Where Darkfic Comes From

Back when the Mumakil roamed the earth, my beta reader Aayesha said to me, "This story you wrote is darkfic." I liked the sound of that, and asked for more information. Aayesha explained that darkfic was a term for fanfiction that had frightening, depressing, or horror-based themes. It's the fanfiction kin of horror writing. (For horror, H.P. Lovecraft is my man, or William Burroughs, or J.G. Ballard. But I digress.) 

It seemed very appropriate to be writing some darkfic for Tolkien fanfiction. Tolkien wove a good deal of horror writing into Middle-Earth, describing dungeons, torments, hunger and thirst, and incredible suffering. His style for horror is rich in detail, but also leaves a lot to suggestion, a good way to make it bearable for the reader. Tolkien's writing draws back to let our own imaginations fill in what "filth unnameable" might be, how the Orcs might truly be cursing, or what happened when "they hewed Hamá at the gate."

Darkfic can be challenging to read, especially when it deals with sexual themes. Sometimes, I hear from readers who feel disturbed when they like a dark story. I know I've had myself turned inside-out by enjoying evil stories. Why do we like darkfic?

Dark stories, like adventure stories, allow us to experience challenges that may never come our way in real life - and they make us feel more alive thereby. Darkfic can evoke the allure of thanatophilia, the intensity of suffering, catharsis, transformation.  There's also - let's admit it - a fun side when darkfic that sympathizes with villains. It can be fun to be evil, to give yourself permission to empathize with sexy dark power, revenge,  and inversion. Writers who create darkfic aren't (always)  mentally unbalanced or sadistic. We are working with these themes to create intense experiences for readers.

Disturbed because you liked a dark story? Follow through on the challenge of it; take a look inside yourself, your ethics, your limits. If you see a shadow in yourself, the story that brought it up tells you that you're not isolated. And know that you can read about or contemplate things you'd never want to endure, or inflict, or see happen to anyone in reality.

If readers have the slightest qualm about approaching a dark story, they should leave it alone. Heed the warnings and don't read it. I don't like putting up warnings that give away plot elements, but I do it as a courtesy to readers. I once read an original story, an excellent story, Solstice Feast, that haunted me for days with its harrowing imagery. To this day I don't know if I'd read it again or not. I'm shuddering again as I think about it, but I knew what I was getting into. (Solstice Feast is here if you want to dare yourself. It's at a very adult site, is NC-17 triple-X, very violent, and well written).

The story Interrogations was one of my darkfic attempts. I'm the first to admit that it doesn't compare to anything I mention above. But it is my take on Maeglin's confrontation with Morgoth, and a possible immediate aftermath.  Every character who speaks in this story is flawed and expressing their misery, and I've chosen to frame Maeglin's treachery as having some sexual repercussions.





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