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View Full Version : How do you define "grimdark"?


ThornGhost
06-07-2013, 07:32 AM
Based on a very brief conversation with shivam on Facebook about whether Joe Abercrombie's First Law series is "grimdark" or not, I started thinking about how the term might be defined.

To me, grimdark tends to favor style over substance and relishes in the description of hoplessness and ultra violence. I also think there tends to be an (intentional or not) adolescent sense of what is interesting or enviable. The primary example I would use would be the Warhammer 40k universe.

As far as Abercrombie, while I agree his works have some major characteristics of grimdark, I don't think that's a good term to use for his books. He paints his worlds, even possibly more so than writers like GRRM, in nearly indistinguishable shades of gray. No one is blameless in Abercrombie's world. He is trying to deconstruct the fantasy genre by humanizing its participants. Gandalf might be as much of a motherfucker as Bayaz if we knew a little more about him.

I might go as far as far as to call First Law "grimgray", but not grimdark. There is some hope in Abercrombie's books, and there's a larger theme behind a lot of the "darker" creative choices.

I'd be interested to hear other takes on the subject.

Madmachine
06-07-2013, 09:00 AM
Grimdark doesn't have to be completely devoid of hope. Take this example, from the Victorian poem "Invictus":

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

That's Grimdark. There's hope, but it's the wrong kind of hope - the poem's look on the universe is fundamentally flawed. Yeah, the world's a shithole, yeah, you gotta show some guts to survive - but your entire existence doesn't have to be focused around defiance. The piece leaves a real bitter aftertaste. That's what I think Grimdark is.

BEAT
06-07-2013, 09:31 AM
GRIM
I mean srsly
AND
pretty simple
DARK

The Raider Dr. Jones
06-07-2013, 09:47 AM
I would say it's a little more than "grim 'n' gritty" but not all the way to "TRVE KVLT"

Falselogic
06-07-2013, 10:13 AM
I kinda of thing as Abercrombie's book like a particularly dark fantasy noir.

GRIM DARK is Warhammer 40k

Sarcasmorator
06-07-2013, 10:16 AM
Well, in the grim darkness of the far future there is only war, so ...

BEAT
06-07-2013, 10:27 AM
GRIMDARK is finding out that the man you thought was your fake dad actually killed your real fake dad in the blood mountain battle of the Hatefuck wars and took his place so he could poison your fake mom.

The Raider Dr. Jones
06-07-2013, 10:39 AM
GRIMDARK:

http://i.imgur.com/tHVOiI2.jpg

Excitemike
06-07-2013, 10:54 AM
It's a made-up term, it doesn't mean anything. See also: hipster, weeaboo, casual gamer.

Büge
06-07-2013, 11:20 AM
GRIMDARK:

That's "Edgy". Grimdark is the base state of something, whereas Edgy is when you take something fairly innocuous and introduce Grimdark elements, e.g. spiky bits, skulls, rape, genocide, a lack of hope, etc. Grimdark carries those trappings as commonplace, whereas Edginess is usually engendered by a desire to court a demographic that doesn't want to be seen doing or experiencing anything they deem as immature, but have a prosaic awareness of actual maturity. There is some overlap between Edginess and Grimdark, but the former is usually a gateway into the latter.

Sarcasmorator
06-07-2013, 11:58 AM
It's a made-up term, it doesn't mean anything.

But that's every word, ever, in every language! They're all made up, and none have inherent meaning!

Excitemike
06-07-2013, 12:59 PM
But that's every word, ever, in every language! They're all made up, and none have inherent meaning!

If you need to start a thread to ask for the definition of a word, it's not a real word :I

Wolfgang
06-07-2013, 01:45 PM
Well, in the grim darkness of the far future there is only war, so ...

That's why Orks are best, they're the least grimdark

http://i.imgur.com/m32YrxJ.jpg

Sarcasmorator
06-07-2013, 02:14 PM
McOrky! Have a More Dakka Meal.

If you need to start a thread to ask for the definition of a word, it's not a real word :I

Use a word for long enough, though, and it will be a real word. Lots of jargon makes it into the vernacular this way over time — words that mean nothing to people outside a particular group, until they do. Grimdark needs no explanation for me, anyway.

