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Author Topic: Grimdark  (Read 22631 times)

Offline Idlewilder

Grimdark
« on: March 18, 2013, 01:16:59 PM »
So all over the interwebs the last few weeks there has been this big debate raging about "Grimdark" fantasy. Fantasy that's so twisted and dark that it's become a pastiche of itself. There seems to be a lot of confusion and debate over what exactly grimdark is - and what authors/novels come under it's ripped and shit-stained banner. Is it just the new term for what we used to call "Gritty Fantasy" or is this something else; some new, mutated version - filled with violence (GASP) swears (double GASP) and poop in the streets (triple GASP).

Nobody seems to know where it's really come from (at least in being quite so specific about who seems to come under the "subgenre") - but that hasn't stopped several bloggers and authors from putting in their two cents.


Here's one of the blogposts which condemns this wave of "dark and vicious fantasy":

http://bondwine.com/2013/01/28/a-song-of-gore-and-slaughter/


Here's the ever eloquent Joe Abercrombie (self-proclaimed (ironically) Lord Grimdark) -

http://www.joeabercrombie.com/2013/02/25/the-value-of-grit/


And finally, new to the debate, is another man at the forefront of this supposed onslaught of "Dirty Fantasy" - Richard Morgan:

http://www.richardkmorgan.com/news/982/grim-dark-and-straw/


In seriousness though - what does everyone think? Is "Grimdark" really the right term for this style of fantasy? What are your opinions on some of the books which come under its supposed umbrella?

(Any more articles/blogposts you find on the subject, please link and I'll add them to this initial post.
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Offline Arry

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Re: Grimdark
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2013, 01:31:57 PM »
I personally think it's all silly. The labels really mean nothing. From what I can tell, the people using Grimdark in a derogatory way would not like the 'gritty' fantasy no matter what you label it as. They will be blind to the merits of the book and just see the swears, the poop and of course, the violence.

When I had looked around about this previously, I had found this

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/grimdark

that is a supposed history of the term. I absolutely can not vouch for the accuracy of it. But thought it somewhat interesting. There was no negative connotation in this.
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Offline JonRock411

Re: Grimdark
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2013, 02:11:37 PM »
Now as Arry's link says, the term grimdark originally came from the tagline of Warhammer 40,000 "In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war"  and I've always considered it to apply to things that are too dark and gritty.   The type of story you'd expect from a fourteen year old who is convinced naming a main character Lord Shadowblood of the Bladed Horrors is the best thing ever,  or you know a comic book from the 1990s.

As such, I don't think most of the so called "grimdark" authors really fall under that category.  I mean no one can deny that their works are gritty.  I mean nobody is going to hand A Game Of Thrones or The Blade Itself to a five year old anytime soon, yet they aren't just stories about grittiness.   There are moments of heroism and idealism even in those stories.    Yes there are parts that may sicken those with lighter stomachs.    However, at the end of the day, I'm not seeing anyone rooting for the "bad guys" to win at the end of the day.   

Yes, sometimes the "bad guys" do win.   Sometimes the endings don't result in grand heroics and everything being peachy keen.    Yet we keep reading because they are well-written books.   We like the descriptions and the character development and the dialogue and the settings and the intrigue and all the other things one would expect in a well-written novel.         

Offline pornokitsch

Re: Grimdark
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2013, 03:31:24 PM »
Lord Shadowblood of the Bladed Horrors

That made me laugh and laugh.

I pretty much agree with everyone above. I prefer "low fantasy" vs "high fantasy", but even that was a pretty meaningless distinction.

I don't wholly blame the critics of this particular, uh, movement - there are certainly examples of authors trying to "out-nasty" one another, with "grimness" for its own sake. But that's true of every trend. There's always the equivalent of power creep, people trying to take it one step further.

That said, dissing the entirely of low fantasy for the sake of a few bad eggs is annoying. It annoys me when people do that with anything - "grimdark", urban fantasy, steampunk, whatever.

AND ANOTHER THING...

No, that's it.

Offline Louise

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Re: Grimdark
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2013, 03:40:09 PM »
I admit, I tend to avoid Grimdark and "gritty" books because I am increasingly disappointed in the number of authors that add gratuitous sex and violence to their book in a laughably misguided attempt to seek out maturity in the gutter.

