Monday, January 2, 2012

Grimdark's (maybe?) death rattle?

Over the last several weeks, I've noticed that Joe Abercrombie's newest book The Heroes has taken a bit of a drubbing. There was also something of a conflagration over on the Westeros forums about just what exactly constituted going to far. This constitutes something of an about face from the previous two years. Abercrombie, Bakker, Morgan and Mievelle seemed to get a pass consistently. Are the mighty morphin' Moorcock rangers about to meet their match? As the economies of the world begin to splutter back to life and things maybe start to get better in this new year filled with possibility.. will people continue to seek out the cynical, grim darkness of a future which knows only turmoil or will they instead begin to gravitate towards new authors who specifically state they reject that view such as Michael J. Sullivan? Is it time perhaps for a new David Eddings or Terry Brooks to find their place in the crowded world of literature?

The one author who seemed to have never been allowed to get away with the grimdark concept, Terry Goodkind, released a new Richard and Kahlan novel last year. His series moved into the Grimdark genre some where around the 4th or 5th volume. Though on one hand, His work might even be worse than some of the others mentioned above. They have morally shady people doing morally shady things. Goodkind had people who were for all intents and purposes morally upstanding people doing abominable things to their political enemies for no other reason than not being interested in changing philosophies. Goodkind's books basically called for a great Objectivist crusade against the forces of the Left, with no quarter offered or given. From what I can see from the local Barnes & Noble it did about as well as his last couple. The dedicated bought it, everyone else ignored it and will pick it up cheap on the discount table in a few months. It didn't move the same way Dance with Dragons or Wise Man's Fear moved. It's a shame because I think he's the sort of author who never catches on that if he were to focus on his, to me anyway, amazingly unique magic system, rather than on the political foibles of his characters.. He could be a much greater author.

None of these authors were really doing anything differently than Scot Siecin has been doing for years. Gussying up an only Okay story with buckets of blood and gore and sex. I'm curious to see if the Avatar Trilogy he wrote for Forgotten Realms will follow the same pattern of his later books, or if he degraded over time. I'm looking forward to that series with some trepidation. It covers the monumentally important "Time of Troubles" in the realms, but is also written by an author who I don't much care for.

Speaking of Forgotten Realms, I suppose I really have to thank Mark Barrowcliffe for igniting a love of those books. Since my review of his book "The Elfish Gene" and him so thoughtfully stepping by to ask me to give it another look, I've read more of them in a single year than I had in my entire Life. I suppose it was initially out of spite, but now I just find myself enjoying reading stories about totally disparate groups of people in a familiar landscape. The books vary in quality dramatically, Kate Novak and Ed Greenwood's I don't care for that much. They are over written, meandering, and feel to much like some one wrote them from notes from a game they were running. Doug Niles and R.A. Salvatore however write books that were great fun.

Back to the Grim Dark Future, Games Workshop has themselves slipped farther into position as undisputed evil overlord of the miniatures market. They've decided to cease production on all of their Metal miniatures, opting instead to replace them with new Resin ones. Which are ludicrously more expensive, and are also as always, being released on a staggered market. It made my plans of trying to build a night goblin army untenable. I went and looked at 40k instead, and low and behold even the squeaky clean Tau are now beginning to look a bit tarnished. I suppose though with the emergence of all the new Necron forces anyone could be forgiven for getting a bit more hardcore. The upswing of this new villainy on the other hand is that it is finally encouraging some of the smaller up and coming miniatures companies to produce compatible kits, some of which are extremely nice.

I suppose we will see how 2012 goes in the days, weeks and months ahead. It will either be better, the same, or worse than last year. Or maybe a combination of the three. But I definitely think that there is a bit more optimism on offer than the last 3 had on tap.


The Wasp said...

re: the grimdark stuff - I heartily agree with you regarding the addition of blood and stuff to average stories in order to garner attention. I just hope something meatier than Brooks can be found to supplant it all (and I say that as someone who keeps slogging through his books for weird reason).

Brian Murphy said...

Sounds like I need to check out the Westeros threads.

I'm not particularly offended by the "Grimdark" stuff, just the notion that it's somehow more mature or adult than fantasy that doesn't rub your nose in graphic sex and violence.

Lagomorph Rex said...

Yeah Brian, I don't have a problem with the stuff per say.. I just get tired of it being consistently recommended to me because of how "awesome" it is.. Glen Cook could be considered a Grimdark author.. but I don't think thats the case.

Some of his characters are abominations.. others are just men called on to do horrible things even if they don't agree with them, the fact he shows most of his characters to be alright sorts who sometimes actually even regret their actions humanizes them far more than simply saying, yes, my hero rapes people indiscriminately or whatever.. Abercrombie's character of Glokta being a perfect example.. I couldn't feel an ounce of pity for what the character had been through or still went through because he filled up half the book doing it to others.

Michal said...

The Wetseros thread is interesting because a handful of prominent grimdark authors decided to enter, to varying degrees of, um, success(?). What is it with the sf community these days that authors feel the need to berate people who don't like their work online? And why does the Westeros forum, of all places, draw them so?

I'm not particularly offended by the "Grimdark" stuff, just the notion that it's somehow more mature or adult than fantasy that doesn't rub your nose in graphic sex and violence.

"You know what The Lord of the Rings was really missing? Rape. Lots and lots of rape."

Lagomorph Rex said...

Yeah I'm not really sure what they hope to accomplish. It's a really good question about the Westeros forums also.

I've noticed that their Politics seems to be extremely left leaning across a very wide swath of the boards population. Thats just an interesting observation, not some sort of causation-correlation thing.

They are also, like any forum, subject to a rather dizzying amount of groupthink.

Michal said...

It's a very particular sort of left-leaning, though, as it seems that most of the forum members don't engage with feminism all that well and seem perfectly happy to push gender stereotypes and complain about "PC attitudes" if someone mentions racism or orientalism or all that jazz, as well as growing extremely defensive when someone mentions the dreaded word "privilege". The majority of posts were defending the overwhelming focus on rape, prostitution & gendered violence in the work of Abercrombie et al.

Whatever the supposed political affiliation of the members, this thread was all sorts of embarrassing.