidden by interests/organizations, etc. In our normal world, weird stuff happens but it's kept under the rugs, etc.
That's the challenge, to have a modern world where something supernatural can happen and not be in every social media in 10 seconds. (Which is the realistic consequence of something like that.)

Re: Does technology kill mysteries in urban fantasy?

#3
I like the reasons why technology was unreliable in the Kate Daniels series by Illona Andrews. Too bad I didn't like the main character and the love interest enough to continue it.

However, in the first novel, it was explained that magic and technology doesn't mix. Magic comes in and those who can use magic can, monsters come out, and all that good happy stuff. That also means technology doesn't work. Most cars, electronics, and guns don't work. This isn't really overly explained, other than this strange cycle is unpredictable and was caused by an event. I'm going to assume why the world is the way it is explained in another book in the series. It's basically an alternate world when you think about it. Also, it wasn't very veiled. Of course, they had their mercenary, magical society folks, to deal with the supernatural stuff. The world seemed to have been the way it was for a while.

It think that's probably the better way to do it, create a reason why technology is unreliable around the supernatural. Or have it there with people being aware of strange things going on. And really depending on where you live, you see more or less of it. Because that's a thing that needs to be remembered. A problem that might be in a certain area, whether that might be a town, city, or state, might not be so much of an issue in another. 

Re: Does technology kill mysteries in urban fantasy?

#4
One option is ‘the veil’ which is a supernatural effect that makes most normal humans explain away the supernatural as something else and eventually maybe just forget about it.
They might recognize a werewolf and freak out while running then three blocks away conclude it must have been a bear, surely. Still a dangerous creature that they should warn people away from, but not crazy. Tech might function in a similar vein, the video is not convincing and starts to look more like a hoax with time. Not all are effected by it though and that is how you get human monster hunters.

You can have fun exploring the veil effects. Or the origin. A coalition cult that specifically maintains it exactly because they fear what modern technology bring about maybe.

But hunters get to use it. They can see the facebook livestream without succumbing to the “fake and gay!” Urge in their head and mobilize to go take on this obvious banshee terrorizing some kids in a haunted house.

Have your cake and eat it! 😉

Re: Does technology kill mysteries in urban fantasy?

#5
CrowsCrowCrow Wrote: One option is ‘the veil’ which is a supernatural effect that makes most normal humans explain away the supernatural as something else and eventually maybe just forget about it.
They might recognize a werewolf and freak out while running then three blocks away conclude it must have been a bear, surely. Still a dangerous creature that they should warn people away from, but not crazy. Tech might function in a similar vein, the video is not convincing and starts to look more like a hoax with time. Not all are effected by it though and that is how you get human monster hunters.

You can have fun exploring the veil effects. Or the origin. A coalition cult that specifically maintains it exactly because they fear what modern technology bring about maybe.

But hunters get to use it. They can see the facebook livestream without succumbing to the “fake and gay!” Urge in their head and mobilize to go take on this obvious banshee terrorizing some kids in a haunted house.

Have your cake and eat it! 😉

That's somewhat of a decent solution, I guess. It becomes convoluted, but it "works", at least.

Re: Does technology kill mysteries in urban fantasy?

#7
I like to think a good way of handling this is to include some government or organization with a lot of resources that actively tries to keep things quiet. Got superheroes who need to superhero in secret? Mass censorship and a whole branch dedicated to calling these so-called "supers" a hoax. Keep a brigade of memory-manipulating supers in every city on the globe on your payroll. Some magical apocalyptical event has happened in the middle of the ocean. Call it an oil spill, lock it down within hours, and edit any satellite imagery that contradicts you. Stuff like that just seems cool to me, and through the phones of the people are powerful carriers of information, you'd be surprised what a little government censorship can do if you want to heighten ignorance about any given thing!

Re: Does technology kill mysteries in urban fantasy?