Madmachine
06-07-2013, 02:23 PM
Excitemike doesn't understand linguistics!

Ample Vigour
06-07-2013, 02:57 PM
the Victorian poem "Invictus"

was written by a 14-year-old

this is all you need to know about Invictus

Excitemike
06-07-2013, 03:03 PM
Excitemike doesn't understand linguistics!

I love language. Language is beautiful. That's why I hate to see it marred by nonsense words like blog and vlog and tweet. Name me something that is "grimdark" that couldn't be described as either grim or dark. It's just a lazy way of being creatively descriptive. (I should know, I do it all the time)

Sarcasmorator
06-07-2013, 03:19 PM
OK, but do you hate robot? Or laser? Because those were nonsense words once. Where's the line drawn, Excitemike?!?!

Excitemike
06-07-2013, 03:24 PM
I turned 30 in 2007, so I guess the line is drawn in 2007.
Now get off my lawn.

Pajaro Pete
06-07-2013, 04:17 PM
That's "Edgy".

gqJTMl1F9Wg

Sprite
06-08-2013, 10:29 PM
Name me something that is "grimdark" that couldn't be described as either grim or dark.
False dichotomy. The connotative benefit to "grimdark" is the intimation of disapproval on the part of the writer. Something which is grimdark is grim or dark for unnecessary or poorly thought out reasons, such as Jak in Jak 2. The words "grim" and "dark" lack the judgmental connotation which makes "grimdark" so popular.

Pheeel
06-09-2013, 01:56 PM
Something which is grimdark is grim or dark for unnecessary or poorly thought out reasons

Yes. I've always associated the term with horribly misjudged "edgy" reboots of franchises that have no need of such a thing, like this for example:

The first mini-series, Reclaiming Thundera (written by Ford Gilmore with various artists contributing), published between 2002 and 2003, formed a series of loosely connected "episodes" that saw Lion-O continue his struggle against Mumm-Ra and The Mutants. A major plot point was the slow corruption of WilyKat and Wilykit by Mumm-Ra, who served as his personal sex-slaves.

I mean seriously, what?

Googleshng
06-09-2013, 02:35 PM
Precedent. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=en0Icxb3s9I#t=1m39s)

Evil Dead Junkie
06-09-2013, 08:38 PM
To me Grimdark suggests adolescent wallowing in grimness and/or darkness for it's own sake.

Under this definition I'd say Abercrombie doesn't qualify, even though he's occasionally flippant, he's definitely writing from the perspective "Man wouldn't it suck if this was how things were."

Falselogic
06-09-2013, 10:31 PM
False dichotomy. The connotative benefit to "grimdark" is the intimation of disapproval on the part of the writer. Something which is grimdark is grim or dark for unnecessary or poorly thought out reasons, such as Jak in Jak 2. The words "grim" and "dark" lack the judgmental connotation which makes "grimdark" so popular.

This might be so for things made today. I do not think it can be said for the original product...

Olli T
06-10-2013, 12:24 AM
Is Harry Potter grimdark?

Stiv
06-10-2013, 01:11 AM
Darkplace (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EkN8WtFTpE) is the most grimdark.

MikeDinosaur
06-10-2013, 08:24 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ipr-wS5iBv0
Warning: grimdark

Paul le Fou
06-10-2013, 07:14 PM
I dunno, I think something that just makes itself extra dark at every turn qualifies. Like, I think the phrase I used in the original conversation was "Aggressively Dark." Don't make anything happy or lighter than it needs to be. All humor is black humor. Everyone is horrible and everything that happens to them is horrible and the world is horrible. I don't think it implies adolescence or even a lack of quality. It's just... soooooo darrrrrrk and purposely so that you need the extra word to show how it's kinda ridiculously dark.

shivam
06-10-2013, 07:28 PM
grimdark is a parody term i use to refer to media that is unrelentingly dark, dreary, 'realistic', and lacking in hope, redemption, and the idea of a happy ending.

It's the new trend in fantasy, seen in authors like martin, weeks, abercrombie, and on and on.

