On Nik Beat’s radio show “The Howl” from Toronto, earlier this week, he asked what drew me into dark fantasy. It goes all the way back to the film “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” and favorite famous pictures of “St. George and the Dragon,” as pictured above. The little dinosaurs from the Sinclair gas stations stood in my windowsill. To miss a single episode of “Dark Shadows” meant war in my house. As we latch on to monsters in early childhood through stories, films, cartoons or pictures, and carry the imagined into adulthood where we complete our journey into creating our own stories.
Therefore those of us that write dark fantasy have our own favorite mythical creatures, be it dragons (my favorite), vampires (favorites of many), werewolves, ghosts, zombies (the cool thing these days), demons, and the occasional doppelganger, amongst many other monsters.
When I imagine a mythical creature, its form is firmly fixed in my mind. I went through a snobby period of turnoff by bipedal werewolves, insisting that only quadrupeds weren’t stupid. (That likely stemmed from my serious crush on the “American Werewolf in London” guy). After the short-lived series “Werewolf” and the “Underworld” films, I’ve changed my mind. Newer examples of vampires glitter on the silver screen in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, and though my vampire preference remains the old-fashioned sunlight incineration, I give her credit for the creativity.
Therefore, dragons, my favorite mythical creatures, stand out vividly in my mind. I like to see the lizard-features, and four limbs instead of the bat-anatomy often used in films. The dragon in old film “Dragonslayer” to me was almost perfect, except the bat like features of the claws coming off the wings.
Some illustrations of dragons show potbellies, (likely from good eating), but sometimes they look more like winged demons if they’re fat. I require lots of scary teeth, unique alternative human forms (as in my novellas), genius intelligence, and good/evil variability, depending on the dragon character. Riding dragons, as in “Eragon” is understandably popular in dark fantasy, but I prefer my dragons to be the fastest flyer in the sky, beyond all laws of physics, which do not accommodate riders. The “Harry Potter” dragons were impressive, worked with the story, and with the rest of the planet I applaud J.K. Rowling’s work.
If the above paragraph seems completely outrageous to you, then welcome to the world of dark fantasy. Mythical creatures are the pinnacles of the imagination of a dark fantasy writer. We write monsters, some good, and some evil, alongside humans with similar traits. Sometimes the creatures dominate the story and other stories center on the humans. Good vs. evil remains the heart of most dark fantasy stories, and as I’ve written before, good usually prevails at great cost, propelling the reader back to reality.
So new authors, if you like monsters, go for it. Big scary unreal creatures stimulate our minds and open up for a nice break from the realities of daily life. Mythical creatures have fascinated minds for centuries, and I suspect they will continue to do so.