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

Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by TomTB, Apr 26, 2015.

  1. Darwin

    Darwin Journeyed there and back again

    I thought it was an amusing turn of phrase, though many wannabe grimdark authors seem to think it's the key to success.
  2. Bierschneeman

    Bierschneeman Journeyed there and back again
    I'm not sure where your digging at with this ambiguous post
  3. Darwin

    Darwin Journeyed there and back again

    Sorry I'm on my phone. It was a dig at the author, don't worry :)
  4. Bierschneeman

    Bierschneeman Journeyed there and back again

    Too many undefined "it"s

    (It was like that when it got here. If you want it, you'll have to ask it whose it is before it destroys it.):hungover:
  5. ExTended

    ExTended Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune

    Some guy with a nice timing made a post about grimdark just now:

    50 Tips for writing Grimdark fiction... The audacity, man, as if the grimdark sub-genre has a monopolly going on realistic writing. As someone said earlier in this thread - grimdark is probably less about things, and more about the general tone of the series and the attitutes of the characters in it.

    More like 50 Tips for writing believeable stories.
  6. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    Tbh, I find grimdark quite unrealistic a lot of the time. But then my understanding of the genre is always slightly tainted by the fact its naming itself after a a very unsubtle and over the top satire.
  7. Darwin

    Darwin Journeyed there and back again

    I was skeptical going in, but the guy who made that list gets it. The list isn't half bad, so long as you take them for suggestions rather than rules.
  8. Bierschneeman

    Bierschneeman Journeyed there and back again

    What's cthulhu Armageddon, and why is it not in my life

    (A,promo in that monologued list)
  9. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    @Peat: I think you gave the best explanation I've come across in this thread as to what Grimdark entails. I'd argue that ASOIAF is proto-Grimdark (Grimdark before it was cool) and also an Epic fantasy. Grimdark in tone, Epic fantasy in theme?

    Classifying things from history with modern day labels is always difficult. It is always likely to become an anachronism. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Grimdark classification only came into prominence after the first ASOIAF books were published. I think we should be careful labeling a book as Grimdark before the term actually existed. I fell into this trap as well I see.
  10. Darwin

    Darwin Journeyed there and back again

    There's so much in this post to love, and I think you're 99% right. My one point of disagreement is that I still think that grimdark should be considered a subgenre of fantasy rather than just a mood, though I agree with you that it should primarily be defined by mood rather than plot/setting/etc. The ability for grimdark to overlap with other subgenres doesn't bother me; you could easily consider a single fantasy book to be S&S, heroic fantasy, and epic fantasy. If grimdark is nothing more than mood, and not a fantasy subgenre, then it shouldn't be limited to fantasy at all. There should be grimdark fiction of all stripes. But I think it is basically limited to fantasy. Part of what makes grimdark special is the contrast with the mood of traditional fantasy. Grimdark is a reactionary subgenre, a counterpoint to all the themes of LoTR/WoT/etc. The same mood in a science fiction book wouldn't feel like grimdark, because traditional scifi was a lot more varied than good vs evil.

    @Silvion Night Why can't a book that was written before the term grimdark was coined still be grimdark? I don't see the problem.
  11. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    There is definitely grimdark sci-fi. @jo zebedee is the one to talk about that but I knows I has seen it and, indeed, as I never tire of pointing out, grimdark as a term is born from sci-fi anyway. As for applying to it other genres... you could. You'd quickly find a number of seminal proto-grimdark works in comics, there's almost definitely be examples in cyberpunk... could you call A Clockwork Orange proto-grimdark/grimdark?

    I'd agree that the term starts to sound silly outside of SFF though, although who knows what the future holds? Maybe grimdark will come to be a general shorthand term for "particularly cynical and violent piece of art, often satirical" in culture. Unlikely, but it could work.

    I'm not sure its accurate to talk about grimdark solely as something that reacts to the rest of fantasy anyway. I mean, if we accept older books as grimdark (or proto-grimdark or whatever), then Howard's work arguably qualifies, Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword arguably qualifies... we're talking books that pre-date/are contemporaries of LotR here. Moorcock and Donaldson might be considered reactions to Tolkien (really difficult not to consider Moorcock that given some of his writings), but they both predate WoT, Belgariad, etc.etc. Then if you look at Abercrombie's stated influences, you get a big mix of non-fantasy in with the fantasy and no sense of being a reaction to anything other than a "Woaaahhh" at GRR Martin. *looks at another page* Hey, he's a WFRP fan. Should have called that one!

    I think if grimdark is a reaction to anything particularly, its the times, just like noir is mainly considered a reaction to The Great Depression. I'm not sure that's the case for the authors themselves though as much for its popularity among readers.

    In any case, I've no objection if people want to consider grimdark a genre of themes and moods. I was thinking of it like I think of noir, where some call it a genre and some call it a mood. Mood makes most sense to me as a term but genre works.
  12. Tanniel

    Tanniel Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune

    I would call it 'tone', I think.

    There is a distinction between genre and format, but I think I was absent in class that day, because I never got a good grasp on it...
  13. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    I'm not saying it can't, but I think one should be careful in doing so. For example, one could argue that the Old Testament is a sword-and-sorcery fantasy tale and that the Lay of Hamurabi is an epic fantasy. However, this is projecting current day labels on things from the past. For example: I've come across people that were of the opinion that certain native American tribes were Communists (in the modern sense of the word). This is unhistorical reasoning.

