1. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Conspicuously Conventional Contributor

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    Horror Horror or Dark Fantasy?

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Bone2pick, Jul 17, 2020.

    Have you thought about where you draw the line between the two, assuming you do at all? Last night, while brainstorming a 19th century gothic horror/fantasy story, I wondered: is what I'm coming up with better described as Horror or Dark Fantasy?

    After some thought, I tentatively feel my ideas and notes are Dark Fantasy. I could be persuaded otherwise, but as of now that's where I'm at.

    But I wanted to create this thread, not to discuss my particular story, but to hear your thoughts about how you think of and divide the two genres.
     
  2. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    I dunno, horror is sort of a weird genre in the first place. Honestly, I don't really understand how it's supposed to be defined, or if it can really be called a distinct genre at all.
     
  3. TheOtherPromise

    TheOtherPromise Senior Member

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    For my part I'd say the difference is in the name. Horror should focus on fear, the monster should be something scary. Whereas Dark Fantasy is fantasy, it should be written to appeal to our sense of adventure and wonder, even if it brings plenty of thrills along the way.

    For example a Horror vampire is going to be a predator, they might be a sexy one, though if they are it's because they symbolize a sexual predator. A Dark Fantasy vampire can be the broody love-interest type that rejects their fate and vows not to prey on humans. Now this isn't a 100% rule but it does showcase the difference I think of between the two genres.
     
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  4. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Conspicuously Conventional Contributor

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    @TheOtherPromise. With the exception of your use of 'wonder,' I agree with you. The main reason I concluded my story was Dark Fantasy was that the main character I have planned for it is heroic. A dark hero, mind you, but someone to root for. Someone prepared for the things that go bump in the night. And I felt a pure horror story probably can't support a hero, dark or otherwise.

    Writing this reply has me thinking about the subtle differences between the films Alien and Aliens...
     
  5. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

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    Horror to me means that the fiction intentionally seeks to illicit fear. I believe it's originally derived from Gothic, which saught to create "sublime". Enjoyment of things that aren't traditionally enjoyable... Pleasurable terror or something like that. One of the key elements for me is setting detail but I haven't really researched it so I don't know much beyond that.
     
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  6. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    It seems there are few distinctions between the two, but
    they are different in a few key areas. For the most part
    they are pretty much in the same genre/sub-genre camp.
    Only difference really being that Horror doesn't have to
    use supernatural elements to be scary. Dark Fantasy kinda
    by default has to take on a supernatural element(s) to be
    classified as such. Also no matter how dark your Dark Fantasy
    can get, it isn't Horror (well not supposed to be) based on
    scary imagery or characters, and focuses more on the adventure,
    action, and drama, rather than intentionally instilling a sense
    of fear, dread, and gore painted walls. Odd how a few minor
    details tweaked or removed change the genre in terms of tone
    and story. o_O
    https://uproxx.com/hitfix/dark-fantasy-vs-horror/
    https://disquietingvisions.com/2013/04/25/dark-fantasy-vs-horror-wheres-line/
    https://www.rachelneumeier.com/2019/11/13/dark-fantasy-vs-horror/
     
  7. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I'm shopping around a story that I think could fall into both horror and dark fantasy, though, I see no point in labeling it anything. But the two can easily go hand and hand. The way I wrote the dark fantasy sort of just had horror built into it. And I wouldn't say my story is more one than the other.
     
  8. Lazaares

    Lazaares Contributor Contributor

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    Is immersion granted through dread/fear, or more through escapism/adventure?

    Also, down with categories. Here's to all the other Political-Thriller Fantasy-Dystopia writers.
     
  9. ThunderAngel

    ThunderAngel Contributor Contributor

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    Horror and dark fantasy, to me, are somewhat interchangeable. Primarily, I write Gothic horror. A lot of what distinguishes the Gothic from traditional horror or dark fantasy is its strong emphasis on atmosphere, and the darker sublime. Dark fantasy and horror focuses more on the characters, while Gothic literature will do strange things like, making the “setting” a character.

    Vampires drink blood, or consume energy: both are staples of traditional horror and dark fantasy. But a malevolent castle which can subtly change its layout to trap its victims inside and drive them mad with desperation as it guides them, imperceptibly, into its bowels for consumption, is on a whole other level. Such a story could accurately be called “Horror”, but it sits firmly within the Gothic, because, while it involves a Gothic trope – a castle: the castle, itself, is something that humans have no rational capacity for dealing with. It could be a cosmic entity; it could be a profound psychic manifestation; it could be a form of sentient shape-changing matter etc.

