Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

As many of you know by now, I’m in the middle of editing The Pure World Comes, a Gothic horror novel I wrote earlier this year. The novel follows a maid living in Victorian England who goes to work at the estate of a mad scientist (yes, that’s my elevator pitch for the story). Since a mad scientist features prominently in the story, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the trope, as it’s extremely common in fiction, especially sci-fi and horror.

With that being said, I decided to do some research before working on The Pure World Comes. I couldn’t find many articles on the trope (and those I did were pitifully short), so I asked one of my Facebook writing groups for help. I got way more responses than I’d expected. Some of them gave me some funny responses like including wild, white hair and a funny accent, or differentiating mad scientists, who do mad experiments, to mad engineers, who build mad things. Some were not helpful at all, like imagining them as autistic overachievers (excuse me? I’m on the spectrum and an overachiever! I take offense at that).

However, there was some good information given to go with the few articles I could find. To start with, the mad scientist trope is over two-hundred years old, with the prototypical mad scientist being Victor Frankenstein of the novel Frankenstein.* However, the stereotypical look of the mad scientist–wild hair, crazy eyes, and “quasi-fascist laboratory garb1“–as well as the outlook for the lab, was influenced by the character Rotwang and his lab in the German silent film Metropolis. Rotwang also had numerous traits we associate with mad scientists (more on that later). After the horrors of WWII, such as German experiments and the atom bomb, and the outbreak of the Cold War, mad scientists began to reflect the horrors and fears of that age, often working on projects that could destroy all or almost all of mankind.

Given the state of the world now, I’m expecting an influx of mad scientists interested in virology and/or social engineering.

Alongside their history, I found out mad scientists have some common subtypes:

Victor Frankenstein (here renamed Henry for some reason) is a great example of an unethical mad scientist.
  • Mythical scientists. These are the mad scientists who seem to be working with godlike powers, either through unexplained, futuristic science bordering on magic or actually studying/utilizing magic items. Science-colored wizardry, as one FB commenter put it.
  • Unethical scientists. These are the scientists who are actual scientists but have dropped their ethics/morals. These types are usually based on the Nazi scientists, the Tuskegee doctors who studied on unknowing black men, and so many more (sadly), though Frankenstein technically falls into this category.
  • Cutting edge obsessive scientists. These types aren’t always so bad. They are good at their work and love it deeply, but tend to get obsessive to the point it can cause trouble for them or other characters. Often, after causing a lot of trouble, they can get a redemption arc. A good example is Entrapta from the She-Ra reboot.
  • Scientists with mental illness. These are self-explanatory, and are becoming more and more common in media these days. This can be a bit of a double-edged sword, as it can be great representation for the disabled, but it can also give a bad name to the disabled by linking their evil behavior to their mental illness.

Obviously, these types can cross over with each other. And there’s probably more than what I’m listing here.

Whatever their type, type combination, or era of creation, all the types have some commonality. For one thing, they generally deeply believe in their goals or research. They also tend to think of themselves as a protagonist in their own personal story. Even the ones who acknowledge they’re evil still believe they’re a main character on the world stage. Pride, greed, or the belief that they know better is generally what drives them, and is often what leads to their downfall.

As for how to write mad scientists, it’s less having to do with the trope and with the character itself. Because of what the mad scientist can do, they’re often used to fulfill a number of needs in stories, but unless you’re making them a satire of the trope or just including them for comical effect, you need to really think about their character. What motivates them? What are their odd ticks or quirks? Think of them like you would any other character and apply the same amount of love and development. Hopefully then you can create a great mad scientist.

Entrapta in the She-Ra reboot is a great subversion of the mad scientist trope.

You can also try going against clichés. Most mad scientists are older white males with nefarious intentions, so going against one or more of these traits and then making the character your own might be a good idea. Looking at you again, Entrapta from She-Ra! You wonderful, robot-obsessed, magic-haired princess, you!

Mad scientists are common characters in fiction and for good reason. And while there’s no sign they’re going away any time soon, there’s plenty of room to innovate and make them your own. Especially if you do your science homework before you start writing.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. This will probably be the last post I make for 2020. If that’s true, I’ll catch you all next year. In the meantime, I’ll be bingeing TV, sleeping and editing The Pure World Comes (I’m currently in the chapter where I reveal who Jack the Ripper is).

Until next time, stay safe (and don’t travel), Happy New Year, and pleasant nightmares!

