Fantasy Focus: Grimdark Featuring Beth Tabler

Banner Credit: Beth Tabler

This year, I’m doing a new series: Fantasy Focus. Each month will have a week-long focus on a different fantasy subgenre- fantasy is as varied as its creators’ imaginations! If you’ve missed them, there have been fantasy focuses on comedic fantasy and romantic fantasy. This month, I’m taking a walk on the grittier, darker side of fantasy- grimdark!

To wrap up the week, Beth Tabler, creator of Before We Go Blog, author for Grimdark Magazine, and grimdark expert gives her thoughts on this subgenre!

I read grimdark for the hope. What? Hope in grimdark? I know, I know… Hope and grimdark are not seen as exactly bosom buddies. But hear me out, grimdark is not nihilism, far from it. If nothing were worth it, none of these broken characters would give a damn, and there would be no story. 

In the beginning, we are talking Warhammer 40,000; grimdark was ultra-violent and nihilistic. Everything and everyone sucked and killed each other. Life had little meaning beyond the tip of a spear. But as the genre grew up and grew outwards, it changed. As a heavy reader of grimdark, I have observed that instead of violence for the sake of violence, grimdark has developed to mean grimness, agency, realism, and hope. This last one is essential as a story needs to have something to strive for. You see, you can’t have a story unless you have something for the reader to grab on to. It might be a bit of humor, a break in the gruff demeanor, something. But it is there. 

Instead of predestined Tolkienesque positivity, we have characters as flawed as you or I, thrust into a situation that they must battle their way out of. Instead of great monarchs, we have flawed rulers. Instead of great heroes, we have Geralt of Rivia or Arlen the Painted Man. While the protagonist is being put through the wringer, I am right there with them. I am living for those moments like it is the air I breathe. And the best part is I have no idea what will happen. Arlen can do anything because his journey is not predestined.

This is why I adore grimdark. Give me a single beam of light shining through a dirty window instead of a field of artificial flowers basking in sunlight. Maybe I am jaded, or perhaps as I get older, I search for something more authentic, but this is why I read the gruff, dirty and dire. I like my fantasy with a side of realism. And I think if readers can get past the reputation of violence-porn that grimdark has, they would feel that way also. 

About the author:

Elizabeth Tabler runs Beforewegoblog and is constantly immersed in fantasy stories. She was at one time an architect but divides her time now between her family in Portland, Oregon, and as many book worlds as she can get her hands on. She is also a huge fan of Self Published fantasy and is on Team Qwillery as a judge for SPFBO5. You will find her with a coffee in one hand and her iPad in the other. Find her on:


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