Perhaps the emergence of "grimdark" is the resulting the rejection of the cliched moralistic romance that dominated so much of the genre. The likes of George R.R Martin tore out the gut of epic fantasy: the fantastical, the romantic ideals, the heroism, and with them, the moral purpose. Fine, so what did he replace them with? He tries to create realism by reduction, taking out the highs and leaving only the lows. Like many authors who try to write realism, he forgets that 'Truth is stranger than Fiction' and any book defined by lack is going to end up feeling rather thin.

Perhaps I'm starting to sound like a moral guardian waving her "ban this filth" banner high in the breeze, but I DO believe that books should have sex in them and shouldn't shy away from the issues of murder, torture, rape or any of the other unpleasant realities of life, but they should be handled with decorum. The superfluous description of the woman cutting off her breasts, (in the posted article),  feels to me like a child pulling the legs off a spider to then proudly display to his parents -- what does it add? And even more importantly, what does it say about the author themselves? Much like any scene, any character, any dialogue and any action there needs to be a reason for its existence and I believe doubly so for more delicate issues -- what point is the author trying to illustrate otherwise?   

(From the same article):

Quote
When a literary form begins to run out of ideas, the last stop before the abyss is the escalation of the elements, the coarsening of the themes, the amateur’s belief that simply to shock is enough. And so, if we begin with the discreet shadowing of the scene as the vampire bends to the throat of his victim . . . and we move a little further into the light with each succeeding vampire story . . . then we come, at last, to the crude writing that describes in detail every spurt of blood, every diseased puncture hole, every last bit of minutiae of bodily functions, abhorrent perversion, disgusting child molestations, exploding heads, morsels for rodents, overstated and purple-prosed phobias. In short, the salting of the land.

And of course, with such over-the-top indulgence, the very effect it tries to create on the reader will be moot. They will simply cease to care because the elements of tragedy are not juxtaposed with any levity or moments of relief -- how can a character have anything to loose/to fight for if there are no moments of joy, of happiness in their life?

Offline Phil Norris

Re: Grimdark
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2013, 03:41:41 PM »
I tend to look at the critics of *insert genre here* in the same way as the cardigan brigade who stand outside town halls with their "Ban Tesco/Nuclear Power/Grimdark/Super High Speed thingamygig" (delete to fit onto the latest bandwagon). They make a lot of noise but then shop at tesco/use nuclear power/read grimdark/ride the high speed thingum.

To have an idea is not enough - no matter how good the idea is.

Offline Jian

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Re: Grimdark
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2013, 04:45:28 PM »
Now as Arry's link says, the term grimdark originally came from the tagline of Warhammer 40,000 "In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war"  and I've always considered it to apply to things that are too dark and gritty.   The type of story you'd expect from a fourteen year old who is convinced naming a main character Lord Shadowblood of the Bladed Horrors is the best thing ever,  or you know a comic book from the 1990s.

As such, I don't think most of the so called "grimdark" authors really fall under that category.  I mean no one can deny that their works are gritty.  I mean nobody is going to hand A Game Of Thrones or The Blade Itself to a five year old anytime soon, yet they aren't just stories about grittiness.   There are moments of heroism and idealism even in those stories.    Yes there are parts that may sicken those with lighter stomachs.    However, at the end of the day, I'm not seeing anyone rooting for the "bad guys" to win at the end of the day.   

Yes, sometimes the "bad guys" do win.   Sometimes the endings don't result in grand heroics and everything being peachy keen.    Yet we keep reading because they are well-written books.   We like the descriptions and the character development and the dialogue and the settings and the intrigue and all the other things one would expect in a well-written novel.       

*chokes* Damn, I have to change my character's names AND my age!?!

I agree with Arry, though. I think that a lot of people will just see everything in this sub-genre as exploitation fantasies, etcetera. Which does not bodes well for some authors that were dubbed the Kings of Grim Dark, and are now being avoided for fear of excessive descriptions of feces littering their fantastical streets.

Edit: Forgot to add a "Does not" before bodes.
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Offline Fellshot

Re: Grimdark
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2013, 07:20:26 PM »
I've tried a few of the grimdark books and mostly found them not to my liking, partially because all the jobs I have worked in have involved bad smells, poop, decomposed remains, hanging guts, and organic matter of dubious origin and I don't really need to have that in my reading for fun, but also because the admittedly few examples I've tried reading the violent horrible things seemed tacked on as a way to avoid better characterization through other means. I don't mind anti-heroes, but I keep finding better ones in places other than grimdark.

