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The Marquis de Leech

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Everything posted by The Marquis de Leech

  1. The Marquis de Leech

    UK Politics : Groundhog May

    The SDP won... 6 seats in 1983. Yes, they utterly screwed the British Labour Party - which was their big legacy - but in terms of actually establishing a major competitor to the duopoly, they really did disappear without trace. First Past the Post and all that. The continuity SDP is still around, and got 469 votes in 2017, total (about one-eighth of what the Monster Raving Loony Party got). As for the far-left, the ones I have interacted with never bring up Jews (and Jews have played a significantly smaller role in the development of the New Zealand Left than the British Left - as I have said, the British Communist Party really did have a large component of Jewish people). They much prefer denouncing social democratic "traitors" and "reformists" (by which they don't mean the Blairites of the world. They mean everyone who does not completely adhere to their particular view of the world, and most of the people who do). The best analogy for the far-left is not the far-right, but rather religious institutions who believe in a One True Way or You Will Burn Forever. The far-right doesn't care about dogma.
  2. The Marquis de Leech

    UK Politics : Groundhog May

    Obsessing about international finance being controlled by a shadowy clique is the domain of the far-right, not the far-left. The far-left is inherently internationalist, and in terms of conspiracies, it tends to see fascists everywhere, not Jews.
  3. The Marquis de Leech

    UK Politics : Groundhog May

    Corbyn's a democratic socialist (in his case an unreconstructed Bennite), not a Stalinist. Chucking that around makes as much sense as calling Rees-Mogg a fascist (which he obviously isn't). Meanwhile, despite media hype, the Seven Dwarves will disappear without trace. Much like their predecessors did thirty years ago.
  4. The Marquis de Leech

    UK Politics : Groundhog May

    "Always been rife" is a bit silly, considering who formed the backbone of the British Communist Party for decades (bonus points for Trotsky himself being Jewish). There are idiots out there who have slid from Anti-Zionism into Anti-Semitism, and Corbyn has done a terrible job at dealing with them, but it has been blown out of proportion by the anti-Corbynites (looking for a stick, any stick, to whack him with), and by those with an interest as portraying any critic of Israeli foreign policy (which Corbyn is) as anti-semitic.
  5. The Marquis de Leech

    UK Politics : Groundhog May

    SDP 2: Electric Boogaloo. Honestly, join the Liberal Democrats and be done with it.
  6. The Marquis de Leech