#8
WoorldPresident Wrote: I like to think a good way of handling this is to include some government or organization with a lot of resources that actively tries to keep things quiet. Got superheroes who need to superhero in secret? Mass censorship and a whole branch dedicated to calling these so-called "supers" a hoax. Keep a brigade of memory-manipulating supers in every city on the globe on your payroll. Some magical apocalyptical event has happened in the middle of the ocean. Call it an oil spill, lock it down within hours, and edit any satellite imagery that contradicts you. Stuff like that just seems cool to me, and through the phones of the people are powerful carriers of information, you'd be surprised what a little government censorship can do if you want to heighten ignorance about any given thing!

Off topic, but I love the blurb in your signature! Really draws interest. 

Re: Does technology kill mysteries in urban fantasy?

#9
Leloup Wrote: That's somewhat of a decent solution, I guess. It becomes convoluted, but it "works", at least.

Yeah, I lifted it from some ttrpg systems and comics. It might need some tweaks to blend into the world you want to create. Where does it become convoluted for what you want it to do?

Oh, or you could take the Bleach approach. Where both the monsters and hunters are spirits that people can't see to begin with, but I don't think that explains why nobody is looking into the no doubt billions of videos of invisible forces crushing cars in the street. But you could take the concept and tweak it. Maybe the monster spirits don't cause physical damage to the world and their victims just collapse and it gets written off as a heart attack or some other natural cause depending on the creature. 

I also really like the MIB approach that WoorldPresident brought up. Lots of great material in that direction. :D

Maybe some sort of combination of multiple ideas would end up creating a smooth whole. That would take some pondering, though.

Re: Does technology kill mysteries in urban fantasy?

#10
Maybe embrace that everyone knows about it then. I get tired of the trope that magic is unusual and most people can't do it.  Same for superheros where only a select few get it.  Try to think how the world would be different if everyone had super powers.  Since everyone has it, random people are not more able than police to step in when a villain is on the lose, and in fact the police have training on how to deal with villains abusing their powers.

Since everyone has super powers, does that mean they are used for mundane things?  No dishwashers in your world as everyone just uses their super power to clean their plates?  There are a large amount of things that magic/super power worlds wouldn't need technology for because super powers.  Some of those things are  stepping stones to other technology they could use, but wouldn't have been invented in the first place because the original use for the technology wasn't better that super powers and so it wouldn't be refined: you can have a lot of fun with a modern society where a few things are done like 200BC because technology we take for granted wouldn't make sense to develop.

Re: Does technology kill mysteries in urban fantasy?

#12
For some, I say yes. Mainly through the spread of information. We know more and more things with the internet.

And we tend to dismiss the 'supernatural' as senseless imagination. Maybe since that's what modern society is, readers could not 'dive in' into the story as much as ancient setting. Monsters in modern setting would be monitored better than in ancient setting, by the military and security agencies. Perhaps that could kill some excitement about the unknown since... we know.


In some condition though, I say no. It's mainly because of culture. 

In some cultures, supernatural would be considered as an interesting mystery. Speaking about my own culture, people still believe in fantasy stuff like spiritual healing, "legacy spirit", and black magic. I believe these could exist too, though I'm convinced 98% out there are hoaxes. In modern setting, it could also be advantageous. A writer could create a sensation in the internet from an incident in the story. It could go viral and gain traction with the common folks, sparking interest.

Just my thought.

Re: Does technology kill mysteries in urban fantasy?

#14
Looking around in having an Urban-Sci-Fi-Fantasy work...

For me, the way Descent works is this. It tries and applies science and technology as ground to earth as it can be into a world where elementalist are common place (to a fault.) So turning this around, you could still have mystery through uncommon sciences. Like how the ideomotor phenomenon affects the use of the Ouija board, or how an artificially induced cold front causes people to believe there being ghosts in a room. 

There isn't a single solution on making mystery in urban fantasy. That's only the limit of the writer's imagination.