Octopus Prime
06-11-2013, 05:45 PM
http://joshreads.com/images/13/06/i130611famcirc.jpg

Grimdark Family Circus

Daikaiju
06-16-2013, 08:04 AM
Comics after Watchmen, for about 10 years.

See also anything describing itself as dystopian.

Sarcasmorator
06-16-2013, 11:00 AM
grimdark is a parody term i use to refer to media that is unrelentingly dark, dreary, 'realistic', and lacking in hope, redemption, and the idea of a happy ending.

It's the new trend in fantasy, seen in authors like martin, weeks, abercrombie, and on and on.

"A Game of Thrones" is almost 17 years old now, Warhammer/40K is older than that. This trend is nothing new. Newly popular with the mainstream, maybe.

Ample Vigour
06-17-2013, 10:31 AM
"A Game of Thrones" is almost 17 years old now, Warhammer/40K is older than that. This trend is nothing new. Newly popular with the mainstream, maybe.

Pulp fantasy was chock full of pointlessly bleak stories. The Seven Geases is nothing but a series of monsters insulting jocks the main character, who then dies for no good reason.

Ample Vigour
06-17-2013, 10:34 AM
(the reason is that he is a filthy jock an not a glorious godking nerd wizard)

The Raider Dr. Jones
06-17-2013, 11:08 AM
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/41/Clark_Ashton_Smith_1912.jpg/200px-Clark_Ashton_Smith_1912.jpg

Clark Ashton Smith definitely looks like a dude who spent a lot of time getting slammed into lockers in his youth.

Healy
06-17-2013, 03:53 PM
Pulp fantasy was chock full of pointlessly bleak stories. The Seven Geases is nothing but a series of monsters insulting jocks the main character, who then dies for no good reason.

(the reason is that he is a filthy jock an not a glorious godking nerd wizard)

That's not totally fair. Howard's Conan is a jock... ish, I think he may be more like the chess club prez or a member of the golf team?

Anyway, did you know H.P. Lovecraft's dad died of complications from syphilis? That just explains so much about his work.

Ample Vigour
06-17-2013, 03:58 PM
That's not totally fair. Howard's Conan is a jock... ish, I think he may be more like the chess club prez or a member of the golf team?

Anyway, did you know H.P. Lovecraft's dad died of complications from syphilis? That just explains so much about his work.

RE Howard's tough-guy persona dwarfed even that of George Plimpton

The Raider Dr. Jones
06-17-2013, 04:08 PM
RE Howard's tough-guy persona dwarfed even that of George Plimpton

Howard was kind of like a nerd who swings all the way back around and applies a totally nerdy level of commitment to jockdom.

Not sure if that's exactly the right characterization of Plimpton though. He was more like the ultimate jock starfucker (jockfucker?). I mean I have to think he possessed enough self-awareness to know that anyone who heard him open his mouth could never take him seriously as a tough guy. Or maybe not, I dunno.

Ample Vigour
06-17-2013, 08:01 PM
Howard was kind of like a nerd who swings all the way back around and applies a totally nerdy level of commitment to jockdom.

Oh like that could ever happen.

Zodar
06-17-2013, 09:57 PM
Didn't WH40K start out as a satirical setting plagiarizing shamelessly cribbing from inspired by Judge Dredd? All huge shoulderpads and Thatcherist superdystopias, and an entire species of rowdy football fans

R.R. Bigman
06-17-2013, 10:22 PM
Howard was kind of like a nerd who swings all the way back around and applies a totally nerdy level of commitment to jockdom.

In the back of the issues of Brian Wood's amazing Conan series there are these three panel comic strips based on letters he wrote to various people. Some of them are correspondences between him and Lovecraft, but the one that stood out to me was a letter he wrote pleading his publisher to pay him the money he was owed earlier than was agreed upon so he could afford to take his dying mother to the hospital. It's hard for me to process how someone who created a monumentally influential character like Conan The Barabarian was so poor and vulnerable.

Bongo Bill
06-17-2013, 10:29 PM
When it seems that a bleak tone (grim) and moral cynicism (dark) are ends rather than means for the work.

Büge
06-18-2013, 05:56 AM
Didn't WH40K start out as a satirical setting plagiarizing shamelessly cribbing from inspired by Judge Dredd?