*Fun fact, Victor Frankenstein never actually finished college, so he’s not a doctor, though people think he is. But since the discipline of science hadn’t been formalized and all the other stuff by the early 19th century, we can still call him a mad scientist.

My copy of Remina from the library.

I’ve been looking forward to this book getting an official translation and release here in the US for quite some time. And I was so excited when it arrived at the library, I stopped by yesterday afternoon to pick it up rather than wait till Friday. As you can guess, I stayed up late reading it, hoping the story within would give me some pleasant nightmares.

Known as Hellstar Remina in Japan, Remina kicks off with the discovery of a new planet that seemingly appeared from a wormhole several lightyears away. The discovery is hailed as the greatest development in astrophysics ever, and its discoverer, Dr. Oguro, names the new planet after his beloved, beautiful but shy daughter Remina, causing her own star to rise alongside the planet bearing her name. However, planet Remina is moving through space in ways that defy physics and sense. Planets and stars disappear in its wake. And it soon becomes clear that not only is this planet headed to our solar system, but it spells doom for all on the Earth. Especially the young woman who shares a name with it.

Oh man, I don’t think I’ve loved something from Ito this much since Uzumaki!

First off, the concept is well-executed. Ito takes this idea of a planet flying through space towards us, threatening everything we found our worldviews on as well as our lives and our planet, and turns it into this strange, dread-inducing story that somehow manages to ramp up more and more with every page. The planet itself is rather terrifying. There’s so many unknowns about it, and the more you learn and see of Remina, the more questions you have and the more you learn to fear it. It really puts the “cosmic” into cosmic horror.

I was also impressed with the human characters. Remina Oguro, the planet’s namesake, is easy to like. She’s shy and humble, and really only becomes an entertainer because she’s suddenly famous, so she might as well use it to get through life more easily. Which makes the hardship she goes through later so heart wrenching. As the planet bears down on the Earth and no solution seems to work, people begin to wonder if the Oguros, particularly Remina herself, have some hand in bringing the planet to them. In their terror, many abandon reason and decide the only way to save humanity is to kill Remina Oguro herself.

It’s not only an excellent example of cosmic horror–of humans dealing/reacting to their insignificance in the universe in the only ways they know how–as well as making you feel for Remina, but it feels really relevant to our current predicaments. Whether it be COVID-19 or the national election, you see people embracing the most insane conspiracy theories rather than accept an obvious reality. That is illustrated so well in Remina, and I felt a chill reading that.

This shot encapsulates so much of what makes Remina great.

Other aspects of the story worked as well. Ito’s art is amazing, as always. Earth in this manga is portrayed as being a few decades ahead of us a la The Jetsons, flying cars included, and it’s cool to see Ito give Earth this futuristic look. The characters are well-drawn, with our protagonists given a more realistic look while those driven mad by fear or anger are hyper-exaggerated to best portray their emotions. But the best illustrations are the spreads taking two full pages. They portray that cosmic dread so well, I spent quite a bit of time looking at them.

And as for the science aspect of the story, while more pseudoscientific than based in reality, it seems plausible enough to believe in for the moment.

The one aspect I disliked was just how quickly things escalated in the first chapter. Within about thirty or forty pages, things go from excitement and new promises to gloom-and-doom and psychotic, murderous behavior. I would’ve preferred things to move a bit more gradually before getting to that level.

All in all, Remina by Junji Ito earns itself a splendid 4.5 out of 5. It’s terrifying in both its cosmic and human aspects and will be hard to put down for any reader. Pick it up, settle in for a terrifying ride, and never name anything Remina.

Also, someone please adapt this story into a movie or miniseries! Live action or animated, this would be a great spectacle to see on screens. Just lay off the CGI except when absolutely necessary and it could be awesome.

The cover for Mother of the King. What do you think?

In my post yesterday, I announced that I would be releasing some of my shorter stories as e-book exclusives, and that I would hopefully have one out before the end of the year. Well, it happened quicker than expected, but I’m pleased to announce that “Mother of the King,” a novelette I wrote back in 2018, will be the first one released.

And guess what else? It’s already available for preorder!

But before we get into that, let’s discuss “Mother of the King.” For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s about King Arthur. Specifically, it’s about his prophesied return, told from the point-of-view of the woman who gives birth to the once and future king.

So yeah, more fantasy than horror. And it has a dash of science fiction in there too. But who says I have to box myself in? Besides, it’s the most edited of my shorter stories, so I figured this would be a good one to start with.

