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Grimdark?

 
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2019 2:36 pm    Post subject: Grimdark? Reply with quote

NPR wrote:
Ever since George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series stole our hearts, minds, and television screens, fantasy literature has gained a reputation for being so grim and dark that there's a whole subgenre of it called, unimaginatively, grimdark. But it was not always thus. Granted, in the '70s and '80s, fantasy contained plenty of proto-grimdark works, most notably Stephen R. Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and Roger Zelazny's Amber books. [link]

Covenant? grimdark?

Wikipedia wrote:
Definitions
Several attempts to define "grimdark" have been made:
  • Adam Roberts described it as fiction "where nobody is honourable and Might is Right", and as "the standard way of referring to fantasies that turn their backs on the more uplifting, Pre-Raphaelite visions of idealized medievaliana, and instead stress how nasty, brutish, short and, er, dark life back then 'really' was". But he noted that grimdark has little to do with re-imagining an actual historic reality and more with conveying the sense that our own world is a "cynical, disillusioned, ultraviolent place".[1]
  • Genevieve Valentine called grimdark a "shorthand for a subgenre of fantasy fiction that claims to trade on the psychology of those sword-toting heroes, and the dark realism behind all those kingdom politics".[2]
  • In the view of Jared Shurin, grimdark fantasy has three key components: a grim and dark tone, a sense of realism (for example, monarchs are useless and heroes are flawed), and the agency of the protagonists: whereas in high fantasy everything is predestined and the tension revolves around how the heroes defeat the Dark Lord, grimdark is "fantasy protestantism": characters have to choose between good and evil, and are "just as lost as we are".[3]
  • Liz Bourke considered grimdark's defining characteristic to be "a retreat into the valorisation of darkness for darkness's sake, into a kind of nihilism that portrays right action ... as either impossible or futile". This, according to her, has the effect of absolving the protagonists as well as the reader from moral responsibility.[4]
Whether grimdark is a genre in its own right or an unhelpful label has also been discussed. Valentine noted that while some writers have embraced the term, others see it as "a dismissive term for fantasy that's dismantling tropes, a stamp unfairly applied."[2]

Almost all of those descriptions are not applicable to the Chronicles IMO.

And yet ... "heroes are flawed ... characters have to choose between good and evil" are phrases which apply.

But I don't think that's sufficient. The Chronicles are not grimdark. They are just grim. And dark.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2019 3:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with Wayfriend.

The main "good" characters in The First Chronicles are genuinely good, and display very little of the attributes we could associate with "grimdark". For the most part they are incredibly idealistic and committed to high standards of rectitude, and it is a large part of Foul's strategy to try to turn that idealism and rectitude against them.

By the Last Chronicles we see a different scenario in which the main characters and powers are pursuing diverse agendas, none of which is consciously supportive of Foul's agenda but the total synergy of them could redound to Foul's advantage. Yet even here we are not dealing with motives that are devoid of decency and noble aspiration. I would say that the description"grimdark" is less untrue of the Last Chronicles than it is of the First and Second Chronicles, but still untrue on balance.
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