    Tolkien 3.0

    The trailer for the Tolkien biopic is now out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Girzu81oS8Q I'm on the fence about this project - but we'll see.
  7. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    Bilbo's mother was an aristocrat. His father's side is middle-class (Belladonna Took married down). The result is that he's comfortable upper-middle-class himself. https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2018/08/25/cracking-the-social-code-class-in-tolkiens-shire/
  8. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    I really wouldn't push the Dwarf-Jews thing too far. Bombur munches on a pork pie, for instance. Back in October 2016, I wrote a blog post addressing one academic paper on the subject - https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2016/10/27/tolkiens-dwarves-and-alleged-anti-semitism/
  9. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    Feudalism did not create stagnation, but was rather the product of stagnation. The cities of the Western Roman Empire - in contrast to the East - were basically unsustainable, to the point where at least one historian has suggested that the real mystery is how the hell the Western Empire lasted as long as it did. So, over the centuries, the elites relocated from urban to rural, because that was where the wealth was. Ergo, you ended up with Feudalism. It wasn't as if a bunch of moustache-twirling nobleman sat down and planned the thing out. Also - one aspect of real-world medieval/early modern society that does not get anything like the focus of nobility in fantasy fiction: the Church. Every bit as hated as the aristocracy, to the point where the French and Spanish Lefts still have an instinctual anti-clerical streak, but much less likely to get blasted in your average fantasy novel, except when there's some faux nature-loving pagans getting oppressed.
  10. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    I wonder if the modern treatment of the Evil Aristocrat trope is down to three factors: (1) Popular Whig History. Modern republicanism and democracy and freedom (and two hardboiled eggs) were the masses shaking off the darkness of the evil aristocracy. The aristocrats were the ones who opposed this progress, ergo they're history's bad guys. (2) They're safe targets. Unless you're in Saudi Arabia and the like, aristocrats are a group that can be demonised without losing whole swathes of your audience. Going after, say, capitalist factory owners - who actually do exert meaningful power in the West - is going to alienate people. (3) The unique history of the fantasy genre, with its obsession with rightful heirs, and so forth. For anyone looking to do some deconstruction, there is copious low-hanging fruit. Rather than doing the hard work of actually breaking from the medieval/early modern formula, it's so much easier to serve up the same setting.... but DARK.
  11. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    Somewhere, the ghosts of Thomas Hobbes and Joseph de Maistre are clinking glasses.
  12. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    A repost: Gritty realism, moral ambiguity, flawed characters, and wall-to-wall violence: such are the claims that Grimdark has made about itself over the past decade.The term started out as a borrowing from Warhammer 40k (“in the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war”), which was then applied pejoratively to literature. Since then, it has been worn as a badge by a whole swathe of writers, to the point where there is now a recognised sub-genre of Grimdark fantasy. But, as is the case with all genres (which I maintain are artificial distinctions made by readers and publishers, not writers), there is still copious disagreement about who or what counts as Grimdark. Hence today’s essay, which despite the title is less about an objective attempt to define the sub-genre, and more about attempting to put my own thoughts in order on the subject. Oh, and I also want to respond to a forum colleague (a self-identified Grimdark author, no less), who has recently had an essay or two published in Grimdark Magazine. I have a particular view of what Grimdark is, as a sub-genre of fantasy. Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy and its various follow-ups. Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy. Richard Morgan’s The Steel Remains (I have yet to get around to chasing up the sequels). Bleak, cynical fantasy with bleak, cynical protagonists, who regard life much like Thomas Hobbes regards life in the state of nature – “nasty, brutish, and short” – and who are eminently self-aware of their predicament. There’s a world-weariness, laced with nihilistic despair, about proceedings, livened only by a thick coating of black humour, and none of it is ever destined to change for the better. The contrast with the more idealistic and optimistic elements of traditional fantasy (by ‘traditional fantasy’ read a certain type of ‘candyfloss wish-fulfilment’) could not be more stark – it is essentially a literary reaction, one that takes delight in deconstructing while leaving