Anyway, the story will be released December 1st, 2020 on Amazon, and it’s available for preorder. I’m hoping you’ll click on the link below and consider preordering it. And if you do read “Mother of the King,” I hope you’ll consider leaving a review. Not only will your downloads and reviews let me know what you think, but they’ll let me know if I should keep doing this throughout next year.

And it lets me know that people other than my parents and my Uncle Arthur are reading the story.

Anyway, I’ll post the link below and start up the marketing machine. I hope you’re as excited as I am for this release. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Mother of the King’s Amazon page

One thing I can always count on with a Junji Ito collection. The artwork is always fantastic. And this latest collection of short stories, Venus in the Blind Spot, is full of some of his best work.

Now if you’re unfamiliar with Junji Ito, he’s a manga artist who specializes in horror, and is well known for illustrations that terrify and creep the hell out of readers. Hell, sometimes I don’t feel comfortable leaving his books on the night stand beside my bed without something to cover them, the illustrations are that terrifying. I’ve read quite a bit of his work, and I’ve reviewed some of those stories and collections here on the blog, such as his adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and his masterpiece Uzumaki (click here and here for those reviews).

His latest publication in North America is Venus in the Blind Spot, and I loved just about every story within. The majority of the stories revolve around obsession, especially romantic or sexual obsession. The titular story follows the members of a UFO society as their obsession with the founder’s daughter becomes skewed after they lose the ability to see her. There’s also the fan-favorite The Enigma at Amigara Fault,  which I’ve read before but was excited to find again. It revolves around finding something strange that’s just right for you, and the insanity of not claiming it, of not finding out its secret. Even if by doing so, you potentially doom yourself.

My favorite stories were Billions Alone, a creepy body horror story about people being found sewn together that’s perfect for the current pandemic, and The Licking Woman, a weird story about a wild woman whose monstrous tongue contains a poison that kills all whom it licks.

And like I said, the artwork is fantastic. Ito-sensei’s work is never concerned with looking visually appealing like other visual artists. Rather, he wants to provoke a reaction. Fear, disgust, horror, unease. He wants to disturb your inner Zen. You can see this especially with three of the stories which are adaptations of works by other authors. Yes, they’re not his stories, but he puts his all into making sure his art brings out all the terror contained within the words.

Famous image from “The Enigma of Amigara Fault,” which is some of Ito’s work at its best.

That being said, the collection isn’t perfect. While there are colored pages and colored panels, they show up inconsistently, and it’s a little annoying. Sometimes I can’t even tell they’re colored, as I’m red-green colorblind and the panels use colors I can’t always see. One of the stories, The Principal Post, is one I’ve never really liked nor understood why it was published. And there’s a story about Ito-sensei himself and the influence of another artist, Kazuo Umezu,* on his work that I liked, but which might annoy fans seeking another scary story.

But all in all, Venus in the Blind Spot is an awesome, freaky and unsettling collection. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’d give it a 4.5. If you want to see a Junji Ito collection at its best, you can’t go wrong here. Open it up and get ready to experience the madness.

Are you a fan of Ito-sensei’s work? Did you read this collection? Are you excited for all the adaptations of his work in production? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work on my own stories and see if I can’t disturb someone else’s inner Zen. Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares and why is there a woman with a giant tongue outside my building?

*Highly recommend his series The Drifting Classroom. It’s like a sci-fi version of Lord of the Flies, and just as brutal.

Reborn City, Book 1 of the Reborn City series.

As many of you know, I started this blog while working on a sci-fi series, the Reborn City trilogy. It follows street gangs in a dystopian future, and focuses mainly on the Hydras, a gang whose leaders have strange powers and abilities. At the very core of the series was a theme of overcoming various prejudices, especially racial and Islamaphobic. I self-published the first two books, Reborn City and Video Rage, and started work on the final book, Full Circle.

However, trouble started around the third book. Midway through the first draft, I realized the direction of the story wasn’t epic enough for what I wanted for the series. It neither provided the action, nor the catharsis needed to end the series. So I stopped working on the story, with the hope that eventually I could finish the series.

That was 2017. It’s 2020. And I’ve realized some things about the series. Things that made me change how I feel about those books, and about selling them to people. The biggest thing being that I’m a different person than I used to be. I’m not the same person I was when I first started writing those books.

