By: Anastasia Gustafson

January 14, 2024

Examining The Skeleton

Blood, guts, and gore–in this good Gothic home? Probably. But not until we say grace. The Dark Sire is a literary magazine intent on sharing all things macabre with an undercurrent of self-aware and all-consuming flair. The most recent edition of The Dark Sire is the Spring 2023 publication, containing ten short stories, one poem, four works of original art, and three serialization pieces. The undead might be front and center, but not to worry; their sharpened claws and bared fangs pierce beyond the veil of cheap shock value. Readers of The Dark Sire are invited in–of their own volition, of course–to indulge in academically powerful, spiritually evocative, and comedically unique dark fantasy.

In the Spring 2023 edition of The Dark Sire, the short story “To Cross A Vampire” humbly exudes genius in its command of wordplay. The author, Steven Lombardi, crafts a premise that is interesting enough: two silly drunkards accompany a hardened vampire hunter in his mission to rescue a princess from the clutches of a vampiric lord.

Image by Anastasia Gustafson

The story’s intrigue is further compounded by the unique notion that vampires in this universe are only killed by mundane things such as garlic and sunlight because:

“It’s been written, and being lovers of poetry, and sticklers for the language, [vampires] must honor and obey those weaknesses to the letter of the law for the simple reason that they honor and obey the language.” –Steven Lombardi in To Cross A Vampire

The conflict of this story, as a result, is propelled by more than the traditional means of superhuman strength, pointy teeth, wooden stakes, or holy water. Instead, the vampires of this tale duel with their sharpened rhetoric in conjunction with their rotting fangs–an unusually lovely and comedic take on the often romanticized and ancient beast. 

What this magazine gets right is the balance–often on a razor’s edge–between the heinous macabre and the gut-wrenching comedic. While many publications that focus on dark fantasy lean away from heavy gore and horror, The Dark Sire attempts to do just that, albeit with tasteful and enthusiastic nuance. Their mission statement reads:

“Unlike other magazines that ban slasher, faux pas issues, and Christian themes, The Dark Sire welcomes these types of submissions with high consideration.” -The Dark Sire Website

It appears their goal is to offer a voice to writers whose work is considered taboo in other circles, while at the same time giving readers of those genres a place to partake. Due to its darker and more unusual nature, The Dark Sire is not critically acclaimed or ranked amongst other literary journals. But, perhaps there is something to be said for a publication giving space to the shadows to find itself, rightfully, lingering there? 

Image by Anastasia Gustafson

Digging Up The Past

Thankfully, no skeleton key or codex is needed to unearth the beginnings of The Dark Sire. Founded in 2019 by Bre Stephens, who still reigns supreme as publication’s current editor-in-chief and creative director– TDS was established to breathe new life into genres of fantasy, gothic fiction, horror, and psychological realism. It has been in near-constant motion since its genesis, garnering a readership of approximately 2800 worldwide. Readers hail from all over the globe, including Canada, the US, the UK, the Philippines, Germany, Italy, China, and South Africa. The publication has only ever gone on hiatus once when Stephens took time to care for her mother in October 2022. In April of 2023, the publication was, appropriately, resurrected.

Image of Bre Stephens from her personal website

With the faces of Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelly, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Fyodor Dostoevsky in constant rotation on their “About” website page, it becomes clear the magazine was founded to reanimate a specific kind of dark fantasy that harkens back to the prolific works of the past. 

Want To Grab A Bite?

The Dark Sire is a unique and delightfully wicked opportunity to savor dark fantasy in contemporary and tasteful contexts. When taking submissions, TDS accepts work on their website.

But be warned: The Dark Sire is not just something one can thoughtlessly sample–once you’ve tasted it, you can’t help but sink your teeth in.