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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Dark Fantasy - What do you enjoy about it?

    This is a simple question I suppose but for people who enjoy Dark Fantasy stories and such, what draws you into them? What's the appeal over hih fantasy, heroic fantasy, sword and sorcery, and the like? I just caught myself musing about the topic today and I figured I'd get the input of other people on it. And along those lines, what's your favorite dark fantasy story/movie/comic/whatever?
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    Default Re: Dark Fantasy - What do you enjoy about it?

    Hm. Not the darkness itself, really. I often either roll my eyes at or get disgusted by unnecessary cruelty, especially if the writer gets into gratuitous rape and torture. I guess it's just that characters and worlds tend to feel more real if there's a bit of darkness to them?
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    Default Re: Dark Fantasy - What do you enjoy about it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Hm. Not the darkness itself, really. I often either roll my eyes at or get disgusted by unnecessary cruelty, especially if the writer gets into gratuitous rape and torture. I guess it's just that characters and worlds tend to feel more real if there's a bit of darkness to them?
    Yeah, there was/is a certain strain of thought that "graphic depictions of sexual assault = take me seriously everyone" in genre fiction that I personally can't stand. Especially when you know the author in question wouldn't consider writing it if the victim were male.

    Though, as to the wider topic, I selectively enjoy some darker fantasy works because they hew closer to real-world mythologies, folklore, and histories... in some cases at least. There are themes and concepts worthy of exploration with those -- epic heroes who do unconscionable things things amid their fantastical deeds, malevolent and capricious deities who casually toy with the lives of helpless mortals, primordial monsters who project the worst fears of man and the fundamental hardships of being alive in an often cruel and strange world, and real civilizations throughout time that have done fundamentally horrifying things to their own members and anyone around them.

    You also have works that are fundamentally no different from dystopian speculative fiction. For instance, you might have a steampunk fantasy work that focuses upon the ugliest aspects of imperialism, class division, sexism, and the growing blight of pollution and the destruction of the environment as fantasy Europe enters its industrial age rather than the more whimsical elements of the sub-genre and uses those fantasy elements to embellish its subject matter. A more neutral or positive tone for the world would undermine the intended criticism the work is highlighting, basically.
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    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: Dark Fantasy - What do you enjoy about it?

    It depends what you mean by "dark fantasy". I love Tanith Lee, and she routinely wrote some incredibly dark material. Her Flat Earth novels are a bunch of fables about bored demons absolutely destroying people's lives because they're demons and they're bored, and that's not even close to the darkest she goes. It's not fantasy, but I adore lots of George RR Martin's old sci fi, much of which is almost transcendentally bleak.

    I think in these cases its because the stories are very amenable to being read figuratively or metaphorically or for the imagery and aesthetics, rather than literally. I find anymore that if I'm going to read a straightforward literalist fantasy novel, it had better be a straightforward fun adventure story, rather than a straightforward tour of misery. When I want to understand misery and oppression, there's a wide selection of real world cases and documents, all of which will prove more insightful and informative than the fantasy version thanks to not containing wizards.
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    Troll in the Playground
     
    Devil

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    Default Re: Dark Fantasy - What do you enjoy about it?

    Well, I like the darkness. And the bit about the fantasy, that's good too.
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    Default Re: Dark Fantasy - What do you enjoy about it?

    Simple: there are stories you can tell better with darker tones than lighter ones. I don't like unnecessary excessive cruel stuff either, those are cheap and only provide a momentary shock. but a lighter tone is almost always achieved by ignoring things that you'd logically think would happen in order to tell the lighter story. sometimes I want to explore those things that are ignored in order for that lighter story to exist. this darkens the story but it allows things to go down different paths that can be interesting as long as its done in moderation and at appropriate times.
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    Default Re: Dark Fantasy - What do you enjoy about it?

    I generally like the aesthetic that tends to come along with them. Things tend to be rougher, a bit dirtier, the monster more vicious and nasty. In turn this makes the heroes more heroic, as they aren't just facing death,they're facing a brutal nasty death, or some other horrible fate.

    And the fact that Dark Fantasy has the real chance of killing off main characters and you have a world that feels more realistic.

    I do like lighter fantasy too, too much of each one tends to get stale.
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    Default Re: Dark Fantasy - What do you enjoy about it?

    I find that properly defining dark fantasy is tricky. A lot of what is called dark fantasy is simply heroic fantasy with a hard-R rating. The level of violence and the general level of crapsack-ness of the setting may have been turned up a lot and the heroes may be flawed and reluctant, but the story ultimately unfolds on similar lines. That stuff's fine, it's interesting to see authors play with various dials surrounding well-worn story tropes.

    There's also horror stories set in a fantasy setting, like the aforementioned Flat Earth series by Tanith Lee, which are best treated as horror, not fantasy. Horror has long involved fantastical elements, so transporting the story to a secondary world isn't that big of a change.

    With those separated out, my understanding of the category is that genuinely dark fantasy requires a world that is legitimately worse than reality due to some supernatural factor. Essentially the world must be dystopian to some degree, but it should not simply be a human-sourced dystopia. This allows for an interesting exploration of how certain fantastical elements can in fact make a secondary world worse than reality, and often operates as a critique of other fantasy scenarios by lacking onto the fridge horror attendant to such elements. Done properly this can be very satisfying indeed and is a useful way to examine tropes in a new light.

    Of course, there's a fine line between satisfyingly dark and pointlessly, implausibly grimderp. Going dark is tricky, it's really easy to go too far, even for extremely talented authors. Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy is a dark fantasy masterpiece, but subsequent works in the same world have doubled-down and become distinctly lackluster.
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    Default Re: Dark Fantasy - What do you enjoy about it?

    They feel more fantastical if that makes any sense. Like, dragons and demons are, or perhaps I should say, can be a much bigger deal than a more heroic fantasy. It isn't just a fact of the universe, it's a problem that shapes the universe around it. Similarly the humans feel more human. They don't necessarily have vast powers or the will to win. They are just dirt grubbing humans up against things that could kill them with a twitch of their finger.

    While a more heroic fantasy can treat dragons and other monsters as something that is a lot more mundane. And the people can do things like throw out giant meteors or summon storms or carve mountains in twain with a single sword slash. Which can be fun and everything, but it makes the monsters more mundane and makes the humans more alien.
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    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: Dark Fantasy - What do you enjoy about it?

    What I like about it in general is, its less predictable of an ending. In standard fantasy you have the good guys win, with at best a heroic sacrifice from one of the main companions, otherwise they all survive, and everything is groovy. In Dark fantasy it still totally can end well, but it also might not. Im not a huge fan as the main series I read, Anne Bishop and her Dark Jewels trilogy, plus some supporting stories connected to that world, were pretty dang brutal. It was a gender swap of the standard women getting raped thing because this setting had men being enslaved tortured and tormented for the titillation of the female ruling elite. It included such wonders as "shaving parties". Where the women would gather round a nice lunch meal, gossip, and watch as a man is gelded in front of them. Everybody was miserable, half to two thirds of the trilogy was spent recovering from the latest traumatic thing to happen to the main characters both male and female.
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