April 14, 2021, 06:26:35 PM

Author Topic: What are the attributes of Grimdark?  (Read 1895 times)

Offline ScarletBea

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Re: What are the attributes of Grimdark?
« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2021, 06:29:38 PM »
It's funny how there are so many different ideas of what grimdark is, hehe
Poor publishers...
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Offline HLTinsley

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Re: What are the attributes of Grimdark?
« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2021, 06:32:11 PM »
Nihilism and sarcasm, I like that. The grimdark I enjoy toes the line so that it almost becomes satire. To me, it's not grimdark if it's the tired, teenage edgelord trope of evil for the sake of evil. There's a huge difference between exploring human darkness and revelling in it.

YES! Exactly this.

Offline Peat

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Re: What are the attributes of Grimdark?
« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2021, 06:35:52 PM »
Nihilism and sarcasm, I like that. The grimdark I enjoy toes the line so that it almost becomes satire. To me, it's not grimdark if it's the tired, teenage edgelord trope of evil for the sake of evil. There's a huge difference between exploring human darkness and revelling in it.

I'd been keeping out of this as I wanted to avoid possibly leading anyone to certain answers but since it came up, for me grimdark is an inherently satirical thing. That's where all my defining examples of the genre come from. I know that's not everyone's, but it's nice to see there's others in similar ballparks.


Thank you all for your answers so far.

It's funny how there are so many different ideas of what grimdark is, hehe
Poor publishers...

Maybe I'm being cynical, but I suspect part of why there's so many answers is publishers pushing a lot of things as being part of the hot new sub-genre that maybe weren't entirely, and that the wide range of ideas of what constitutes the genre helps them market. I doubt the publishers are complaining at all!
« Last Edit: January 27, 2021, 06:38:34 PM by Peat »
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Offline cupiscent

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Re: What are the attributes of Grimdark?
« Reply #18 on: January 27, 2021, 11:19:17 PM »
Nihilism is a great element, yes. And... hopelessness? Or at least showing how hard it is to be good. I'm thinking particularly of Anna Smith Spark's Court of Broken Knives, which was possibly the most goth fantasy I've ever read, inasmuch as it was so dark and yet also so beautiful. (I'd possibly sum that book up as: "There is a beautiful, seductive simplicity in violence.") But part of the darkness is that various of the characters want good or beautiful or happy things, but it's just so difficult to achieve (in part because of those elements of structural violence) and they fall into (or back into) destructive patterns.

In a way, grimdark is not the absence of hope, it's the snuffing of hope. I see this in Abercrombie and Parker as well. It's when the light goes out, but you have to keep living/fighting/pushing forward anyway. And therein lies the interesting rumination on humanity.

Offline Bender

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Re: What are the attributes of Grimdark?
« Reply #19 on: January 28, 2021, 03:10:43 AM »
Is Thomas Covenant grimdark?
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Offline Elfy

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Re: What are the attributes of Grimdark?
« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2021, 04:15:18 AM »
Is Thomas Covenant grimdark?
Covenant has always been seen as high fantasy. The character himself is quite dark,but in many other ways it probably isn't what many would see as grimdark.
That's one of the problems with some of these tags. There are so many conflicting elements that no one can totally agree what really defines them.
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Offline Bender

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Re: What are the attributes of Grimdark?
« Reply #21 on: January 28, 2021, 04:58:45 PM »
Bleakness or absence of brightness iworks as a component, but just too vague a definition for grimdark.

Not just Thomas Covenant. Been a long time, but I don't recall ASOIAF series being bright. Most of it was dark filled with casual cruelty (both physically and emotionally) and multitudes of violent death. The middle books of Black Company are another example. Just a legion trudging towards their goal caught in bleak situations.

Contrary to above examples, I don't think First Law was that grim. Initial scenes involving Logen Ninefingers had a heroic band vibe to them. Apart from brilliance of Glotka, the first books just barely can be considered Grimdark imo. 

For me Grimdark needs to have all of the below:
- Bleak and gloomy world filled with anguish
- Desperate characters in despair
- Casual immorality/amorality
- Gratuitous physical and emotional distress and deaths. 
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Online Rostum

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Re: What are the attributes of Grimdark?
« Reply #22 on: January 28, 2021, 07:40:11 PM »
well it should be Grim And Dark

Humour dark or otherwise seems very secondary to realism and will. Your heroes or anti-heroes largely succeed by doing what their protagonists are not prepared to do and the world building and actions of those within it are realistic however fantastical.

The most grimdark book by far I have read is Snakewood by Adrian Selby, and it's sequel is equally grim.

Edit: Adrians 3rd book Brother Red is published today.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2021, 07:49:27 PM by Rostum »

Offline cupiscent

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Re: What are the attributes of Grimdark?
« Reply #23 on: January 29, 2021, 12:56:24 AM »
Is Thomas Covenant grimdark?

This is a really interesting question. Certainly, these days I would set Covenant aside for the same reasons I set a lot of grimdark aside - I don't want to spend time with this character, doing these things, in this scenario. It's no fun.

Elfy's comments have made me thing on a new tangent about how labels influence publishing decisions - not just in terms of what to market things as, but editorial decisions. I wonder whether Covenant being published today would be edited to more fit the grimdark mold, because that's what publishers think (rightly or wrongly) the market wants. Was it done the way it was to be closer to the high fantasy that was more The Thing at the time? (You cannot argue, given the whole body of his work, that Donaldson was not a grim and dark writer.)

