Fantasy & Beyond

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#1492
So I'm making some progress on The Black Company and there was a scene where a gang of soldiers were gangraping a 9 year old girl. I mean damn, are you guys sure this isn't grimdark? I don't like grimdark much, should I continue? Like I don't like Joe Abercrombie's novels for example (I do like Malazan though, and yeah there was a similar scene in Malazan if I remember it right).
#1497
SKInkslinger wrote: May 21st, 2024, 08:39 So I'm making some progress on The Black Company and there was a scene where a gang of soldiers were gangraping a 9 year old girl. I mean damn, are you guys sure this isn't grimdark? I don't like grimdark much, should I continue? Like I don't like Joe Abercrombie's novels for example (I do like Malazan though, and yeah there was a similar scene in Malazan if I remember it right).
The Black Company is often called proto-grimdark, in that it has many of the characteristics of grimdark and is believed to be influential on grimdark authors but was published prior to the grimdark term.

Or, in other words, grimdark.

However, it is more on the Malazan end of things. The Black Company was hugely influential on Erikson and Esslemont, and based on what I've read of both, that makes sense.
#1498
SKInkslinger wrote: May 21st, 2024, 08:39 So I'm making some progress on The Black Company and there was a scene where a gang of soldiers were gangraping a 9 year old girl. I mean damn, are you guys sure this isn't grimdark? I don't like grimdark much, should I continue? Like I don't like Joe Abercrombie's novels for example (I do like Malazan though, and yeah there was a similar scene in Malazan if I remember it right).
I'd call both Malazan and Black Company grimdark, but it's one of those hard to nail down classifications that different people feel about different ways. I don't find Abercrombie grimdark, and although he did adopt the title Lord Grimdark on what used to be called Twitter, he didn't really see himself as writing it, he was quite dismissive of it as a term for writing when someone asked him about it at a signing I attended with him in Melbourne years ago. A lot of Abercrombie's stuff can be laugh out loud funny, especially when the Northmen are involved, dark humour to be true, but still highly amusing, and I very rarely get that with other work that people call grimdark.
#1501
Elfy wrote: May 22nd, 2024, 07:04
SKInkslinger wrote: May 21st, 2024, 08:39 So I'm making some progress on The Black Company and there was a scene where a gang of soldiers were gangraping a 9 year old girl. I mean damn, are you guys sure this isn't grimdark? I don't like grimdark much, should I continue? Like I don't like Joe Abercrombie's novels for example (I do like Malazan though, and yeah there was a similar scene in Malazan if I remember it right).
I'd call both Malazan and Black Company grimdark, but it's one of those hard to nail down classifications that different people feel about different ways. I don't find Abercrombie grimdark, and although he did adopt the title Lord Grimdark on what used to be called Twitter, he didn't really see himself as writing it, he was quite dismissive of it as a term for writing when someone asked him about it at a signing I attended with him in Melbourne years ago. A lot of Abercrombie's stuff can be laugh out loud funny, especially when the Northmen are involved, dark humour to be true, but still highly amusing, and I very rarely get that with other work that people call grimdark.
An example of this different people feeling different ways is to me The First Law is *the* iconic grimdark. That's the series I associate with the term taking life and, using whichever means of defining a genre I'd use, would be key in working out a definition. As a result, black humour is definitely very archetypal of grimdark to me and Abercrombie saying he doesn't write grimdark is to be put in the same folder as Rowling saying she doesn't write fantasy.
ScarletBea, Hedin liked this
#1502
Black Company is grimdark in the same way Frankenstein is science fiction. It ticks a lot of the boxes, but predates common usage of the term.

I'm with Peat. if there's no humour, I don't consider it grimdark, just nihilistic dark fantasy. Abercrombie is one of the authors who popularised that version of the genre, but gallows humour goes back to the first usage of the term grim dark (Warhammer 40,000), so for me you can't have one without the other.
#1503
Malazan isn't Grimdark. It certainly has very grim and brutal scenes but the overall theme is compassion.
The Kharkanas Trilogy (Malazan over 100,000 years before the main series) on the other hand is very grimdark and I'm not sure I'll ever finish it...

Will start the Book that Broke the World later. :)
ScarletBea liked this
#1507
Well I wouldn't say that grimdark has to have humour, although I find it often does.

And I wouldn't say that an emphasis on compassion disqualifies something as grimdark, although I do place an emphasis on the sub-genre's nihilistic qualities.

I don't want to get too deep into genre classification wankery, but I personally subscribe to the idea that a genre should be classified as a few influential works that made the whole thing suddenly be seen, and then a group of shared traits of said influential works that are used to see how much a work fits it or doesn't.

For me that would seem to be Bakker's Prince of Nothingness, Lawrence's work, Abercrombie, maybe Richard K Morgan's Carbon Whatsitsface, and GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire invited along as the elder statesman...

... and with Erikson's Malazan hanging around very close. I'm not as expert as I'd like to be on this but Malazan being related seems to be a fairly common view. But it also seems to be fairly common that it's not.

