Grim, Dark and Straw

So it seems I’m writing GRIMDARK!!!

Who knew?

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-

Leo says-

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-

(more silence)

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…… 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.

Damn straight!

O-kay.  Yeah.


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.



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57 responses to “Grim, Dark and Straw”

  1. outeast

    @ Dave
    @ Chris Browne

    Have you ever read the PTSD diagnostic criteria? Both Kovacs and Ringil meet them big time (not all associated traits, but many).

    @ Richard
    Forwarded parcels arrived today! So I have the books and comics. Thanks so much, am really pleased! (I wonder: is your Black Widow DarkCore or whatever it’s called as well?)

  2. J. A. Huss (@JAHuss)

    Please, PLEASE, write some more fucking GrimDark. I will do an ARC review for you and hawk your shit all over the blogs. Cross my heart.

  3. D.C.Smith

    Having a difficult time understanding why the uproar re:GRIMDARK… Personally cannot wait for more, in particular from you and Paul Kearney. This is a fantastic series, thanks for something thought-provoking as well as seriously entertaining!

  4. RBWalker

    I never get why people make such a big deal about ultra-violence, or moral corruption, or “evil” committed by the protagonist. It’s like they ascribe a concept of wrongness to these elements, and then extend that without reservation to any work of fiction that includes these elements. They cherry-pick shamelessly.

    I hear Richard Morgan, Joe Abercrombie, George RR Martin, and Mark Lawrence.

    I don’t hear about the heart-renching power of the scene where the Nubian, Jorg’s only friend, is lost to him. I don’t hear about that beautiful moment when Nicomo Cosca says: “You know why I’ve always loved you, Monza?” I don’t hear about that exchange between Stannis Baretheon and Davos Seaworth, where one asks what the life of one bastard boy is worth compared to the fatre of an entire kingdom and the other answers: “Only everything.” Nor do I hear about Ringil Eskiath, who would place himself in the path of a nightmare to turn aside the oncoming war.

    Nor have I heard anyone point out yet (though I’m sure someone must’ve done) that these moments are all the more powerful for their context.

    More importantly, will the internet please stop telling me what I can and can’t read? ;-D

  5. Sam

    Saying a book is bad because it has blood and guts and being mean to womenfolk is obviously kind of closed minded, but I can at least appreciate the problem people have with the sort of overwhelming darkness in parts of your writing . The real world is full of times when everyone seems evil, as you rightly said this isn’t unrealistic, but some people will feel fantasy in particular should provide an alternative and, I don’t know, an example to aim for in moral terms, and find Ringil kind of wanting in that regard. Now clearly Ringil is still a man driven by his morals and with everything he’s gone through then a murderous tornado of righteous fury is probably the best thing he could become , and I certainly enjoyed the Steel Remains ( haven’t read TCC yet) and thought he was an appropriate kind of hero for his story and his world, but I can see why some people object to his sort of heroics as being a bit defeatist, becoming what you fight and all that.

    Anyway that would be my thoughts, apologies if this has already been said and I wawas too dense to realise, also any spelling errors are the fault of my phone .

    Big fan, by the way, I can’t get enough grimdark darkness .

  6. Gabriel Wainio-Théberge

    I think people are just scared of what happened to superhero comics in the ’90s happening to another genre

  7. Patricia

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