The realism claim seems like a crock of fermenting fishguts to me, especially as the author is picking and choosing (however inadvertently) which aspects of reality to highlight and several somethings are always left out. Realism ideally should stand in the middle of pessimism and optimism. I don't think that's what grimdark as a fantasy subgenre is going for.

I'm going to go read a horror novel now to improve my mood. :P

Offline Idlewilder

Re: Grimdark
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2013, 07:23:07 PM »
I've tried a few of the grimdark books and mostly found them not to my liking, partially because all the jobs I have worked in have involved bad smells, poop, decomposed remains, hanging guts, and organic matter of dubious origin and I don't really need to have that in my reading for fun, but also because the admittedly few examples I've tried reading the violent horrible things seemed tacked on as a way to avoid better characterization through other means. I don't mind anti-heroes, but I keep finding better ones in places other than grimdark.

The realism claim seems like a crock of fermenting fishguts to me, especially as the author is picking and choosing (however inadvertently) which aspects of reality to highlight and several somethings are always left out. Realism ideally should stand in the middle of pessimism and optimism. I don't think that's what grimdark as a fantasy subgenre is going for.

I'm going to go read a horror novel now to improve my mood. :P

Out of curiosity - what are the "Grimdark" novels you're referring to?
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Offline Fellshot

Re: Grimdark
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2013, 08:16:57 PM »
I've tried Abercrombie and determined that his protagonists could not find their butts with both hands. All attempts at GRRM have been failures to launch and at the end of the day my only interest in GoT is how big of a crater a collected edition would make when dropped off a building. Tried the Black Company to hilariously bad results. Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks managed to be dull, awful and clichéd. I think there's one more that I've managed to block all memory of.

About the only thing I can think of that might qualify as grimdark that I liked was Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor. Deathless by Cat Valente was interesting, but I don't think that anyone would call it grimdark.

Offline Nighteyes

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Re: Grimdark
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2013, 08:20:40 PM »
Don't most of the authors that are being 'classified' as grimdark, basically say they are not, and ask us to stop trying to stick new labels on their books?

Sam Sykes had a good blog on it.    http://samsykes.com/2012/03/literary-kitty-litter/.  He argues that he considers himself 'gritty' in that he uses the dark, grittiness to serve the story, whereas in 'grimdark' the grittiness is the story.
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Offline Nighteyes

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Re: Grimdark
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2013, 08:22:38 PM »
I've tried Abercrombie and determined that his protagonists could not find their butts with both hands. All attempts at GRRM have been failures to launch and at the end of the day my only interest in GoT is how big of a crater a collected edition would make when dropped off a building. Tried the Black Company to hilariously bad results. Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks managed to be dull, awful and clichéd. I think there's one more that I've managed to block all memory of.



None of these are 'grimdark'. There are just examples of low fantasy or gritty fantasy.
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Offline Fellshot

Re: Grimdark
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2013, 08:31:33 PM »
To me grimdark, gritty and darkity-dark are all interchangeable labels for the essentially the same thing depending on the mood of the person doing the labeling.  ;D

Offline Elfy

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Re: Grimdark
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2013, 10:06:06 PM »
I like the name grimdark, it's better than 'gritty fantasy' which never really got to the core of what it was trying to describe. I don't avoid it, I love Abercrombie and Martin, but it's like most 'crazes' in fiction. Something finds success, so everyone from publishers to writers thinks this is the coming wave and will last forever and try to find or write the next BIG grimdark author/novel. You get a glut of very similarly themed material and readers find themselves 'over it'. That's pretty much where I am at with this 'new' genre (mind you Poul Anderson was writing this sort of stuff back in the 50's). If something is going to make it for me as a grimdark novel then it has to be superlative and you don't encounter many like that.
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Offline Spencer

Re: Grimdark
« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2013, 06:26:10 AM »
Eh, I don't like "grimdark." It sounds too awkward and angsty to catch on. But if Abercrombie and G.R.R. are within that fold, I'm a big fan. I suspect it originally emerged as a reaction against the unrealistic, formulaic plots and characters that defined fantasy in the '80s. Creating a fantasy world that reflected the human condition (and wasn't derivative of Tolkien) became innovative.

Berserk is the ultimate "grimdark" story, imo. Beautiful stuff.