Let me explain. When I first started that series, it was 2009, I was sixteen, and I was full of the naive, optimistic hope that most teens are filled with. That hope filled Reborn City and its themes of the power of tolerance, which I hoped would do some good in the world. I thought if I could take those themes and work them into a story, I could beat back some of the horrors that were plaguing the world.

In a way, I still think it’s possible to write a story and make a difference through literature. We’ve seen it with multiple books that have withstood the test of time and build conversations around difficult topics. I just don’t think the Reborn City books can do that anymore.

It’s now 2020. Eleven years have passed, I’m twenty seven, and I’m a lot more educated, as well as a lot more jaded, about the very issues I was writing about. I think we all are. We’ve seen too much these past several years, felt too much heartbreak and harsh realities. Knowing that, I look back at the Reborn City books and realize that those stories don’t fit their purpose anymore. It’s like you try to build a better hose to put out house fires, but you find out after the fact that what’s needed is a fire hose, and you built a garden hose. And the whole house is on fire.

See where I’m going? I can’t finish the books because I know the hose I’m building is inadequate, and I don’t feel right selling the books for the same reason.

This, among other reasons, is why earlier this week, I made the decision to take both Reborn City and Video Rage off Amazon and Smashwords.

Reborn City and Video Rage. As of today, I’m not selling copies on Amazon or Smashwords.

Yeah, I can hear some of your shock. Believe me, I’m not happy about it, either. But it is what it is. I won’t sell a product (and make no mistake, that’s part of what I’m doing as a writer) that doesn’t work, and these stories just don’t work. You can maybe still find the last few paperback copies of them on Amazon, but after those are gone, that’s it.

That being said, there are a couple of bright sides. For one thing, I may revisit the world of Reborn City again someday. I still think there’s some potential with those characters and that world, I just need to write a story around them that works with what I know now. And in the meantime, I still like to put the issues I care about into the stories I write, like I did with Rose, or with River of Wrath. The latter of which, by the way, tackles some of the same issues Reborn City and Video Rage did.

Also, while those books are no longer available, my two other books that I self-published, the short story collection The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones, and the horror-thriller Snake, are both still available. While those stories aren’t perfect, they’ve weathered the test of time better than the Reborn City books did, so I feel more comfortable putting them out there. I’ll include the links for them below.

I’m sorry to drop sad news on you on a Friday night, my Followers of Fear. But I thank you for reading, and for your understanding. Do know that I plan to keep putting out quality stories in the future, and I hope you’ll stick around to keep supporting me while I work on that.

That’s all for now, and I’ll be back soon. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares.

 

The Quiet Game: AmazonCreatespaceBarnes & NobleiBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Rose:  Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

I’ve mentioned on this blog more than a few times that I make sure to write down my ideas on Word documents. This way I don’t forget them. I have a few separate lists to store these ideas, depending on the kind of idea it is. One list is just for ideas that will likely be short stories or novelettes (assuming they don’t end up evolving into something longer). And today, I had three new ideas for stories, which I made sure to put on that list. This brings that list up to a thousand ideas.

You read that right. A thousand ideas. Some good, some bad. Some are very short, and others will end up longer than most novelettes. Some are horror or dark fantasy, others are science fiction or regular fantasy, or some other form of speculative fiction. A few are erotica, because as I said in that video yesterday, I think there’s an art to writing a story where the story is told through sex. It’s something I might want to try someday.

I’m not stating this to brag. I’m just stating a fact. And you know what? I’ll never write most of them. There’s just never enough time.

It’s the sad truth of writing. We creatives have many ideas over the course of our lives. But rarely, especially in the world of writing fiction, do we get to tell all of them. Hell, I doubt even big names authors like King get to work on all the ideas he has. But it’s especially hard for those of us smaller names. We work day jobs, pay bills, run errands, eat, socialize, try to stay healthy, and try to sleep enough to function the next day. And in-between all that, we carve out time to write.

I said a lot of this when I had my five-hundredth idea, almost exactly five years ago today (what a coincidence). In fact, I’ll say again what I said in that post (which you can click here to read): Time’s a quick bastard. And it’s all we can do to keep it with us so we can get the best of your work down on paper. And maybe then edited and perhaps even published.

There’s enough time in the day for this.

And how can you tell from the trove of your ideas which ones are worth spending time on? Hard to say. Usually I can tell from the idea phase, but occasionally I write a first draft and I realize this story is crap, why did I ever try to write it? I guess the best thing to do is just to go with your gut. If you’re really passionate about a story, it’ll show in the writing and in the story, and you’ll be able to work on it over and over again, until you’re able to share it with others (hopefully, anyway).

