The book you don't like that most everyone else seems to like ...

Vasher

Helped Logen count his fingers
And, of course, there's the standing-on-the-shoulders-of-giants thing: everything we do, everything we are, is the sum of not only our own experiences but of the experiences of everyone who came before. I don't like Tolkien's writing either - but one can't deny that his books kick-started modern fantasy the way we see it now. Yes, there was fantasy before that - but not in quite the same way.

Chap called Dalton wrote a little book on the development of the various sub-genres of fantasy (here).

So, once you've got someone who's made a big advance, you'll get other people building on it. There'll be some who are basically re-hashing the same thing without adding anything new, and then you'll get the ones who make their own incremental advances. And, of course, changes in society dictate changes in writing style - in the 70s, when it was all hippies and flower-power, you get stuff like The War for the Oaks. Nowadays, we've got grimdark... say no more.

You could probably write something psychological about whether we have grimdark fantasy because that's what we want, or because that's what we think we deserve...

But the bottom line for me is that I don't think we could have the range and depth of fantasy stories that we have now, without everyone who came before adding their bit to the supporting structure, just like you start building a house from the bottom and work your way up.
Yes, exactly. What Tolkien was doing at the time he was doing it was so new and unheard of that it didn't matter that his characters were two dimensional and his plot was overly simplistic. It just didn't matter. But now, I would argue, it does. At least for some. I'm definitely not alone in this, I know plenty of other people who couldn't get into Tolkien's writing, even people who like the movie adaptations. It can be a tough sell for 20 somethings who cut their teeth on more modern stuff.

In a similar fashion GRRM popularized grimdark, what, twenty years ago? And now we're seeing other authors running with that and saying, I can do that, but with a more unique setting. Or, hey, I can do that but have a more focused and interesting plot, etc.
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
I dont think GRRM popularized grimdark. He doesn't even write grimdark. What he did popularize imo was writing morally grey characters and writing multiple conflicting interests, where neither side is right or wrong.
Not that there wasn't such writing before, but there was a lot of clear cut good vs. evil stories.
If anyone popularized grimdark as a genre it's Joe Abercrombie.
 

Vasher

Helped Logen count his fingers
I dont think GRRM popularized grimdark. He doesn't even write grimdark. What he did popularize imo was writing morally grey characters and writing multiple conflicting interests, where neither side is right or wrong.
Not that there wasn't such writing before, but there was a lot of clear cut good vs. evil stories.
If anyone popularized grimdark as a genre it's Joe Abercrombie.
I don't really read the genre much, so I'll take your word for it. I'm just repeating what I've heard several other fantasy authors, such as Brandon Sanderson, say when explaining the grimdark subgenre and its origins, and GRRM is the first thing out of their lips.
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
such as Brandon Sanderson, say when explaining the grimdark subgenre and its origins, and GRRM is the first thing out of their lips.
Where did Sanderson say that? I saw his video lecture on history of fantasy and he specifically mentioned GRRM as someone who writes between heroic and epic fantasy. It's quite interesting, have a look if you like. He's explaining the history of the genre to some young student writers.


Go to 1:10 time mark of the second video and you will hear exactly what I said.

Sanderson sees grimdark as a modern continuation of heroic fantasy, and Martin is not the one who popularized it or who writes in it. He sees him as more of an epic fantasy writer. I agree with him on this.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
Lets coin a new term; proto-grimdark.
 

Vasher

Helped Logen count his fingers
Where did Sanderson say that? I saw his video lecture on history of fantasy and he specifically mentioned GRRM as someone who writes between heroic and epic fantasy. It's quite interesting, have a look if you like. He's explaining the history of the genre to some young student writers.


Go to 1:10 time mark of the second video and you will hear exactly what I said.

Sanderson sees grimdark as a modern continuation of heroic fantasy, and Martin is not the one who popularized it or who writes in it. I agree with him on this.
I couldn't tell you exactly. He's definitely said it though. Perhaps he changed his opinion when he sat and thought about it more in depth when thinking about teaching this stuff? Regardless, lots of people call his books that, which is where I got it from. Like, most people, honestly. I don't really see what makes them definitively not grimdark, but w/e, like I said, I don't know enough to argue the point. The popular conception of things is often wrong.
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
I couldn't tell you exactly.
I wish you could. Because in the videos he's singing an opposite tune. One that actually makes sense.
Saying GRRM kick started grimdark doesn't make much sense to me. I feel like a Treebeard typing that out lol
 

Vasher

Helped Logen count his fingers
I wish you could. Because in the videos he's singing an opposite tune. One that actually makes sense.
Saying GRRM kick started grimdark doesn't make much sense to me. I feel like a Treebeard typing that out lol
I can't tell you where I heard Sanderson say it, but I can certainly find you PLENTY of sources saying it just from some simple googling. Sources that are a bit mistaken I guess, lol.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainmen...effect-and-rise-of-grimdark-fiction-1.3019422
https://samuelpchapman.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/grimdark-revolution-or-fad/
http://www.unboundworlds.com/2017/01/want-read-grimdark-heres-start/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grimdark

I mean, it's referred to as grimdark everywhere, basically, even the wikipedia page for grimdark. What is it that makes it not grimdark?
 
