Episode 33: What is Dark Fantasy?
All about my genre of choice: Dark Fantasy.
Written and narrated by Ronel Janse van Vuuren.
Copyright 2022 Ronel Janse van Vuuren — All rights reserved.
Learn more about Dark Fantasy here.
Get the transcript here.
Music: Secrets by David Fesliyan (FesliyanStudios.com) and Dramatic Heartbeat by FesliyanStudios.com
You’re listening to the Faeries and Folklore podcast by Ronel.
I’m dark fantasy author Ronel Janse van Vuuren. With nearly a decade of digging around in dusty folklore books, researching creatures of imagination that ignited my curiosity, I’m here to share the folklore in a nutshell and how I reimagined it for my writing in an origin of the fae.
This is the Faeries and Folklore podcast.
Hi, I’m your host Ronel Janse van Vuuren. You can just call me Ronel. In today’s episode, we’re continuing our exploration of the fae realm.
This episode is brought to you by my book Once… Tales, Myths and Legends of Faerie available in eBook, audiobook and paperback. Learn more at ronelthemythmaker.com/my-books.
What is Dark Fantasy?
This week’s episode is a bit different. I’ve received several messages from listeners and from readers of my blog asking about what Dark Fantasy is.
Whenever I tell someone that I write Dark Fantasy, they recoil. Why? Because they hear “dark” and think “horror”. Or worse.
So I decided to do this episode with the hope that when someone searches online for “dark fantasy”, they will find this and understand the art behind it.
Definition of Dark Fantasy:
Dark Fantasy in a nutshell: Dark Fantasy incorporates the darker and frightening aspects of fantasy. It usually has an atmosphere of horror and dread, though that’s not necessary.
Still confused? How about bullet-points?
· Dark Fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy. (Fantasy deals with the fantastic: magic, mythical creatures, etc.)
· Dark Fantasy uses elements of fantasy to study the darker side of human nature. (Lots of psychology, weirdness and wonder.)
· Dark Fantasy is at ease with the gore and horror inherent in its darkness, but it doesn’t aim to frighten. (It’s not horror.)
· Dark Fantasy has many anti-heroes and “normal” people who have to do unsavoury things for the greater good. (Like how Amy hunts the poachers after her pegasi in “Magic at Midnight”.)
· Dark Fantasy villains range from being misguided to being full-out bad guys.
· Dark Fantasy stories delve into the depths of speculative fiction, are dark and twisted without aiming to frighten and gross-out readers.
How do I write Dark Fantasy?
I mix it up with Low Fantasy (where magical events intrude on an otherwise normal world) or Urban Fantasy (where magic and weird stuff creep in on the edges of a world where magic is not the norm and most people are oblivious to it all).
I’d describe “Magic at Midnight” as Low Fantasy and “Dark Desires” as Urban Fantasy. You can see the difference in genres by their covers and blurbs.
Magic at Midnight has a pegasus with gleaming red eyes on the cover.
Amy has only known one life. Now she needs to put it all on the line to save what is precious to her. Can this simple farm girl survive court-life? Can she stop a war from burning down her world? And what of the mysterious princess of Hazel Wood and her covert glances…? Not to mention the prince of Acacia Wood who might or might not be involved with the prophecies ruling their kingdoms. With mysteries and secrets threatening the life she longs to return to, can she separate her feelings from the mission?
TO WHAT LENGTHS WILL SHE GO TO SAVE HER LOVED-ONES?
Dark Desires, has a young woman on the cover with fizzing magic around her and her hand glowing with magic, as well as comedy/tragedy masks on it to go with the tagline: when masks are ripped off…
Iron and fae aren’t friends.
Yet Tasha has no choice but to be in the human realm: her very life is at stake.
High School isn’t much safer than Faerie, though. Cliques, falling in love and navigating day-to-day activities are dangerous enough without the added dread of being unmasked as being otherworldly.
But when something happens and everyone reveals their true selves, Tasha has a choice to make: will she save them from the curse upon them and reveal her true nature, or will she let them die and stay safe herself?
Scroll up to find out how Tasha deals with the upheaval of her world.
*This is the first book in the Dark Court Sisters series.
You can learn more about these books, and others, on my website ronelthemythmaker.com/my-books.
I use my own Fae Realm (Faerie, The In-Between, The Wild Wood, etc.) and its denizens to fill out my fantasy world. I blog about the places and creatures I use from folklore once a month and I add it to my “Origin of the Fae” page for ease of access for readers looking for a specific creature. And, of course, I do this podcast.
As for age-range, I think that you can read my stories no matter how young at heart you are or how old your driver’s license says you are. I do think, though, that reader discretion is advised: some of my books deal with mental disease, the fall-out of sexual assault, gender identity, animal rights (as in the case of poachers), death, vigilante justice, organ trafficking, and other hot button issues people tend to shy away from. Sometimes these issues are thinly veiled and at other times it is central to the plot.
I do aim to write for the Young Adult market, so I keep my books clean (no graphic violence – at least, I try not to be too graphic, though I’ve become desensitized living in a “burning country”. No sex – though if characters do engage in amorous activities, the scene fades to black like an old movie). Most of my stories are about figuring out who you are and who you want to be (coming-of-age stories with a message about growing up).
I have many ideas of how that should be handled… Which usually turns into a heavy debate with my writing friends. And how do I explain Dark Fantasy to them? Dark fantasy is all about examining the human condition, looking at the consequences of actions and decisions, and how the beliefs we hold can change the way we see our world.
Why do I write Dark Fantasy?
I can explore human psychology in the safety of a book by putting people through horrible situations, sit back and watch it play out – without being sent to a place for the criminally insane. It’s loads of fun when done right.
Besides, I can deal with my own monsters through writing…
Gregory House, in the TV series “House” said something that resonated with me: It’s a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only variable is about what.
This makes for intriguing characters!
I write dark fantasy because you can say and do things in books that you’re too afraid to express in real life. Besides, it’s fun to throw characters into turmoil to see how they’ll react. And there are pegasi, of course.
I hope this has answered your questions.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this episode of the faeries and folklore podcast and that you’ve learned something new about faeries.
Remember that you can get a transcript of this episode in the description. If you’re new to the podcast, why not go and grab your free copy of Unseen, the second book in the Faery Tales series, on my website ronelthemythmaker.com? Loads of folklore, magic and danger await! Take care!
You can now support my time in producing the podcast (researching, writing and everything else involved) by buying me a coffee. This can be a once-off thing, or you can buy me coffee again in the future at your discretion.
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No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.