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Thoughts on Grimdark Fantasy?


Not sure this is entirely the right thread - but what I have been writing would probably fall quite comfortably into grimdark fantasy. At the least in a morally grey, at best, character sense. To some extent it can be seen as an origin story for what will later in that world be dark and shadowy figures. As simply as I can mange in one sentence. Grimdark is a relatively new term that I've just discovered as I've begun to browse fantasy blogs and articles recently. I was just surprised when reading an article that Mark Lawrence wrote concerning controversy around the genre. I've always thought 'fantasy' was to a large extent too vague a description to be of much use, so I understand the increase in subgenre descriptions, though I view them myself somewhat skeptically. Anyways, if any one had any strong opinions about what they absolutely dislike/like I would love to hear them and see if any of those relate to what I'm writing. I guess for myself it comes down to the settings and probability. There are fantasy books that I absolutely love that could be only be possibly made less grimdark by being turned into cotton candy, but there are a few fantasy books that while I also loved, because they were a raucous good fun, nonetheless had me itching a little at times. Choices or outcomes that just seemed impossibly unlikely or far too convenient in the actual world they were trying to convince me of. The intensity of the wording in Mark Lawrence's article did make me somewhat nervous/curious, so if you have any thoughts, good or bad, I'd love to hear what any of you think!


I think links need approval / I posted the copy pasted the address, but if you google Mark Lawrence: Who's Angry About Grimdark? it should come up

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
No worries. In this day and age they're almost interchangeable.

But, to keep from derailing the thread, my thoughts on grimdark. It's grim. It's dark. So's our stuff, but I wouldn't call our urban fantasy series grimdark because it's funny. Hope in the face of despair is a major theme. So is it pessimism that makes it grimdark?


Personally from what I've been reading and looking at blogs I'm not particularly convinced that grimdark is really genre on it's own...or rather that it means a lot of different things to other people who emphasize different things....whether emphasis on moral grey characters situations / realism / more horror or vividly explicit/ noir type nihilism. I did read one particular avid blog - this one I can't remember, but to an extent it spoke of grimdark as actually emphasizing some of the beauty etc. in human nature but showing gritty worlds wherein just a small spark of good shone,, and hence showed more brightly. I was just a little taken aback at some of the things I read online.
Whodunnits today have several overly sadistic murders and a divorced anti-hero with an addiction of some kind. Superhero stories have grown darker since Watchmen and Frank Millers Batman. Science-fiction has dropped space travel in favor of dystopic cyberpunk.

I think grimdark is part of the same movement. But unlike the others, grimdark isn't a general trend, but a subgenre.


So that's what I'm hearing from one side....but then I have a hard time seeing Game of thrones series or the broken empires series as being so far off the deep end in terms of sadism that its just murder porn... I'm not sure if people are throwing anything with a bit of what I might call realism or sort of rated R content into the same pot, or if the manuscript I've written just has a few elements that would put it into that category for some and not for others.
My perception of grimdark is that it's misery porn. I'm not touching that.
I think misery porn can be plenty fun. Like that Twin Peaks reboot or that old Millennium TV serial. But a lot of times, the creators just throw in some misery tropes without much care.


I've not seen season 3 of Twin Peaks, but that seems like a really strange comparison to grimdark. Unless cooper has radically changed, he used to be the personification of optimism and believe in the good in people.
Well, Cooper had gone through some radical changes (no spoilers) but apart from that, Season 3 is radically different and much bleaker in tone. The cast is older, and everything moves at a slow pace, culminating at a two-minute take of someone sweeping the floor. More violence too, and loads of art-house surrealism.
I think that, as with all things in fantasy, it has its place if it's done well. Is it dark and tortured for the sake of being dark and tortured or do you have more to say, using that particular style as a way of communicating that? Where are you going with your story? Like the posts above have said, it can easily slip into the territory of "murder-porn" but I feel like it only does so whenever it is gratuitous. The genre does not have to be gratuitous by its very nature. I think a good example would be Watchmen. Watchmen has a very dark gritty setting filled with morally grey choices and violence but it's all representative of the larger question posed throughout: Is it really "better" to live a lie if that lie comes at the cost of suffering and death? Is there really a lesser evil? Or is it all the same?
Juxtapose that with GOT, which at its worst points has no point at all and really is just a lot of unnecessary cruelty and sex, and at its best just manages to be "realistic" fantasy with intriguing characters. There is not really an overarching message, just characters who the story has made us care about. In that way it's more akin to a soap opera than anything.