    Same goes for the term Grimdark in literature. It'd be anachronistic to label a book from the 60's that is dark and cynical of tone and contains lots of violence as Grimdark. Compare it to the Time Machine by HG Wells. One could argue that it has cyberpunk elements and that this book should therefore be classified as such, which seems incorrect to me.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2017
  14. jo zebedee

    jo zebedee Journeyed there and back again

    As @Peat says, grimdark started in sf (Blake's Seven comes up in that discussion quite a lot as well as, of course, Warhammer). Richard Morgan is another good eg of dark sf and there is quite a bit of dark sf out there.
  15. Darwin

    Darwin Journeyed there and back again

    Serious question: is Warhammer 40k really SF? I thought it had more fantasy elements than SF. Aren't there orcs and elves and shit? I think the problem with grimdark SF is that SF has traditionally been darker and more cynical than fantasy. Dystopian societies and dark plot twists are just ... normal SF.

    Abercrombie writes about his influences here:
    I heard a slightly different take in an interview that was included as part of an Abercrombie audiobook. In that blog post he states: "A Game of Thrones was profoundly shocking when I first read it, and fundamentally changed my notions about what could be done with epic fantasy." He'd already been writing the first law books, but according to that blog post, it was GoT that showed him how to deviate from the traditional fantasy template. In the audiobook interview, he gave another take. Essentially he claimed that he was a little put out when GoT came out, because he'd been trying to do something similar with the books he was writing.

    Here's where he states his earliest fantasy influences: "As a kid I was very into the Lord of the Rings, and read it every year for a while. Wizard of Earthsea also had a strong effect on me. So did Michael Moorcock (particularly Corum and all the crazy names). I watched Conan the Barbarian many times more than is healthy for a teenage boy (there’s boobs in it, and I’m not just talking about Schwarzenegger’s). I started playing an awful lot of roleplaying games around this time, and with supplements from that, early fantasy-styled computer games such as Dungeon Master, Bloodwych, and Legend, cracking through a load of Dragonlance, and David Eddings first two series (or are they the same series with different covers?) I probably glutted myself on the cheesier end of the fantasy spectrum. Nothing wrong with cheese, you understand, as long as you get some fibre in your diet at the same time. But it did appear (and apologies to any of the glaring exceptions, because I lay no claim to being immensely well read in the genre) there wasn’t a lot of fibre to be had in epic fantasy as the eighties turned into the nineties."

    And here's what he liked about GoT: "A Game of Thrones, and its sequels, seemed to bring to epic fantasy a huge amount of what I felt it had been desperately missing. There was relatively little debt to Tolkein (not that there’s anything wrong with debt to Tolkein, it’s just there’s a shit-load of it around already). Martin’s world was low on magic, low on romanticism, high on realism, very high on ruthlessness. There was no lame-ass, two-dimensional battle of good and evil. There were no lame-ass, two-dimensional characters. It was an (more or less) entirely human world, with man-made evils, very much like ours. The series was recognisably fantasy, it had enough that was familiar, but it was groundbreaking (at least for me) in all kinds of ways. Above all, the books were extremely unpredictable, especially in a genre where readers have come to expect the intensely predictable. Suddenly, from knowing what was going to happen from the first page and always being right, you found yourself with no idea who’d die next. Sudden main character deaths have become almost de rigeur in the genre since then, or at least in the grittier corners of it, but A Game of Thrones was profoundly shocking when I first read it, and fundamentally changed my notions about what could be done with epic fantasy."
  16. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    40k is Sci Fi, yeah. Its definitely not hard Sci Fi, and there's a lot of fantasy elements in there, but it is Sci Fi, if for no other reason than a lot of people say it is. Its like Star Wars. You can call that Space Fantasy too, but most people recognise it as Sci Fi so its Sci Fi.* Ultimately the aesthetics of ships, guns, power armour and what not have a casting vote, even if people are demanding that they drive the tank closer so they can hit them with their sword.

    Also - while I totally agree with Silv about being careful about applying genre labels backwards - I do think you can do so with grimdark. Or at least the term proto-grimdark :p I do not think grimdark is necessarily defined by its time or some other limiting factor enough for it not to be the case. Although I dare say Moorcock would get a good laugh out of being told he was now part of this genre invented thirty-odd years after he made it.

    *I am aware this argument is somewhat inconsistent with the idea of Martin not being grimdark. All I can say is I can see a consistent definition of Sci-Fi that puts 40k and Star Wars in Sci-Fi but I struggle with one that doesn't make grimdark a fairly meaningless term with Martin.
  17. Alucard

    Alucard In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge! Staff Member

    We have terms like heroic and sword & sorcery so we can use that for older works....I mean, not like people haven't been doing that for a long time already.
  18. Bierschneeman

    Bierschneeman Journeyed there and back again

    This is a great question that brings to mind the evolution episode of Harvey Birdman attorney at law, where Harvey is asked to place his image on the evolution chart and everyone is yelling he should be closer to the bird, or the human.

    It's also a good debate brewing.

    Edit: removed response started new thread
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2017

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