Well, I’m going to get back to an idea I think might be worth working on. I just wanted to talk about some of the things that went through my mind as I started nearing a thousand ideas. And I wanted to talk about something other than Rose for once.

Speaking of which, tomorrow is the last day to buy the ebook version of Rose at a discount price (I couldn’t help myself). So if you want to check out the Kafkaesque fantasy-horror story of a young woman turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems), now’s a good time to do so. I’ll include the links below, including for the paperback and audio book. And if you end up checking out the book, leave a review and let me know what you thought of it. Helps me out in the long run, and it’s nice to hear what you think.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Recently, I saw a couple of people on my social media mention that they’re writing stories taking place at the tail end of or during the COVID-19 pandemic. You know, the pandemic we’re dealing with now and which we’re still far from out of the woods of? This intrigued me, especially when I realized I could incorporate the pandemic into one of the stories I wanted to work on this year, if I set it after the pandemic was over!

Out of curiosity, I consulted my writer friends on if you can write such a story. And if so, how you go about doing it. Nearly everyone said that yes, you can write a story set after our current crisis. A few even had advice to give me, while at the same time warning me that there’s going to be “a glut of COVID-19 stories” and I should be careful what I put out. One person mentioned that I should market the story as science fiction, seeing as it will take place in the future. Another suggested that I keep the story for a while, at least until the pandemic is actually over. That way, I can edit it if I get my predictions on what will happen wrong.

The best advice, I think, was that a good author will take notes. Remember when certain things happen, look up those things if you can’t, and try to note details that might come in handy in building the world.

As to other practical advice, I guess you should just write a story that you would write.

Yeah, I got nothing else. Sorry, but I’ve only written one story that takes place during the early days of the pandemic, and I’ve never written a story that takes place after the pandemic. I’m going to try with my next story, which obviously means I’m not going to post advice before I do.

So, I’ll be doing what every writer should do: writing the stories only they can write. I think I have a unique view on a certain aspect of our current pandemic and how it can translate into a short horror story. I’m working on an outline, and afterwards, I’ll work on that story. I’m not sure if it’ll be any good, but at least I’ll have tried. And given how stressful our current day and age is, it might prove therapeutic.

Write the story you’re going to write. Even if it takes place after the pandemic.

In summary, if you have an idea of a story that takes place after the COVID-19 pandemic, feel free to write and explore it. It’ll take some work, and you may have to change some things depending on how events play out, but only you can write this story. Might as well try it for that reason alone.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Remember, the one-year publishing anniversary of Rose is coming up, and you have the opportunity to submit questions for a YouTube Q&A. Just send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com with your name, where you’re from, and up to two questions before noon on June 17th, and they may appear in the video. Not only that, but anyone who submits from the US and UK may be eligible for a download code for the Rose audio book.

In the meantime, I’ve got dinner to make and evening plans to get to. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Well, I didn’t think I could do it. But I did. At almost exactly 10:45 PM on May 31st, 2020, I finished the latest novel from my twisted imagination, The Pure World Comes.

If you aren’t aware, The Pure World Comes is a story I started writing back in April. It’s a culmination of all my love of and research into the Victorian era. The story takes place in 1894 and follows a maid who goes to work at the estate of a mad scientist. It’s part historical fiction, part Gothic horror, and part gaslamp fantasy (a subgenre I need to write an article about one of these days), with some slight elements of science fiction. All in one crazy story.

And with this story, I’ve actually broken a few personal records. First off, with Toyland back in March, this makes two novels finished in a single year. That has never happened before. Not to mention I wrote this novel in less than two months, another record. And today, I finished the novel by somehow getting forty-five hundred or so words down in one day. Yeah, forty-five hundred words. And none of these records I expected to beat until I beat them.

Am I bragging? Sorry about that. I just thought I’d mention them.

Anyway, onto the page and word counts. In terms of Microsoft Word pages, 8.5 inches by 11, with double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, the novel is 214 pages. And, in terms of words, the novel is 59,333 words. Yeah, I know I used to say novels are sixty-thousand words or higher, but it’s recently come to my attention that most publishers and contests put the cutoff from novella to novel at around forty thousand words. Therefore, I’m caving into peer pressure just this once and will designate this a novel.