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Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
I always thought ASOIAF classified as Grimdark too. You see it in many Grimdark lists, that's for sure. It's even on the number 3 spot on the BFB main site.
 

ExTended

Journeyed there and back again
Well, complex multiple-insteallment works like aSoIaF, WoT and so on are bound to make it into multiple sub-genre lists - because the story arcs in them feature many different tropes and/or themes that define the countless sub-genres.

By definition there are three big sub-genres - epic, grimdark and urban. A book doesn't have to be in any of the said sub-genres in order to be considered fantasy, nor does it need to restrict itself to only one of those sub-genres or the more varied smaller sub-genres.

As for the Brandon Sanderson and his views in what defines the grimdark sub-genre - he speaks about it in his 2016 BYU lectures, so you have an easy way to prove who is right on that remark. Just type in Camera Panda in YouTube and you'd find the playlist you need.
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
OK. If you take the basic premise that grimdark is the modern continuation of heroic fantasy, as Sanderson does, than you must ask yourself what is heroic fantasy? Basically, what are the roots of grimdark?
Heroic fantasy term was coined by L. Sprague de Camp in 1960s. Here's his quote from wiki

  • "Heroic fantasy" is the name I have given to a subgenre of fiction, otherwise called the "sword-and-sorcery" story. It is a story of action and adventure laid in a more or less imaginary world, where magic works and where modern science and technology have not yet been discovered. The setting may (as in the Conan stories) be this Earth as it is conceived to have been long ago, or as it will be in the remote future, or it may be another planet or another dimension. Such a story conbines [sic] the color and dash of the historical costume romance with the atavistic supernatural thrills of the weird, occult, or ghost story. When well done, it provides the purest fun of fiction of any kind. It is escape fiction wherein one escapes clear out of the real world into one where all men are strong, all women beautiful, all life adventurous, and all problems simple, and nobody even mentions the income tax or the dropout problem or socialized medicine. — L. Sprague de Camp, introduction to the 1967 Ace edition of Conan (Robert E. Howard).


So we see that heroic fantasy is another term for sword and sorcery. Ok what is sword and sorcery:

  • Sword and sorcery (S&S) is a subgenre of fantasy generally characterized by sword-wielding heroes engaged in exciting and violent conflicts. An element of romance is often present, as is an element of magic and the supernatural. Unlike works of high fantasy, the tales, though dramatic, focus mainly on personal battles rather than world-endangering matters.

During the history of fantasy these two genres S&S and Heroic have sometimes been used interchangably and sometimes as separate genres.


Why GRRM is not grimdark? He doesn't writes in the tradition of both of these genres. He writes epic style fantasy (fate of the world is at stake, there's lots of magic past the first book, and the story is not centered on personal battles.
GRRM sure does borrow a lot from S&S and heroic, but that doesn't make him true representative of the genre. He's somewhere in between, as most writers are.
 

Vasher

Helped Logen count his fingers
OK. If you take the basic premise that grimdark is the modern continuation of heroic fantasy, as Sanderson does, than you must ask yourself what is heroic fantasy? Basically, what are the roots of grimdark?
Heroic fantasy term was coined by L. Sprague de Camp in 1960s. Here's his quote from wiki

  • "Heroic fantasy" is the name I have given to a subgenre of fiction, otherwise called the "sword-and-sorcery" story. It is a story of action and adventure laid in a more or less imaginary world, where magic works and where modern science and technology have not yet been discovered. The setting may (as in the Conan stories) be this Earth as it is conceived to have been long ago, or as it will be in the remote future, or it may be another planet or another dimension. Such a story conbines [sic] the color and dash of the historical costume romance with the atavistic supernatural thrills of the weird, occult, or ghost story. When well done, it provides the purest fun of fiction of any kind. It is escape fiction wherein one escapes clear out of the real world into one where all men are strong, all women beautiful, all life adventurous, and all problems simple, and nobody even mentions the income tax or the dropout problem or socialized medicine. — L. Sprague de Camp, introduction to the 1967 Ace edition of Conan (Robert E. Howard).


So we see that heroic fantasy is another term for sword and sorcery. Ok what is sword and sorcery:

  • Sword and sorcery (S&S) is a subgenre of fantasy generally characterized by sword-wielding heroes engaged in exciting and violent conflicts. An element of romance is often present, as is an element of magic and the supernatural. Unlike works of high fantasy, the tales, though dramatic, focus mainly on personal battles rather than world-endangering matters.

During the history of fantasy these two genres S&S and Heroic have sometimes been used interchangably and sometimes as one genre.