little in its place. Orbiting the Grimdark star (or black hole?) are a constellation of other works, which to my mind share many elements with the sub-genre, but which (in my humble opinion) do not truly constitute Grimdark. R. Scott Bakker’s Second Apocalypse, for example, is a staggeringly bleak setting – in the spiritual, as well as the material sense, and the author does seem to identify with the Grimdark label (which he terms Fascination with the Abomination). On the other hand, Eärwa is (explicitly) not nihilistic: it is a world laden with meaning, and there is less focus on bleak humour, and more on dark alienness. If Bakker is Grimdark, he is a slightly different variant: his idea of an Abomination seems less mundane and more fantastical than “humans are bastards” (though there is copious human bastardry in his series to go with the alien horrors). Also, if Fascination with the Abomination is the distinguishing trait of the sub-genre, does that mean Anne Rice and her literary descendants, who turn the Abomination into a veritable aesthetic, are grimdark too? That strikes me as an odd categorisation. Another potential candidate for Grimdark Fellow Traveller would be Stephen Donaldson. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant trilogies from the 1970s and 1980s are extremely dark and deconstructional, and arguably lay the foundation for what came later. That said, I would place his books further from the black hole than Bakker – rather than embracing despair, Thomas Covenant is the story of a prolonged battle (literally and metaphorically) against it, with the entire first trilogy being haunted by High Lord Kevin’s abandonment of hope via the Ritual of Desecration. As I have mentioned before, Donaldson’s work is pessimistic, but not at heart cynical. It puts its protagonists through hell, but does not tap-dance upon the human condition, and certainly not after the manner of “the world is shit” Grimdark. This goes double with the author’s interest in character redemption – as terrible a human being as Thomas Covenant is (Angus Thermopylae even more so, in Donaldson’s space opera series, The Gap), there remains hope for both him and the world he stumbles into. That leaves George R.R. Martin, and A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin’s claim to Grimdarkery rests very much on the notion that Good (Ned Stark) is often punished for pursuing morally correct actions, whereas Evil (Tywin Lannister) often reaps rich rewards from his perfidious schemes. I, for one, am unconvinced. Pointing out that successful politics often involves the dirtying of hands is not a particularly groundbreaking insight – Shakespeare does it, for goodness sake – but, more relevantly, I feel Martin (via the respective legacies of Ned and Tywin) suggests that there is more at work than mere politics. Ned dies a confessed traitor, and his family suffers… but there are still people in Westeros who remember and love him. Characters will march though snow-storms for Ned’s little girl. Tywin Lannister – supreme master of Westerosi realpolitik – gets rewarded for his cruelty by being shot on the toilet by his own son. And no-one marches through snow-storms for Tywin’s little girl. I could further suggest that there is very little moral ambiguity about Gregor Clegane and Ramsay Bolton, while a character like Brienne represents a real attempt at reconstructing a romantic (and very non-Grimdark) ethos. Sandor Clegane and Bronn may be amoral poster-children for deconstruction and cynical “might makes right” viewpoints, but Martin isn’t simply tearing the genre down – he works within tropes or even rebuilds them. George R.R. Martin, after all, is a cynic with the heart of a romantic, which to my mind puts him outside Grimdark classification. He certainly isn’t a realist writer either (quite apart from the dragons and ice demons, the work isn’t interested in representing day-to-day banalities), though I suspect that when people praise the supposed realism of Grimdark, they are really confusing realism with focusing on the negative aspects of the human experience. Fact is, the works in question are just as stylised and artificial as anything else in the fantasy genre. Which is rather the point – fantasy, by definition, is not realistic. Nor – despite the best efforts of the TV adaptation – is Martin’s work really nihilistic. Nihilism is belief in nothing (not to be confused with atheism, which is lack of belief in god or gods), and despite bad things happening to people in A Song of Ice and Fire, stripping human existence of meaning is not the intent of the text. Rather, it is much more about letting the characters discern their own sense of “what is right”, without claiming that an objective answer exists. Recall that Existentialism, an answer/solution to nihilism, is about imposing one’s own meaning on an objectively meaningless universe. “All Men Must Die. But first we live,” is a heavily existentialist sentiment, exhorting people to make something of their lives, not to sit around drinking themselves to death because it’s an inherently meaningless world and nothing matters. In this