So, what’s next? Well, normally I would celebrate the completion of a novel with a huge party. Mead, pizza, heavy sugars, a movie or several episodes of TV. But it’s late, and tomorrow I have a busy morning, so I’ll delay the partying till tomorrow. After that, I might take some time to recharge creatively before I attempt so much as another short story.

In the meantime, I’ve already sent the first draft of The Pure World Comes to someone who has agreed to take a look at the first draft and give me feedback. With any luck, they’ll give me some advice which will allow me to eventually get this story published.

So glad to finally finish this story, a distillation of my love of Victorian England.

I sense there are great things on the horizon.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Remember, there’s still plenty of time to send in a question for my YouTube Q&A for the first publishing anniversary of my novel Rose. Just email a question with your name and where you’re from to ramiungar@ramiungarhtewriter.com by June 17th at noon, and your question will show up in the video. And if you’re from the US or UK, you may win a download code for the audio book for Rose.

And of course, if you want to read Rose but don’t want to go through Amazon or Audible, I’m selling signed copies directly to readers. Send an email to me, and we’ll discuss the details.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe and have some pleasant nightmares.

The Witcher books by Andrezj Sapkowski are a prime example of dark fantasy.

You’ve probably heard the term “dark fantasy” thrown around to describe different kinds of stories, and the simple definition given when asked what constitutes dark fantasy is “fantasy but darker or grimmer.” And yet, that doesn’t seem to fully encompass the subgenre or quell debate on what dark fantasy is. I’ve heard people say all horror that has to do with the supernatural as a kind of dark fantasy, or that the line between the two is very thin. Even authors who are known as dark fantasy writers have trouble pinning down a definition.

So while I’m no expert myself, I thought I would ask, “What is dark fantasy?” Especially since depending on the definition, my stories could fall into this genre on occasion.

And in the course of my research, I did come across some things. While an exact definition isn’t agreed upon, there are some things that fans and writers can agree upon. For example, both TV Tropes.org and Fantasy Book Fanatic.com agree that dark fantasy is fantasy (no duh), but unlike high fantasy or swords-and-sorcery fantasy, there is a much grimmer, more ominous tone to the stories. While in other subgenres of fantasy, gods can be clearly defined as good or evil or maybe just neutral, gods can be very evil or at best cruelly ambivalent to humans. If they show up in the story at all, that is.

Likewise, magic is a neutral force at best, unlike magic in Harry Potter or the Force in Star Wars (which is a fantasy element in science fiction). Magic may even be the source of corruption that creates the villains in the stories, and could be considered a necessary evil or even the source of evil itself, needing to be rid from the world. As for heroes, there are a distinct lack of heroes in the world, and at best you get anti-heroes or mercenaries. Anyone who could be defined as a “hero” may be filling the role reluctantly. They’re doing this not for some noble goal like saving the world or defeating an evil warlord, but for revenge, their own goals, for profit or because they haven’t been given a choice in the matter and are really bitter about that.

Based on these definitions, the Overlord novels by Kugane Maruyama and their adaptations (which I recommend) count as dark fantasy as well as isekai fantasy.

And finally, there’s a good chance evil can win. Bad politicians can stay in power while good ones may lose their heads. The Demon King can take over the continent and establish an empire. The witch may kill the princess and release the plague upon the land before getting slaughtered by the princess’s lover. Things may just go to shit.

Yeah, bleak. And under these parameters, series like The Witcher novels or some of my favorite isekai fantasy series from Japan, such as Overlord, The Rising of the Shield Hero, or Arifureta,* count as dark fantasy.

But given those parameters, doesn’t that make supernatural horror dark fantasy after all? Not necessarily. While some might prefer to use the term “dark fantasy” for their stories to avoid horror’s negative connotations in society, and the two genres do overlap, there are key differences. Namely, dark fantasy focuses on the monster and fantasy elements while horror uses the monster and fantasy elements.

Look at my own novel Rose, for example. The protagonist Rose Taggert is transformed into a plant/human hybrid by a magical book given to mortals by a nature god. Sounds very fantasy-esque. And if Rose was a dark fantasy story, it would follow Rose Taggert’s attempts to live a life and understand her place in the world now that she’s changed, as well as to understand this new magic dimension in the world around her. But it doesn’t. Instead, the magic is a means by which to place Rose in the power of the antagonist, Paris Kuyper. It’s a means to create the terror of not knowing how dangerous Paris is, nor knowing what he’ll do to her if she doesn’t respond to his desires as he wants her to. That’s why Rose is a fantasy-horror novel rather than a dark fantasy novel.

