Thursday, September 13, 2012

In defense of dark fiction

I started this series out of a sense of frustration. There were all these stories that were lovely, and dark, and haunting, and I couldn’t articulate very well why it was that I liked them. So I wrote about a whole variety of topics connected to the issue, all avoiding the main and most important question: why do I like dark fiction? And finally, as I first started to really think about this post, I came to a conclusion: that’s kind of a silly question.

If you follow the question all the way back to the start, it becomes way too broad. Why do we like anything? Is it indeed personality based? Life experience? What we read as kids? The alignment of the first full moon after the third Columbus Day after your birth? Maybe all, and maybe none.

Getting into the specifics isn't very helpful either. Maybe it's because I read some dark fiction as a child. Or maybe it's because of a wide variety of personal reasons - much to personal for the internet to read. 

In examining those broad and narrow reasons as to why I like what I like, I came across a more important question: why am I even writing this series? For one, I did just want to write about what I loved, and I wanted to explore my own interests. But perhaps there was another reason: I wanted to convince other people that they should be liking dark fiction more.

And that is the truly silly idea here.  Reading about why someone loves something is fun. Reading someone trying to convince you what to like is annoying. 

And so, why do I like dark fiction? Alas, I have to go with the same answer I gave at the beginning: because I do. Because I appreciate any story that can evoke emotion in me (sorrow is actually easier to evoke than joy, in my opinion). And because even dark fiction can be beautiful, in its own way.

To finish this series, I’ll share a few more of my favorite dark stories we published at FFO, because good stories speak for themselves. These are the truly dark ones, by the way, not to be read unless you’re willing to be more than a bit depressed.

I take a few steps into the room. Everyone said the hospice had a wonderful staff and a pleasant, normal setting because death is normal, completely normal. The reception area looks like a living room, with soft green sofas and house plants on the windowsill, decorated a with few small American flags. Tomorrow is the Fourth of July.

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. That’s what they keep saying while they pour each other drinks. They’re the grown-ups and they should know. But they say everybody at your new school really likes you, they’re just teasing the new kid, when you know everybody hates you to hell and it won’t ever stop until you’re dead.

Blood Willows, by Caroline M. Yoachim
The bleached-white cottonbones stretched up into the clouds. Scattered among them were the smaller blood willows, with branches sagging down to the ground instead of reaching to the sky. Bright red blossoms dotted the branches like a troupe of ladybugs.
“Will Mommy bloom too?” Natasha asked, noticing the flowers.
“We’ll see,” he answered.


  1. Thank you for linking to those stories. They're beautiful.

  2. It took me a while to get to it, but I finally read them, and I really, really loved two of them. I won't say which two...Thank you for sharing, Sabrina. You are broadening my horizons!

  3. Those really are beautiful and so sad. Thanks for sharing them. I'm amazed at how they can elicit such a strong emotional reaction in such few words. Truly talented writers.

    Great post.

  4. I love working at FFO, for stories just like these. Great post, Sabrina.

  5. Glad you liked them, everyone. Sheena has it just right - finding those few gems makes working for the magazine absolutely worth it.


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