case, one can even imagine Nietzsche approving of Ygritte urging Jon to abandon the Night’s Watch’s slave morality (Nietzsche, despite popular misconceptions, was not a nihilist). So much for the current literature. Can we see anything in older literature that may provide some insight into Grimdark? The sub-genre likes to claim sword and sorcery – we will discuss how true that is when I get to the response section of this essay – but, based off how some overly enthusiastic aficionados describe it, practically anything or anyone could be Grimdark, up to and including J.R.R. Tolkien himself. After all, The Hobbit is deconstructional, with plenty of moral ambiguity once the story gets to the squabble over the Hoard (and even before – Bilbo is explicitly employed as a burglar. Move over Locke Lamora!). The Lord of the Rings has the deeply flawed politician character, Denethor, who comes to a terrible end. The Silmarillion has the deeply flawed creative genius character Feanor, who comes to a terrible end while taking his people with him. The Children of Húrin is unapologetically bleak, and even has a section where our protagonist falls in with some amoral and arguably sociopathic outlaws (complete with attempted rape). The problem is that if Grimdark casts its net so widely as to include Tolkien himself, it cannot very well claim itself to be a new and distinctive development within fantasy. If you include everyone, you no longer have a sub-genre. Going further back further, we encounter Shakespeare. [Yes, retrospectively assigning genre is taking works out of period context, but I am primarily interested in looking at the supposed defining features of Grimdark, and besides, people have been claiming Frankenstein (1818) as science-fiction for decades. If they can do it with Mary Shelley, I can do it with Shakespeare, damn it.] Hamlet is an interesting example, since we do encounter a jaded, morally ambiguous protagonist (mistreatment of Ophelia, accidental murder of Polonius, et cetera) in a rotten political environment, and, of course, nearly everyone dies. Oh, and it is objectively fantasy, what with the ghost thing. The funny thing about Hamlet as Grimdark, however, is that Shakespeare has his protagonist act realistically in the proper sense of the word – when confronted with the ghost’s allegations, he actually does what you or I might do, and tries to verify them first. Then he stands around thinking about the moral consequences of killing his bastard uncle. Hamlet’s dithering is not what we would expect from a Grimdark protagonist (who would more likely to skewer Claudius and Gertrude mid-coitus or something), but it is more true to life. People do have moral hang-ups, even if it is against their immediate or objective interest. Ay, there’s the rub. What separates Hamlet from Grimdark in terms of human nature is that Grimdark would, I think, drop the deeper aspects of the protagonist’s personality – the ones that make him a three-dimensional character – and focus on the cynicism and sarcasm he develops in the face of his unenviable situation. Potentially make him more of a Claudius (corrupt, morally compromised schemer) or a Fortinbras (hot-headed man of action) too, because ditherers with moral hang-ups don’t conform to certain strange interpretations of human nature. There is a reason Hamlet is more important to the Western literary canon than Shakespeare’s genuinely Grimdark piece, Titus Andronicus, and I think it is at least partly because it achieves the proclaimed goals of Grimdark (dark, tragic, moral ambiguity) more effectively than the Grimdark mode does itself. Shifting out of genre, one could – if one were feeling harsh – see antecedents for Grimdark in the work of the Marquis de Sade. Harsh, because, whatever its faults, modern torture porn tends to be better written than the eighteenth century variety (there are better fanfiction writers than the Marquis). Oh, and while there is copious cynicism, de Sade’s work lacks anything that a twenty-first century audience would consider humour. Leaving aside whether de Sade was trolling, getting his rocks off, satirising society, or some combination thereof, the argument that he presents in Justine (1791) runs essentially as follows: what is good is determined not by a (non-existent) God and His corrupt church, nor by man-made institutions and law, but by Nature – and it is not man’s place to go against Nature. To illustrate this, De Sade’s ‘novel’ features two sisters, Justine and Juliette. Justine stays true to her faith, and commits to a life of virtue. Juliette starts off by working in a brothel, and from there commits to a life of vice. Justine is then subjected to an endless string of rapes and torments by every depraved libertine in France (there are a lot of them in the book), whereas Juliette prospers from her wicked ways. Ergo, Nature punishes virtue, and rewards vice, which means human beings should listen to their baser instincts, obey Nature, and be good by being bad. Q.E.D. Between the notion that Being a Bastard is the only way to get ahead in the world, and de Sade’s (actually very sincere) rants about the