Similarly, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles can be considered dark fantasy because they use the state of vampirism to explore psychological and philosophical truths and beliefs among the characters. If they were full-on horror, the vampires would be the means to terrify the readers. You know, like Salem’s Lot (which I need to reread, with a new adaptation on the way and all).

While some might categorize “Rose” as dark fantasy, how those fantasy elements are used distinguishes it as a horror novel.

And while we’re distinguishing between genres and subgenres, let’s talk about the difference between dark fantasy and grimdark. Grimdark is another subgenre of fantasy, characterized by apocalyptic, dystopian or hellish settings and a very bleak atmosphere, but still containing all those fantasy elements. So, what makes it different from dark fantasy, when both can contain those settings and atmosphere? According to Fantasy Book Fanatic.com, the difference is in hope:

“The concept of hope seems to be the primary differentiating factor between dark fantasy and grimdark. Hope is still able to be an integral theme in dark fantasy narratives. In contrast, the central theme of grimdark almost never entertains the possibility of hope. The central theme revolves around cynicism instead. This differentiation is vague at best, which is why many of the works of dark fantasy and grimdark are so easily confused.”

So what is dark fantasy? Well, by this definition, it is fantasy with darker or horror overtones. However, it distinguishes itself from horror by using the fantasy elements as a means to tell the story, rather than as a means to terrify the reader. Think vampires as tortured souls rather than vampires as supernatural man-eating monsters. And, unlike grimdark, there is still an element of hope in the story. Things may go to shit, but people are still allowed to hope.

My name is Rami Ungar, thank you for coming to my TED talk.

*Which, unlike the other two I just mentioned, will not appear on any of my anime recommendations lists. The anime did the original novels a poor service, which is a shame, because I devoured the first four books in a week, they’re that good. Check them out if you’re interested.

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If you’re interested, I’m still taking orders for signed copies of Rose. Send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com for details. Or you can check it out on Amazon and Audible. And if you do check the book out, let me know what you think. In the meantime, I’ll be neck deep in Victorian England again, but I hope to put out another post very soon.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

It’s been a while since I’ve done any sort of tag, so I saw this on my friend Kat Impossible’s blog and I was like, “Sounds like fun.” And while I’m not sure I believe in “perfection,” I tried to come up with stories that come close to that in my personal opinion. Most of these titles are from the horror genre, but I do add some from other genres and even a few other mediums (I can be a rule breaker when I want to be). With that in mind, let us begin the Perfect Book Tag.

THE PERFECT GENRE

(pick a book that perfectly represents the genre)

I had a hard time choosing on this, between what could be considered a quintessential horror novel, and what could be the most terrifying novel (AKA the “perfect” horror novel). In the end, I wanted to include the quintessential novel elsewhere, and I hate repeating myself, so I decided on the most terrifying novel I’ve ever read, The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. Honestly, this novel’s show of brutality, the ease in which regular people can be persuaded to commit acts of evil and the graphic descriptions of torture and cruelty were enough to make me put the book down at times just so I could process what I was reading and get control of my dread. If you want perfect horror, this might be close enough.

Just don’t blame me if this gives you an upset stomach or nightmares. Trust me, it’s a tough one to get through.

THE PERFECT SETTING

(pick a book that takes place in a perfect place)

Again, I’m not sure if there’s anything considered “perfect” in entertainment, let alone a perfect setting. However, as far as I’m concerned, this might come damn close. The Doctor Who universe has every sort of setting imaginable. From futuristic cityscapes, to the distant past, and even our own modern times, you can find aliens, historical personages, gods and demons, magic (sort of) and science, friends and enemies, and even new universes or pocket universes! It’s an endlessly adaptable setting, and that’s why it’s my choice for perfect setting.

Also, I know it’s a TV show and the books are expanded universe and semi-canonical at best, but like I said, I like to break the rules.

 

THE PERFECT MAIN CHARACTER

(pick the perfect main character)

For this one, I didn’t pick perfect as in “they’re the best at everything and never have to improve. The story is just a way for the reader to fawn over how amazing the characters are.” Those are known as Mary Sues and Gary Sues, and most writers learn to stop creating them when trying to write compelling stories. Instead, I picked examples of characters I like to work with the most: women/girls who don’t start out as protagonist material, but as time goes on they grow into their heroine roles. Sailor Moon and Buffy are two great examples of those characters, as well as the reason I love that character type.

