Sunday, June 30, 2013

Welcome to DarkMarkets' Field Guide to Dark Fiction

Posted by LD Keach on Sunday, June 30, 2013

In any kind of art, genre is not an easy thing to pin down. Tastes change, formulas evolve, boundaries bleed into each other and get all muddled up over the years. An accurate, hard-and-fast dictionary of any kind of literary structure is nearly impossible to write—so, that's not what this is.

This feature is an attempt to identify the subgenres of Dark Fiction and Horror. It acts as a field guide, just like those Audubon books that help birdwatchers identify the beasts they see in the wild. A field guide covers common traits of fleeting creatures; it discusses habitats and behaviors without nailing anything to a dissection table.

What this feature is not is a thesis. It would be easy to put together a paper that deconstructs Dark Fiction and turns it into a quivering mass of literary terms and obtuse academic symbology—but that would not suit our purposes here. Most horror writers are writers in the field, scrambling to scrape together enough publications to feed an ever-growing brood. Most of us need something we can use.

So, the main purpose of this feature is not only to identify Dark Fiction subgenres, but also to identify how genre terms are used in modern publishing. It does a writer good to understand that American Gothic Fiction is the species borne by Edgar Allen Poe that in turn gave birth to everything from Detective Fiction to Weird Tales—but it is also good to know if there are any publishers who want "American Gothic"? A what sort of story should we write if they do?

The information contained in this field guide has been gathered from a wealth of scholarly sources and a number of historical references on the evolution of Dark Fiction. (This means the author went to the local University library and checked out a pile of books.) But, more importantly, information has also been gathered by a survey of publishers interested in horror right now. This means the author spent a large amount of her precious free time reading horror magazines, novels, anthologies, and ebooks published in the last year or two. The author sure reads a lot.

Anyway, the bibliography and list of markets currently surveyed is available here. It will continue to grow.

In the end, any Dark Fiction aficionados should feel free to argue with anything contained in this feature. Genre is not a thing set in stone, but it is a creature bent on evolution through public expectations, so public dialogue is most welcome. Also welcome are any suggestions that can be added to the markets surveyed list—because the wilds of Dark Fiction are a tumultuous place, and new species are being added every day.

And anyone with an elephant gun should come join the expedition. Dark Fiction has big teeth, and it's not scared off by measly little torches.