wrongness of organised religion, one can see the overlap between this and Grimdark. De Sade does take things a bit further, admittedly – he is writing a self-consciously immoral work, whereas modern Grimdark prefers amorality – but poor Justine’s journey has the same excited delight in suffering one finds in the later seasons of TV’s Game of Thrones. Imagine Sansa Stark fleeing from one Ramsay Bolton to the next, all the while being given strange philosophical lectures as the Boltons try to correct her, and you wouldn’t be far wrong. To cap it all off, of course, Justine dies by being struck by lightning. I told you de Sade was a terrible writer. *** Based off the above two thousand words, you can probably guess that I am not a fan of the Grimdark sub-genre. True enough, and I would not personally categorise any of my own work under the heading (your mileage may vary). On the other hand, I wish to clarify that I do not hate the sub-genre as such. If I have one objection, it would be that as a literary reaction to ‘fluffy’ fantasy, Grimdark has become played out these past ten or more years – and the solution to a jaded audience is not to ramp up the rapes and murders even more (*cough* Game of Thrones *cough*). This isn’t prudishness on my part either, but having read a fair amount of de Sade, I like to think that we in 2019 can do better than rehashing the “greatest hits” of an eighteenth century troll. With that out of my system, let’s take a look at C.T. Phipps’ essay on the Grimdark hero: Grimdark is a relatively new subgenre in the world of fantasy and science fiction, having emerged as the grittier, morally ambiguous side of fantasy in the 1970s and ‘80s with the likes of Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane series, Glen Cook’s Black Company, and the Warhammer 40K role-playing games and related literature. As I have suggested above, I am sceptical that the ideas behind Grimdark are necessarily new, even if the notion of these ideas actually being a sub-genre unto itself is indeed a recent development. As an author with a taste for the genre, I was required to ask myself a simple question: if I’m not going to write about a world where being the good guy works out, then what is the motive for the protagonist? What do our heroes fight for if, taking a look around themselves, they can’t noticeably measure any improvement in the world? Is it just a matter of making their opponents worse off than themselves? Turning those questions over in my mind, I came to the conclusion that answering them would make a pretty good novel in itself. There is an implicit assumption here that someone would only do something if there was a tangible benefit arising from it. I think this is a short-sighted view of human nature – in addition to noting the unintentional evocation of de Sade (“if the world punishes Justine for being virtuous, why not be Juliette?”), I would also point out the entire Northern Theory of Courage, which so fascinated Tolkien, was based on the premise that true heroism was fighting on in a lost battle. People do absolutely futile things all the time, for matters of principle. Gilgamesh, literature’s earliest known hero, was a complete bastard with sex addiction and aging issues. Hercules’ entire history consists of murdering people, then feeling really bad about it, so he murders some more offensive people. King Arthur, depending on the myth, one-upped Herod the infant-slayer and intended to burn his wife at the stake instead of sending her away. Indeed, it’s not until fairly recently people decided that heroes need to do more than awesome things to earn that title; they had to be role models as well—and we all know that just left a vacancy for other kinds of protagonists. Applying modern attitudes and value systems to pre-modern societies – as this paragraph does – is a very dangerous game. How heroism is evaluated varied from society to society, and that includes how cultures viewed attributes that we would consider reprehensible. (Arthur did not “one-up” Herod. In the story in question, he considered himself bound by law – and the law just happened to dictate burning at the stake.). The first characteristic of a grimdark hero is, by and large, they aren’t fighting to improve the world. There are exceptions to this, of course, but mostly this truism holds fast: the grimdark protagonist is a product of their environment. Conan the Barbarian kills, plunders, and indulges because that’s what barbarians do. Elric is from a society where good is an alien concept, and his chief source of woe is his realization that that’s really messed up. There are idealistic figures in the world of grimdark, but invariably, they are bigger bads than the bandits because the axiomatic nature of grimdark is things don’t get better. My immediate thought here was if Phipps considers Bilbo Baggins a grimdark hero. He’s not fighting to save the world – he’s employed to steal treasure. Conan is often fighting the evil wizard of the week in order to rescue the damsel in distress. I think Phipps is confusing low stakes with inherent cynicism – sword and sorcery is rarely set on an epic