Contrary to above examples, I don't think First Law was that grim. Initial scenes involving Logen Ninefingers had a heroic band vibe to them. Apart from brilliance of Glotka, the first books just barely can be considered Grimdark imo.
For mine, part of Abercrombie's darkness is the cynicism, and the fact that Logen wants to be better - to stop being the Bloody Nine - but the world keeps cramming him back into violence. (This is even more apparent with Shivers' arc in Best Served Cold, and that's part of why I hate that book. It's magnificently written, and I hate it, because of what it does to Shivers.)

Honestly, Bender's list just makes me go, "Oh god, WHY read that??" which is often my view on grimdark books so possibly quite accurate!

Offline Peat

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Re: What are the attributes of Grimdark?
« Reply #24 on: January 29, 2021, 01:18:00 AM »

Honestly, Bender's list just makes me go, "Oh god, WHY read that??" which is often my view on grimdark books so possibly quite accurate!

People are strange ;)



Fwiw, I think Abercrombie's work is so important to the term grimdark that any definition that doesn't really include him is on dodgy ground.
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Offline Peat

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Re: What are the attributes of Grimdark?
« Reply #25 on: February 17, 2021, 10:29:40 AM »
So those grimdark questions I was asking people. I've toted up the responses I've got from various communities and it seems the tentative set of attributes I'd put out there are

Primary Attributes

Graphic Content - Mainly violence, sometimes sexuality, sometimes taboo
Tone - Very cynical and/or nihilistic and/or grim
Amoral or Immoral Protagonists

Secondary Attribute

Unhappy Violent World - This is almost a primary attribute, as a lot of responses hinted at this without saying it outright

Tertiary Attributes

Unhappy Endings (both for books and for character arcs)
Dark Humour - Although I did one person say grimdark is humourless
Motivated Protagonists/Protagonists with lots of agency
Worlds that deliberately bleak/gritty - i.e. little bathing, colourless, sexual diseases etc.etc.
An absence and/or snuffing out of hope - (maybe should be higher - I think I had three people put this and nihilistic grim tone as sole attribute)

Do these sound right? I'd argue that if this is roughly the list, something Grimdark should contain either all three primary attributes, or two primary attributes and lots of secondary/tertiary attributes - which can create a fair amount of wriggle room on what can be considered part of the genre.
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: What are the attributes of Grimdark?
« Reply #26 on: February 17, 2021, 10:52:19 AM »
In general I think that's ok, just some comments:

1. "An absence and/or snuffing out of hope - (maybe should be higher - I think I had three people put this and nihilistic grim tone as sole attribute)" --> agree that this should be higher, or actually combined with "Tone - Very cynical and/or nihilistic and/or grim"

2. "Unhappy Endings (both for books and for character arcs)" --> not sure this is needed for it to be grimdark - but ok, can remain on the terciary group

3. "Motivated Protagonists/Protagonists with lots of agency" --> TOTALLY disagree! This is something that all (or most) good books should have, regardless of genre
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Offline Peat

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Re: What are the attributes of Grimdark?
« Reply #27 on: February 17, 2021, 11:40:56 AM »
In general I think that's ok, just some comments:

1. "An absence and/or snuffing out of hope - (maybe should be higher - I think I had three people put this and nihilistic grim tone as sole attribute)" --> agree that this should be higher, or actually combined with "Tone - Very cynical and/or nihilistic and/or grim"

2. "Unhappy Endings (both for books and for character arcs)" --> not sure this is needed for it to be grimdark - but ok, can remain on the terciary group

3. "Motivated Protagonists/Protagonists with lots of agency" --> TOTALLY disagree! This is something that all (or most) good books should have, regardless of genre

1. I've had someone else suggest that, but I don't want to combine them because for me, they are two different points on the scale. Pretty much everyone is saying is has to hit a 7 on the tone scale. But snuffing out of hope is a 10, and not everyone is saying it needs to hit 10. So I don't think I can combine them. But I do want to note people talking about the extreme end of the scale.

I'm not sure I've described this well but hopefully it makes a tad more sense.

2. Remember, these aren't things that are *needed* for grimdark, these are things that people think of when they think of grimdark, and therefore things where them being there means maybe it's grimdark. Particularly in the tertiary. 

3. I guess the thing here is it's in contrast to the sort of protagonist that people think of as classic Epic Fantasy, where they don't really want to go on an adventure, and they're buffeted by the winds of fate, and they're highly altruistic, and don't always have what people think of as agency... for some people, the opposite of that makes for grimdark characters.
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: What are the attributes of Grimdark?
« Reply #28 on: February 17, 2021, 12:37:06 PM »
3. "Motivated Protagonists/Protagonists with lots of agency" --> TOTALLY disagree! This is something that all (or most) good books should have, regardless of genre

3. I guess the thing here is it's in contrast to the sort of protagonist that people think of as classic Epic Fantasy, where they don't really want to go on an adventure, and they're buffeted by the winds of fate, and they're highly altruistic, and don't always have what people think of as agency... for some people, the opposite of that makes for grimdark characters.

Hmmm I get what you're saying, but it's been many many years since I read a book like that, hehe

(and agree with the rest)
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Offline cupiscent

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Re: What are the attributes of Grimdark?
« Reply #29 on: February 18, 2021, 01:18:19 AM »
honnnnestly I think I sort of fundamentally disagree with that "motivated protagonist" point? I feel like a lot of books I mentally file as grimdark involve the terrible world doing terrible things to the main character, which in turns pushes him into action when his cynicism or other factors might otherwise have kept him in his starting state. He might then utilise his (usually violent) skillset to gain control over his situation, but the fact remains he isn't self-motivated in this story. He is reactive. (Sometimes this ticks over at the midpoint as he takes more control and gets onto the front foot, but he still wouldn't be there if not for whatever happened.)

Then again, as previously noted, I don't read widely in grimdark. So perhaps I'm missing a trend there.