Monday, July 21, 2008

Thoughts on Dark Fantasy by Janrae Frank

The definition of dark fantasy is still widely debated. The label is claimed by both fantasy authors and horror authors. Some horror authors perceive dark fantasy to be merely a way of side-stepping the horror label and the current industry prejudice against it. In a debate about the term, dark fantasy, on a messageboard called "the messageboard of the damned" several years ago, Nick Mamatas stated that dark fantasy is matter of ambiance.

Certainly Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series and her Merry Gentry series can be called dark fantasy. The former series is set on an alternate earth in which vampires have been given full civil rights and courses in magic are taught in colleges. The latter series involves a princess of Faery who is working as a private investigator. Most urban fantasies can be equally considered dark fantasies.

As more and more cross-genre works appear, with elements of both horror and fantasy, the classification is often left up to both the publishers and the distributors.
Please allow me a few personal anecdotes.

My ebooks that come out from Renaissance Ebooks (renebooks) are listed as dark fantasy at Fictionwise. There my works are a bit of an odd man. The vast majority of books listed under dark fantasy on that list involve vampires and werewolves. Often with a romantic element.
There is the connection for me. I write about vampires, wolfweres (which are often tossed in with werewolves by definition), and necromancers. Such things are staples of horror novels. However, because I am writing in an alternate world with a semi-medieval setting, my work is often classified as fantasy.

Wikipedia says that dark fantasy involves "a bleak pessimistic outlook … and moral ambiguity." It can also involve brutality.

Anne Bishop's Dark Jewels trilogy is extremely dark. Grey Keyes is another excellent example of dark fantasy, especially his series that begins with the Briar King. George R. R. Martin's "Swords of Fire and Ice" series has some of the most brutal, edgy dark fantasy out there.
All of those qualities mentioned in wikipedia are present in their novels.

They are also present in my own, up to a point. I believe in the triumph of the human spirit, that people can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and overcome both their inner and outer challenges. Lyn McConchie says that what makes the darkness and despair in my novels work is that I "don't compromise with evil."

I have had horror authors who write about werewolves say that my work is fantasy and try to deny me a place at the table. I write about werewolves also. My first professional sale was "Wolves of Nakesht" (Amazons, edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, DAW 1979) that involved a woman and her children fleeing across the grasslands of an alternate world pursued by werewolves.

I have had fantasy authors tell me that I write horror because I have werewolves and vampires in my novels.

Only time will tell whether the label 'dark fantasy' becomes fully accepted by both the writers and the readers.

Discover Janrae's Serpent's Quest at Buzz the Book and then get your own copy.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Whereunto, Fantasy Genre by Danny Birt

The Lord of the Rings. The Chronicles of Narnia. The Golden Compass. Harry Potter. All of these titles are now common household names. The movies these titles describe have reached tens of millions of viewers, child and adult alike, capturing and enhancing those viewers’ imagination with a vivacity no other genre could manage to procure.

And yet, none of those movies could have come about were it not for books.

Yes, books. Virtually every fantasy-genre movie that has been produced in the last decade has been based off of a book in the same genre. Movie producers find a bestselling fantasy book, adapt a screenplay from it, then produce it. As a bonus, the movie has a preexisting audience of the book’s readers.

Part of the reason the production of fantasy movies has taken off recently is the advent of affordable computer graphics, which has made fantastic creatures and magical occurrences capable of being displayed on the big screen, rather than solely in the mind of a reader.

These movies have propelled the fantasy genre from relative obscurity in the back corners of bookstores to the New York Times bestseller list. The number of individuals who will readily admit to being fans of fantasy has never been higher. And yet, the fantasy genre has shown little adaptation to this sudden unexpected surge in popularity.

Consider: of all the fantasy works that are currently available for consumption in any format, what percentage of them is written on a child’s reading level?

Despite its popularity, the fantasy genre by and large remains considered immature. Yet, this creates a Catch-22: since fantasy is seen as being for children, most of the fantasy that is written is written for children.

Fantasy’s current surge in popularity is the genre’s best hope to spruce up its old image. Children who are currently growing up with fantasy in their lives will want to continue to read fantasy as adults – but only if there is a large selection of adult-level fantasy literature available for them to read. After all, who wants to remain stuck in childhood, reading the same old plotline?

The question remains of how those who create the works of the fantasy genre will deal with this brave new world. Will they create new, thought-filled fantasy literature for the discerning adult, or will they continue along in the old, proven rut?

Whereunto, my fellow fantasy authors?

Whereunto, fantasy genre?

You can find Danny Birt’s website at

Danny’s most recent work of fantasy literature, “Ending an Ending,” is available through Ancient Tomes Press at