dark fantasy n.

a subgenre of fantasy that features gloomy or frightening themes, incorporating elements of horror n.

SF Encyclopedia

SF Criticism


  • 1941 (title of radio show) page image

    Dark Fantasy.

  • 1973 Dark Fantasy Summer 1 (title of magazine) page image

    Dark Fantasy.

  • 1986 B. Sterling Mirrorshades 34 Bruce Sterling

    Her work has shown wide variety, ranging through dark fantasy and horror to quirky and original science fiction.

  • 1987 J. N. Williamson How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction 5

    Supernatural or occult fiction, weird tales, dark fantasy, and tales of terror are but a few of the euphemisms behind which the dreaded word horror is sometimes concealed—and lurking.

  • 1987 D. Langford in White Dwarf Dec. 13/1 David Langford

    ‘Dark fantasy’ is today’s posh word for ‘horror’; Barker’s considerable talents in this area lead to a few gobs of gratuitous nastiness, and also some terrific creations.

  • 1991 F. Miller in Locus June 51/1

    If you want angst—massive, high-G guilt and anguish—Stephen R. Donaldson has an unfailing supply. Applied to fantasy, in several previous series, this proclivity gave his work a gritty, offbeat, though frequently repellent power. His new ‘Gap’ series translates dark fantasy into dark sf without missing a beat.

  • 1992 Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America Bulletin Winter 12/2

    I find myself writing…a story that is a mix of horror and sf, or dark fantasy.

  • 1998 J. R. Christopher Niekas interviews Darrell Schweitzer in Niekas July 8/1

    I think we define Dark Fantasy a bit differently. For me, the Gothic fiction of the eighteenth and nineteeth centuries and the Dark Fantasy of the twentieth form a continuum. Horror fiction can be either realistic or supernatural. But the word fantasy in Dark Fantasy limits the term to that involving the supernatural. I'm oversimplifying, I know: not all Gothic fiction involved the supernatural, but most of it did—ghosts and demons, often. And I use Dark Fantasy to mean the same sort of material today, even though it has more vampires than demons! But I admit there are bothersome borderlines—a number of today’s vampire’s are rationalized: they are a separate, parasitical race, sometimes. And because of tradition I'd include those in Dark Fantasy also.

  • 2001 Locus June 27/1

    Back in the 1980s, one of the best things that happened to dark fantasy and horror was the Night Visions original anthology series.

  • 2003 E. Datlow Short Horror Fiction 2002 in Locus Apr. 74/1

    Weird Tales, although publishing dark fantasy for many years, does not publish what I consider horror. The difference? A matter of degree.

Research requirements

antedating 1941

Research History
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1991 cite from Faren Miller's review column in Locus.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 2003 cite from Ellen Datlow in Locus.
Joe Christopher submitted a 1998 cite from his interview with Darrell Schweitzer in the fanzine Niekas.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1973 cite from the second issue of the fanzine Dark Fantasy.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1987 cite from J.N. Williamson's "How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction".
Dave Langford submitted a 1987 cite from Langford's reviews column in "White Dwarf".

Randy Hoffman mentioned that there was a SF/horror radio show named "Dark Fantasy" which aired in the US circa 1942; we later found essays about this show, which premiered 14 November 1941, some episodes of which still survive.

Last modified 2021-11-06 13:49:28
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.