Believe it or not, I am a huge fan of traditional fantasy. I love Tolkien, I love George McDonald, I am in love with Andrew Lang’s Fairy Tale books. I enjoy the archetypes of traditional fantasy: The quest, the hero, the sword, the wizard, the dragon, etc. etc. All of these archetypes strike me as highly spiritual, and even symbolic of deeper inner truths.
My first book was an epic fantasy. I started writing it when I was 12 and finished when I was 16. It was totally my practice book, but when I reread that first draft I can’t help but smile when I see how much of it was inspired by these archetypes, and how much of it is valid, even though technically it may not be the best writing. It was, after all, my first book, and I was basically a child.
I actually think about re-writing that first book sometimes.
Then I turned 17, and things got pretty dark. I started reading Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and really that was it for me. I loved it. I loved the ambiguous morality of the vampire, I loved that some of them relished in their darkness, and others hated themselves for what they were. I loved the term the anti-hero, Lestat, of the chronicles used to describe the world: The Savage Garden, where things like right and wrong are only human conceptions and all that matters is what’s beautiful. That is, aesthetic values above all.
It opened up a whole new world for me, and for some odd reason I identified with it all. I identified with the suffering, I identified with the darkness, and the doubt, and even the evil. Not because I, myself, am evil, but because I recognize we all have darkness within us, whether we would like to admit it or not.
This type of fantasy is called Dark Fantasy. It is the type of fiction that embraces the truth about our own flaws. The unredeemable qualities of the human being are superimposed upon the creatures exposed in these fantastical books, and a medium is therefore opened to psychologically explore these symbols, through fiction.
I loved this type of fantasy so much that my adult urban fantasy book, The Sun Child, was totally inspired by it.
Dark Fantasy is certainly lighter than horror, in the sense that there still usually exists a battle between good and evil forces, when in horror it can just be plain evil. I invite you to explore this type of Fantasy, see whether or not it’s something you might like. It does deal with the shadow aspect of our being, but I believe it’s good to know ourselves, to explore our different facets, and what better way to exercise the imagination than through fiction.