The interesting thing about Grimdark is that it's definition still seems to mainly come from the people who don't really like it, and who often do so quite vehemently. I'd propose that this is because actually one of the defining traits of Grimdark is the air of "well all that idealistic bollocks is a crock of shit, time for some real talk kiddies" and that really gets up some people's noses for obvious reasons.

If that's one of the key traits of Grimdark, then I'd suggest Malazan is well involved.

A defining trait isn't the same as the defining trait.

What I would suggest is that if you tried to break the fantasy genre down into expressions of worldview rather than content and story form, there is a long and proud tradition of books that take a very confrontational and provocative aim at conventional values. It is the satire of James Branch Cabell, it's a potent ingredient in the celebration of old fashioned heroism of Robert E Howard and ER Eddison, it's the driving force behind Michael Moorcock, and Grimdark is one of the major strands of it today.

And pretty much every author half associated with Grimdark is, if not part of Grimdark, then part of that strand from which Grimdark originates.

And by the other token, that most of the authors sort of around the territory who shy away from it are not seeking to be deliberately provocative. There is and always has been a lot of questioning in fantasy, but not everyone wants to get so in people's faces about it.
xiagan liked this
#1518
Peat wrote: May 22nd, 2024, 14:46
Elfy wrote: May 22nd, 2024, 07:04
SKInkslinger wrote: May 21st, 2024, 08:39 So I'm making some progress on The Black Company and there was a scene where a gang of soldiers were gangraping a 9 year old girl. I mean damn, are you guys sure this isn't grimdark? I don't like grimdark much, should I continue? Like I don't like Joe Abercrombie's novels for example (I do like Malazan though, and yeah there was a similar scene in Malazan if I remember it right).
I'd call both Malazan and Black Company grimdark, but it's one of those hard to nail down classifications that different people feel about different ways. I don't find Abercrombie grimdark, and although he did adopt the title Lord Grimdark on what used to be called Twitter, he didn't really see himself as writing it, he was quite dismissive of it as a term for writing when someone asked him about it at a signing I attended with him in Melbourne years ago. A lot of Abercrombie's stuff can be laugh out loud funny, especially when the Northmen are involved, dark humour to be true, but still highly amusing, and I very rarely get that with other work that people call grimdark.
An example of this different people feeling different ways is to me The First Law is *the* iconic grimdark. That's the series I associate with the term taking life and, using whichever means of defining a genre I'd use, would be key in working out a definition. As a result, black humour is definitely very archetypal of grimdark to me and Abercrombie saying he doesn't write grimdark is to be put in the same folder as Rowling saying she doesn't write fantasy.
I'm pretty much with you (although for me ASOIAF is the iconic grimdark), First Law is like the epitome of grimdark to me. As you mentioned later genre classification can be a minefield thats often based a personal experience and expectations but for me grimdark has always felt a little more pessimistic within their given worlds and often a lack of hope (from the characters, world, and even the reader). Like with Abercrombie's Age of Madness
I never thought Orso would make it through the end because I'm not really sure that I can name an Abercrombie character that ever really gets a happy ending (maybe Monza?). I really wanted him to get a win, or at least come out ok for once but I knew that wasn't to be.


Humor to me does not factor into that classification, people can find humor in even the most grim circumstances.

I would agree with xiagan that Malazan is not grimdark (in my personal definition) because it has hope, compassion, redemption, and optimism throughout the story. Undoubtedly bad things happen which can be an uncomfortable read at certain points but the overall theme of the story as it plays out all of those other qualities come out ahead.
ScarletBea, xiagan liked this
#1614
@SKInkslinger There are some differences in what I'd classify to grimdark (which is always a tough endeavor to define).

But if I remember, right, the series (Black Company as you mentioned):

1) It doesn't get glorified, nor does it use it for cheap shock.

2) It isn't nihilistic either, with a "that's how things are *shrug*" attitude.

The Company seems to know there are all kinds of people in their ranks, and after the heat of battle bad things can happen. Order is often soon restored, though, things like those aren't encouraged or totally turned a blind eye to.

If I remember right, it's strictly forbidden to fight among members, but in the case it happens defending women or children, the punishment is far more lenient, I'm not sure that's what happens to the protagonist.

I think even their employer later praises they aren't just a bunch of murderers and barbarians but overall a well disciplined military force. Which gives them more missions, as the Lady rules a vast empire but also wishes the goodwill of the regions.

Often you'll see Cook called the grandfather of Grimdark, but I'm honestly not sure if that really applies. The novelty he did (for the time) was to make the story from the POV of guys working for what were usually the world-destroying villains of the genre back then and making it a serious story not some sort of parody.

I'll honestly say aside this beginning, I don't even remember any fucked up thing the Company ends up involved with actually... heck, if I remember right, the main problems are actually with one of the Lady's own underlings... guess it also helps their boss isn't actually the evil villain you would normally expect, which was probably another novelty.