My post on the value of grit surely did sweep the intertubes, provoking many and varied(ish) responses. Some of the pick:
A lengthy, wide-ranging and frequently interesting discussion ensued at Chronicles Network.
Fellow purveyor of grit both fantastic and science-fictional Richard Morgan is amused and bemused.
Foz Meadows has some great points to make about what some will consider the elephant in the room – the treatment of race and gender in gritty fantasy.
Sophia McDougall runs that ball into the endzone of male rape.
Liz Bourke will make you wince in that endzone.
Marie Brennan says “I don’t have a problem with stories where everything is grim and dark and horrible,” and proceeds to lay out her problems with such stories.
Finally Elizabeth Bear brings things full circle by agreeing that endlessly serving up utterly unleavened blackness and cynicism (and rape) would indeed be childish, but points out that most worthwhile gritty fantasy doesn’t actually appear to do that.
Many good and interesting points to think about, a lot of which I’d agree with. Doubtless gritty fantasy (and I’d include my own) has not always covered itself in glory in its treatment of race and gender. Though I don’t see any reason why grit can’t be a powerful tool to investigate those issues, if wielded with skill, thought and responsibility (not by me, in other words).
My main problem remains with the definitions, and their apparently endless mutability to suit whatever argument is being made. I thought, for instance, I celebrated the value of grit, but Foz Meadows begins by saying I wrote a piece defending grimdark. She then defines grimdark as having a whole set of characteristics I would never dream of defending. There seems to be a tendency toward massive generalisation, and a defining of a large and amorphous (and generally never identified) group of books by the most extreme and egregious examples (though even those often remain unidentified). To fashion an argument that is incontestable, but doesn’t seem to actually apply to much. And all this after I specifically asked people not to make a straw man out of me! You just can’t trust the internet to do what it’s told these days. I’ll move along for now, and give the last word to Bear:
“The least self-reflective of the grimdark seems to me to be a little too busy wallowing in splatter and gratuitousness—violence, betrayal, rapine, raping, pillaging, cannibalism, torture… pick three… or four… as if those things were an end to themselves … That nihilistic view of the world is essentially a juvenile, sociopathic, self-justifying fetish, and most of us eventually grow out of it … But what some critics ignore is that the best of the current wave of gritty fantasy does not buy into this fallacy … Instead, it embraces a balance closer to reality: that the world is arbitrary and unfair, and that sometimes even well-meaning people do awful things: desperate, vicious things. But also, that complete jerks, sociopathic monsters, can and do accomplish good—sometimes purposefully, sometimes not. People are not good or bad, but people. The best gritty fantasy reflects this, considers it, attempts not to spin a morality play but describe a complicated and ambiguous arc of people doing what they feel they have to do.”