scale. The difference between saving the world and saving the damsel is quantitative, not qualitative (it’s not as if Conan ever needs to save the world (Elric does, of course)). It is an impressive summary of just how the grimdark world differs from that of more mainstream fiction, emphasising that things do not always work out for the best and events play out with no regard for the morality of the participants. I think this is a misrepresentation of mainstream fiction. If events always worked out for the best, we would not have stories. And if events always played out with regard to morality, all stories would be nothing more than morality plays. There are plenty of works that are clearly not Grimdark, but which are also not morality plays. Locke Lamora, protagonist of Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series, is a con man who possesses no higher aspirations than to continue tricking the absurdly wealthy out of their goods. He’s not even doing it for the money but simply because he enjoys tricking them. Oh, he enjoys it, yes. But Phipps is missing one key component of Locke’s motivations. His devotion to the cause of the Crooked Warden is more than simply “thieves prosper.” It is also “the rich remember” – in short, idealistic notions of class war. Idealistic because a cynic would be more than happy with the Secret Peace. The grimdark hero is the product of their world. They are nasty because the world is nasty, ruthless because the world is ruthless, and cruel because the world is trying to step on their face. Again with the implicit assumptions. Juliette must be the hero because the world is nasty to Justine? Even so, the best grimdark heroes are also the ones who invite us to sympathize with their perspective and maintain some sort of human hook that we can hold onto while enjoying the ride through their existence. Some lesser authors of the genre fail to keep readers invested in their protagonist because in their desire to shock, they neglect to make the protagonist someone who, actions aside, we want to succeed On this point, I agree with Phipps. Perhaps I’d quibble, and replace sympathise with emphathise, but the basically the point stands. The grimdark hero at their best is like Geralt, doing good in spite of its pointlessness, or at least having fun. But, given the stakes involved, it is not pointless. By slaying a given monster, Geralt is helping people. He’s not saving the world, but he is making a difference – ask Ciri whether Geralt’s actions are pointless. Most stories don’t involve the protagonists saving the world, because most people are rarely in a position to do so. That doesn’t make those stories grimdark. It just means they’re stories where the stakes aren’t that high. Personally, I am also on the fence as to whether I would consider Sapkowski’s Witcher books Grimdark, but let’s run with it… The grimdark hero is the protagonist in a story who survives in a world not of their choosing. By hook or by crook, they will always fight to survive. Death may eventually claim them but it will not be for a lack of fighting. They have some quality, some spark of humanity, that rebels against a world of meaningless cruelty and apathy. This may only be because they find themselves in an otherwise miserable hellhole. We see some element of ourselves in the grimdark hero, not as we aspire to be, at least morally, but how we hope we might scratch out an existence in the worst of circumstances. Well and good, and, yes, this is certainly a sentiment I can get behind (in my more self-important moments, I like to think my own Teltö Phuul is a less glamorous take on this). My issue is that I simply do not see this sort of character as being unique to Grimdark – indeed, I see potential for a fair degree of overlap with anti-heroes. *** That concludes today’s essay on Grimdark. This one was written with a heavy degree of subjectivity in mind – this as an issue of definitions more than anything, and where, exactly, one draws the line between Grimdark and non-Grimdark. I suspect C.T. Phipps takes a broader view of the sub-genre than I do.
  13. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    Three and a half thousand words on the subject: https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2019/02/10/pinning-down-grimdark/
  14. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    On the aristocrat front, I actually have a strange fondness for writing vaguely sympathetic ones. My villains tend to be absolutely sincere fanatics, or else a wider bureaucratised institution that individuals are helpless to change. One of the nicest characters in Wise Phuul is an aristocrat with (at least some form of) Aspergers Syndrome.
  15. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    The thing about The Lies of Locke Lamora (a book I love, BTW), is that the dark elements of the setting are wallpaper. There in theory, but ultimately, the heart of the book is the witty dialogue and clever capers. Locke himself is a career criminal who is about as morally compromised as Bilbo Baggins (the Burglar). Also, it's worth pointing out that Locke is devoutly religious. Which is a bit odd for a grimdark protagonist.
