So it seems I’m writing GRIMDARK!!!
Well, certainly not me. There I was thinking, I’d just transferred my whole future noir schtick over the fence from SF into a fantasy landscape – a bundle of goods that Colin Greenland once nailed (rather eloquently, I thought) in this review of Broken Angels here as the pulse, the urgency, of pulp: its preoccupation with the overwhelming odds against truth and justice; its climate of loss and death.
But over here in fantasyland, it seems there’s a posse or two going round who don’t hold with that sort of thing. Overwhelming odds against Truth and Justice? A climate of Loss and Death? Listen here, mister, this is a nice town, full of nice folks who don’t want no trouble. We don’t got none of that trash-talking GrimDark filth around here, and we don’t need none neither.
Really? Are you sure? I mean, it’s just, I see Red Joe Abercrombie’s horse tied up over there at the rail. He seems to have a bed for the night. And, well, couldn’t help noticing the old Game of Thrones saloon as I rode in, all lit up fit for a celebration. That’s Georgie Martin’s place, isn’t it? Seems awful busy…..
You’re not hearing me boy. I said – we don’t got nothing for your sort around here. We don’t got no GrimDark, we don’t want none neither.
O-kay, boys. I get the picture. But could you at least, you know, tell me what GrimDark actually is – so I don’t go and trouble these fine people with it, without meaning to.
You trynna be funny, boy?
Uh – no. I’m just, uh, curious, you know. As to what exactly GrimDark would, uhm, be. Exactly.
(a sudden silence. the half-wit with the shotgun quivers with righteous indignation)
Go on, Missy Aitch – whyn’t you tell him, tell him good.
You shut your mouth, Damien, we don’t need to explicate ourselves to the likes of him. We don’t need-
I’ll tell him, then, if n you won’t. See here, mister, it’s like this, it’s all blood and gore and bein’ mean to womenfolk n all, and it’s dark too, just no hope anywhere, that’s what, no good men or heroes or anything nice at all, nobody smiling or happy or bakin’ a apple pie or nothing like that-
No, you fool, it ain’t got nothin’ to do with pies-
I don’t care what Leo says, THAT AIN’T IT!
(a second silence)
Uhm – are you ladies and gentlemen acquainted with a Mr McCarthy at all, from the Territories? He would have been through here a couple of times, I reckon, and that you’ve just described is –
You done been told once already, boy – don’t you git no smart mouth on you. We don’t mess with them from the Territories, that ain’t none of our concern what they do up there. This here is a nice town for nice folk, and we-
Like apple pie. Yeah, I think I got that bit.
It ain’t got NOTHIN’ to do with PIE! I already done SAID that!
Al-right, then. Nothing to do with pie. Fair enough. Take it easy there, put the rope down. But can you tell me what it does have to do with? Exactly.
Anything, anything at all that-
And who’s doing it? Exactly?
(mumbling, then everyone together in a rush)
Bein’ mean to women folk-
All that there gore and blood-
Right. Too many swords and battles and-
No, no, we LIKE that.
You like that? Ehm. But you said-
Too much BLOOD! You touched in the head, boy, or you just deaf? Not too much swords, not too much axes. Too much BLOOD!
O-kay. So good with the swords and axes, but no blood. And no being mean.
No bein’ mean to WOMENFOLK!
Right. But being mean to menfolk – that’d……..be okay, would it?
Well (some shuffling) Not TOO mean, no. Just……..normal kinda mean. Just regular kind, unnerstan?
Not really. Uhm, look-
No, YOU look, mister. This is a nice town, with nice folk in it, and we don’t aim to have no GrimDark around here. We don’t need to explicate ourselves to the likes of you, we know GrimDark when we seen it, and it is a SIN. Now that’s good enough for us, and it goddamn well better be good enough for you if you plan on stayin’ in this town.
So probably best you be movin’ on, alright?
Uhm, no. Look, gentlemen, ladies, here’s what I’m going to do for now. I’m going across to the saloon there and buy Red Joe a drink I owe him from way back. Now if you would be so good as to select one or two of the more, ehm, intellectually coherent among your number, and send them over with some clear explanation of what you mean by this GrimDark, who’s committing it, whether here or out in the Territory, and on what evidence you’d base that claim, well, then I guess we could all sit down with the marshal and talk about it like civilised citizens. How’d that be?
Take your time. Gonna be right here, waiting.