Speculative fiction covers a very broad range of literature from sword and board fantasy to the monsters that keep you up at night. Most of the time a story will be pretty clear cut as to what it can be classified as, but some stories sit in between two genres.
When we think of magic, many people think of brightly colored fairies who grant wishes. Bad things don’t happen when magic is involved, does it?
Horror might seem simple, but it’s one of the most complicated genres to write. It’s a genre of making you care about someone or something then yanking it away leaving the reader shaken.
What happens when you mix the two?
Imagine a story where fairies trick children into leaving their homes and take them back to the hollow hills only to be slowly devoured by the very creatures that promised to save them from a dull normal life. Or, murder victims have been found in the city and it’s up to a detective to not only find the murder but stop him before he completes his rituals to open a portal of darkness.
Stories like these can be classified as either fantasy or horror but most often sit in a sub-genre called dark fantasy. Dark fantasy combines elements of the fantasy genre such as magic with darker elements such as monsters. Often these stories have a more grim setting and very little humor. Dark fantasies also often have a sense of urgency, as things must be stopped before it is too late.
While the term dark fantasy is probably relatively new, the genre isn’t. The original Brother’s Grimm stories were as dark and fantastic as they come. Many of our modern fairy tales are softened renditions of these dark stories. H. P. Lovecraft wrote about magic and monsters in his tales. If you’ve read Elric of Melnibone, you’ve tasted the dark words of Michael Moorcock. Even Stephen King has dabbled in dark fantasy in his Dark Tower series. Many movies such as Pan’s Labyrinth, the Dark Crystal, and Legend also deal with magic and dark themes.
Like much of speculative fiction, dark fantasy gives us glimpses not only into fantastical worlds but the strength of the human spirit as it faces surmountable odds. These stories gives us hope that even when things seem darkest, persistence and hope can turn things around. It’s an important thing to remember when we look at our world today.
So if you like magical elements and dark themes give some dark fantasy stories a chance. Perhaps you’ll find a new favorite genre to enjoy.
~The Shadow Minion