Defining Dark Fantasy

Mention the word fantasy and books like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings immediately come to mind. We see vivid images of magical worlds and supernatural beings set in medieval times. Mention the words dark fantasy and those same supernatural elements take on a different meaning.

The setting is more likely to be modern, and the supernatural being is more likely to be the main character…or at least directly involved with the main character. There is a material overlap with horror; thus, the writing may be more visceral or graphic in nature. While horror is primarily sympathetic to human victims who are opposed by monsters, dark fantasy is more often sympathetic to the monsters themselves: vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, and the like. In addition, dark fantasy usually contains an underlying theme of good versus evil, and its worlds, mythologies, and plot lines explore the shadow side of nature and man.

The terms urban fantasy and dark fantasy are frequently used interchangeably. Like urban fantasy, dark fantasy may take place in the past or the future; however, it is not restricted to urban settings. While it may contain positive themes and elements of humor, it always explores the creepy, the dreaded, or the feared. In short, dark fantasy is an emerging genre which borrows its roots from horror, fantasy, and a wide array of supernatural mythology.