    The only thing those who enter it discover is that there is no way out, and they don’t know why.

    Generally speaking, Gothic horror can be an extra-dimension to the genre, while trad-horror and dark fantasy don’t tend to stray far from the standard tropes that define them.
     
  10. Room with a view

    Room with a view Senior Member

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    I cant really add much more than what has already been said but there's been many hours of debates had in the pub arguing if the movie Alien is a horror or a sci fi.
     
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  11. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I'd say there's a lot of overlap between the two.
     
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  12. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    Tough one.

    For me Horror focuses on that very word. Horrifying the audience/reader.

    Dark Fantasy uses those elements but the focus is more on the adventure and the journey.
     
  13. A_Jones

    A_Jones Member

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    Dark fantasy. Dont even have to think about it. I love it so much. I read it, and I write it.
     
  14. Viridian

    Viridian Member Supporter

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    I had the same question writing my book, but came to the same conclusion as the above posts. If it focuses mainly on the fantastical elements (high fantasy or low) then stick with dark fantasy. Cross over genres are a big thing at the moment though, and I would tag mine as both dark fantasy and horror, because while dark, it definitely has some horrific elements to it (it even has a deep romantical thread running beneath the surface of the series - so would I tag it as romance too - or is that likely to scare the *** out of any would be romance readers :)).
     
  15. Le Panda Du Mal

    Le Panda Du Mal Senior Member

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    Don't think too much about it. Gothic novels like Melmoth the Wanderer tend to combine elements that would be deemed horror, fantasy, romance. The only real use of these genre labels is marketing and market thinking is poison from an artistic standpoint.
     
  16. Andrew Hope

    Andrew Hope Member

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    I write exclusively in the "horror" genre, but I'd best describe my work as "Twilight Zone for mature readers". I don't think there's any need to think about horror sub-categories, especially while writing. The most horrific work of Stephen King would never come close to Clive Barker's Books of Blood, and you couldn't compare Lovecraft's material to Nathan Ballingrud's, so I don't think there's any specific distinction of what "horror" is, but people know it when they see it.
     
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  17. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Conspicuously Conventional Contributor

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    I confess I often enjoy thinking about aspects of storytelling others do not. And I thought a discussion about genre distinction and overlap in the genre sub-forum might yield interesting results. That's all.
     
  18. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Currently Reading::
    "Sleep Donation" by Karen Russell
    Horror is about loss of control. It can overlap every genre. It's rather difficult to write a horror story that doesn't share genres at least a little.

    Dark fantasy must have an element of the fantastic/other-worldly, and it must be taboo in some way. The darkness must always be there. It's typically not about the loss of control. The MC might be thrown for a loop and may even die in the struggle (Pan's Labyrinth, I'm looking at you), but they accept the darkness. They don't fight against it and try to drive it from their lives. They try to exist within it. In the horror genre, they would never do that.

    It's pretty common for horror to turn into dark fantasy.
    Clive Barker's "In the Hills, the Cities"
    Linqvist's "Let the Right One In" (did I spell his name right? YES! haha)

    There're some stories that start as horror but make the switch so close to the end that you can still call them pure horror.
    Levin's "Rosemary's Baby"
    Lovecraft's "The Shadow over Innsmouth"
    If that last chapter carried on for many scenes, that would completely change the tone of the book. So these are almost in the previous group, but not quite. That's because the switch itself is meant for the reader/viewer, not the MC. It's a surrender which carries its own horror. If it's dwelt on too much then it changes the tone.

    There are even some that are horror from one perspective and dark fantasy from another.
    Danielewski's "House of Leaves" (the different POVs switch genre, and that's not surprising for this book)
    JR Johnson's "When Susurrus Stirs"
    JRJ's MC sees this as dark fantasy (a sentient tapeworm is growing inside him, eager to spread), but I promise you the people around him don't.

    I'm trying to think of dark fantasy that turns into horror. Maybe "The Big C" by Lumley? Or "Blue Rose" by Straub? I'm not sure if those work. It seems to be a one-way street for the most part. Hmm . . . Ballingrud has a story called "Sunbleached" that kind of does this though. So I think that does happen. It's just more rare.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2021
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