Which itself began as a satirical setting inspired by Dirty Harry.

Ample Vigour
06-18-2013, 05:57 AM
Didn't WH40K start out as a satirical setting plagiarizing shamelessly cribbing from inspired by Judge Dredd? All huge shoulderpads and Thatcherist superdystopias, and an entire species of rowdy football fans

Yeah. Rogue Trooper and Ranxerox too

Basically any eurocomic that ran in the 80s

The Raider Dr. Jones
06-18-2013, 07:34 AM
Dune, also a huge influence on 40K, where they get a lot of the overwrought dialogue in the fiction I think. Ranxerox is a good catch there, you know those guys read the shit out of some Heavy Metal.

40K is kind of everything a nerd in the UK at the time would have loved poured into a blender.

I am no big expert on Robert E. Howard meanwhile, but his relationship with his mother was pretty intense; if memory serves her imminent death was the trigger for his suicide.

Ample Vigour
06-18-2013, 10:23 AM
I am no big expert on Robert E. Howard meanwhile, but his relationship with his mother was pretty intense; if memory serves her imminent death was the trigger for his suicide.

Yup. He was totally dependent on her.

It's hard for me to process how someone who created a monumentally influential character like Conan The Barabarian was so poor and vulnerable.

Read Howard's other stuff, like his boxing stories or his westerns. He was obsessed with simple men strong enough to impose their wills and sense of justice on an unfair world much bigger than they. Why an emotional cripple might do this should be obvious.

Zodar
06-18-2013, 10:37 AM
Which itself began as a satirical setting inspired by Dirty Harry.

It never stopped being satirical, though. Even that deadpan Dredd movie that came out last year was pretty funny!

The Raider Dr. Jones
06-18-2013, 10:59 AM
Read Howard's other stuff, like his boxing stories or his westerns. He was obsessed with simple men strong enough to impose their wills and sense of justice on an unfair world much bigger than they.

This is totally a theme in the Conan stories, too -- you sometimes get an almost Lovecraft kind of vibe of near-powerlessness in the face of an uncaring universe.

Michael Moorcock took that even further in some ways when he sent up Conan in the Elric yarns.

It never stopped being satirical, though. Even that deadpan Dredd movie that came out last year was pretty funny!

Yeh. Dredd doesn't exactly have a consistent set of targets -- it sorta veers all over the political spectrum and between different levels of seriousness depending on what you're reading -- but as often as not it's taking a shot at something or another.

R.R. Bigman
06-18-2013, 01:25 PM
I am no big expert on Robert E. Howard meanwhile, but his relationship with his mother was pretty intense; if memory serves her imminent death was the trigger for his suicide.

James Elroy intense?

Read Howard's other stuff, like his boxing stories or his westerns. He was obsessed with simple men strong enough to impose their wills and sense of justice on an unfair world much bigger than they. Why an emotional cripple might do this should be obvious.

Now I want a Robert E. Howard Shonen Jump series.

The Raider Dr. Jones
06-18-2013, 01:40 PM
James Elroy intense?

That's a funny contrast there. Ellroy was distant from his mother and lost her suddenly. Howard was extremely close to his mother and lost her over a protracted stretch of time. If he'd lived, he probably would have had about as much bad wiring in his head as Ellroy, but maybe not of quite the same kind.

Ample Vigour
06-19-2013, 09:31 AM
That's a funny contrast there. Ellroy was distant from his mother and lost her suddenly. Howard was extremely close to his mother and lost her over a protracted stretch of time. If he'd lived, he probably would have had about as much bad wiring in his head as Ellroy, but maybe not of quite the same kind.

You don't exactly blow your brains out because you're a paragon of functionality

The RE Howardest manga isn't Berserk but Ashita no Joe

Zodar
06-19-2013, 10:37 AM
Damn straight

q3hubP194-c

Tanto
07-24-2013, 11:34 AM
This trend is nothing new. Newly popular with the mainstream, maybe.

"Newly popular with the mainstream" is literally the definition of a trend.

RAC
07-25-2013, 08:49 PM
I think of grimdark as being when something is intentionally and intensely mean-spirited and cynical, usually to the point of mocking people/ideas which are not themselves mean-spirited and cynical.