Why GRRM is not grimdark? He doesn't writes in the tradition of both of these genres. He writes epic style fantasy (fate of the world is at stake, there's lots of magic past the first book, and the story is not centered on personal battles.
GRRM sure does borrow a lot from S&S and heroic, but that doesn't make him true representative of the genre. He's somewhere in between, as most writers are.
Huh. Well see, that's why it's confusing. I mean, genres are slippery ephemeral things anyway. But for the sake of argument, why is the difference between personal struggle and larger country-wide or world-wide struggles the defining factor here? It's just very misleading, because when I think of grimdark, or at least the popular works marketed as grimdark, I think of violence and hopelessness and oppressiveness. I mean, it's in the name, isn't it? Those are the important things that make it different than other fantasy. As it is, you're saying martin isn't grimdark purely because of the scope of his stories? If he had one viewpoint character, say, the hound, then it would be grimdark? That just doesn't seem like an important distinction for the average reader. Whether or not the book is oppressively depressing and violent is far more important a concern.
 

Bierschneeman

Journeyed there and back again
Where did Sanderson say that? I saw his video lecture on history of fantasy and he specifically mentioned GRRM as someone who writes between heroic and epic fantasy. It's quite interesting, have a look if you like. He's explaining the history of the genre to some young student writers.


Go to 1:10 time mark of the second video and you will hear exactly what I said.

Sanderson sees grimdark as a modern continuation of heroic fantasy, and Martin is not the one who popularized it or who writes in it. He sees him as more of an epic fantasy writer. I agree with him on this.
Love this video.
Could be the answer to many (I like this , hate that, give me recommendations) threads.

For the discussion here, I see a lot of love for heroic, and children's, but hate for epic.

Note: I would put magicians in the tradition of children's, but would like to rename the category.

Question: scifantasy go in weird. Or ignored. (Like farscape, which I hate, and would hate to see it with lovecraft , which I love. ) or would farscape be descendant of Burroughs?
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
Huh. Well see, that's why it's confusing. I mean, genres are slippery ephemeral things anyway. But for the sake of argument, why is the difference between personal struggle and larger country-wide or world-wide struggles the defining factor here? It's just very misleading, because when I think of grimdark, or at least the popular works marketed as grimdark, I think of violence and hopelessness and oppressiveness. I mean, it's in the name, isn't it? Those are the important things that make it different than other fantasy. As it is, you're saying martin isn't grimdark purely because of the scope of his stories? If he had one viewpoint character, say, the hound, then it would be grimdark?
One character is simplifying it. Read Abercrombie, I guarantee you he has more than one. I promise :D
Scope is definitely important. But if you read grimdark you will notice that character's struggles and their way through 'life' is much more important to the reader, than what will happen to the world.

Also, don't put much trust in the way marketing classifies books. They try to sell me urban fantasy as the next Harry Potter or Game of Thrones on a regular basis. That shit means nothing.
 

Vasher

Helped Logen count his fingers
One character is simplifying it. Read Abercrombie, I guarantee you he has more than one. I promise :D
Scope is definitely important. But if you read grimdark you will notice that character's struggles and their way through 'life' is much more important to the reader, than what will happen to the world.

Also, don't put much trust in the way marketing classifies books. They try to sell me urban fantasy as the next Harry Potter or Game of Thrones on a regular basis. That shit means nothing.
Most of the characters in game of thrones aren't concerned with saving the world though. Pretty much everyone is selfishly making their way through their own journey of stabbing other people in the back to get what they want. Idk. I did read some of The Blade Itself before putting it down, and I just honestly don't see the difference lol. At least I'm not alone.
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
Most of the characters in game of thrones aren't concerned with saving the world though. Pretty much everyone is selfishly making their way through their own journey of stabbing other people in the back to get what they want. Idk. I did read some of The Blade Itself before putting it down, and I just honestly don't see the difference lol. At least I'm not alone.
Yes.
As both Sanderson and me are saying GRRM borrows A LOT from S&S or heroic.
However, the overarching plot of the A Song of Ice and Fire as a series is concerned with fate of the world, the world itself is epic, and at no point do you have such character focus as in grimdark stories.

GRRM is quite cleverly sitting in both chairs, and I see he managed to confuse a lot of people lol

Also you need to read at least the First Law trilogy, not just some of the first book, to get a sense of what grimdark is. Standalone books that follow are even better, but they are a weaker experience if you haven't read the trilogy first.
 

Darwin

Journeyed there and back again
I agree that GRRM isn't really grimdark, but he's definitely grimdark-adjacent. There's a gritty realism there that would appeal to grimdark fans. If there weren't an Abercrombie, we might very well use the term grimdark to describe ASoIaF (if someone had coined it, at any rate). Most of the grimdark-wannabes aren't as close to it as GRRM.

Sanderson defining grimdark and its influences is like Taylor Swift defining Heavy Metal.