Neither Buffy Summers nor Sailor Moon started out as heroes who were thrilled with their roles. They just wanted to be normal girls, not burdened down with these destinies to save humanity from evil. But over time, as they get stronger and build their support networks, they become stronger, able to defy evil and inspire everyone around them and everyone watching them, regardless of age or gender. It’s part of the reason why these characters have endured over thirty years after their debuts, and part of the reason why I am who I am today.

 

THE PERFECT BEST FRIEND

(loyal and supportive, pick a character that you think is the best friend ever)

 

This one was easy. She’s smart, kind, brave, and is willing to point out when you’re wrong or doing something stupid. And she’s willing to stand up for the oppressed when no one else will, including many of the oppressed. She can be a bit stubborn, and at times she loses sight of reality when it comes to studies or other things she deems important. But honestly, Hermione Granger would make a great best bud.

 

THE PERFECT LOVE INTEREST

(pick a character you think would be an amazing romantic partner)

Let me level with you all. I may be bisexual, but I’m aromantic, so I don’t really feel romantic attraction to anyone. Sexual, definitely, but I have trouble imagining myself wanting to be tied to someone like a partner or lover. And since I don’t feel like telling the world about a character I may find sexy, I’ll just leave this one blank. Sorry if you really wanted to know what my type was or wanted to set me up with someone you know. You can’t change someone’s nature that easily.

 

THE PERFECT VILLAIN

(pick a character with the most sinister mind)

Remember that quintessential horror novel I mentioned as a contender for Perfect Genre? Yeah, IT was the runner-up. But in terms of villains, Pennywise is the ultimate, hence why he’s here. Honestly, he’s a perfect mix of both the human villain and the supernatural. He understands human fears and motivations, is a master manipulator and knows just how to get under our skin and either terrify us into a stupor or make us his pawn. At the same time, he’s this giant cosmic entity from beyond the universe, a thing we can only grasp as orange lights known as The Deadlights. His motivations aren’t born from hatred or greed or any human desire, but from the need to feed and eventually the need to procreate. It’s just another show of his Otherworldly nature.

And let’s face it, he’s devious! It takes a special sort of evil to enjoy being an evil clown 24/7, and Pennywise does it better than the Joker. Yeah, you read that right. What are you going to do about it?

 

THE PERFECT FAMILY

(pick the perfect bookish family)

Well, they’re not from any books, at least not originally, but the Addams Family would be my perfect fictional family. You can guess why.

 

THE PERFECT ANIMAL OR PET

(pick a pet or fantastic animal you need to see on a book)

Although I’m against the breeding of white tigers (they’re a genetic abnormality and breeding them leaves the tigers with all sorts of genetic problems), White Blaze from the anime Ronin Warriors is a creature I always wanted. He’s a tiger and deadly towards his enemies, but he’s smart, kind and good with people. You could honestly have him babysit your kids, he’s that good. And in a fight against evil, you couldn’t ask for a better animal partner.

In fact, White Blaze might be part of the reason why tigers are my favorite animal. And it’s not hard to see why.

 

THE PERFECT PLOT TWIST

(pick a book with the best plot twist)

I won’t say what it was. But it left me reeling. Took me half the next chapter to realize the author was serious and wasn’t pulling my leg. Still the hardest a twist in a novel has ever hit me.

 

THE PERFECT TROPE

(pick that trope you would add to your own book without thinking)

Let’s face it, I love a cosmic horror twist. The idea of an entity that defies human conception, to the point it can drive us mad, excites me as a horror writer to no end.

 

THE PERFECT COVER

(pick a cover you would want on your own book)

I want a cover similar to this on one of my books someday. Either that, or something that disturbs just to look at it.

 

THE PERFECT ENDING

(pick a book that has the perfect ending)

My favorite endings in horror have the horror continuing on long after the heroes appear to have won. So if I have to pick one that’s a good example, I think I’ll go with Needful Things by Stephen King. Great book with an enigmatic and terrifying antagonist. If you haven’t read it yet and you have a stomach for horror, you might want to change that sooner rather than later.

 

I TAG THEE:

  • Priscilla Bettis
  • Iseult Murphy
  • Joleene Naylor
  • Ruth Ann Nordin
  • Matt Williams
  • YOU!!! (If you want to)

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Tomorrow, I finally start that essay, and then I start on a new short story. But in the meantime, what did you think of my choices? Any of them resonate with you? Let’s talk in the comments.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!