  16. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    1. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, at the time it was published in 1818, was firmly within the tradition of Gothic Horror. Yet, it has (retrospectively) been categorised as science-fiction - a genre that wasn't codified until H.G. Wells some seventy or eighty years later. If a work has the attributes of a given genre, why not classify it within that genre? 2. Your essay already looks at some potential antecedents for grimdark (Conan, Elric, and so on). As such, I think looking at older texts is fair game.
  17. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    I'm currently writing up an essay on this (thanks, C.T. Phipps!), so I did a bit of research. Turns out Bakker actually does (to some degree) identify with the label Grimdark, which he defines as Fascination with the Abomination. Not sure what to make of that, to be honest. It rather implies that the entire horror genre is Grimdark... which strikes me as a bit broad. Bakker's world - if it is Grimdark - is also a strange sort of Grimdark, in that objective morality really does exist. It's just the objective morality in question is Old Testament-style, and decidedly not nice.
  18. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    It might just be my Catholic upbringing coming through, but why the hell would "good goes unrewarded" be an excuse not to do good? Surely the entire point of doing good is that it is good in itself, not that you expect reward out of it. And if everyone does good... doesn't that rather create a strange form of grimdark? A world where everyone behaves as though objective morality exists becomes indistinguishable from a world where objective morality exists. Is Good versus Good possible in a grimdark setting, so long as the universe is neutral? Funny thing is, Justine, by the Marquis de Sade, actually becomes relevant here - and, logically, a foundational piece of grimdark. De Sade's argument was that virtue is always punished (Justine), and vice is always rewarded (Juliette) - which he extended to mean that nature and the universe WANT us to pursue vice, and who are we as humans to argue with Mother Nature?
  19. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    That's the point. Violence begets violence, et cetera, and nothing the characters do matters.
  20. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    Argh. ASOIAF is not nihilistic - and only really would be if the Others end up winning, thereby negating all that has gone before. "All Men Must Die, But First We Live," is not a exhortation to go and slit your wrists/drink yourself to death in the face of a meaningless universe. It's an exhortation to go out and make something of your life. To impose personal meaning on the world. As I've said before, it's existentialist, not nihilist. It's late here, so I'll check out the essay tomorrow. I will say though that I think we have very different conceptions of Grimdark - I see Grimdark as an attempt to bring "grit" to fantasy - a cynical perspective allegedly associated with making the story more "realistic". A Byronic Hero is practically the polar opposite of that, being a hallmark of romanticism. (Tolkien's Feanor, incidentally, fits your description perfectly).
  21. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    Arguing that effective politics involves the dirtying of hands is indeed a key Martin theme, but it is hardly a groundbreaking point. I would also counter-balance it with the Tywin Lannister example - Tywin caring only about realpolitik, with no moral concerns whatsoever. He not only gets shot by his own son on the toilet, but his cherished legacy is in ruins. Northmen mourned Ned. No-one apart from Pycelle mourned Tywin.
  22. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    On this subject, The Children of Hurin actually draws a distinction between Grimdark and more Classic Tragedy. Androg the Outlaw is an amoral sociopath (and not even a very clever one - he doesn't understand sarcasm), who would fit the Grimdark mould. Turin, whatever his other faults, has a functioning moral compass, but is afflicted with various tragic flaws, and is an altogether more grand figure.
  23. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    Hamlet is dark, tragic, and full of moral ambiguity. But if someone were to ask for Grimdark Shakespeare, I'd be thinking of Titus Andronicus. (Grimdark as the modern variant of Jacobean Revenge Tragedies perhaps?).
  24. The Marquis de Leech

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    A very long time. The Hobbit is deconstructionalist fantasy. I'd also agree with the defining attribute of Grimdark being its extreme cynicism (which, again, is why I don't put Martin in there - ASOIAF is existentialist, with strong currents of romanticism).
  25. The Marquis de Leech

    UK Politics : Groundhog May

    So you think the SNP would force another election in that situation? Because the numbers aren't there for a Tory minority.
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