The latest reiteration of the debate about grimdark epic fantasy is happily chugging along. You can read my take (with lots of links) here. And now for a roundup of the latest responses:
Foz Meadows offers her take on the debate and points out that the supposed realism of grimdark fantasy is actually a very selective view of reality and one which all too often relegates women, people of colour and GLBT people to the status of victims or erases their existence altogether. Foz Meadows also makes the same point I made before, namely that the writers of grimdark epic fantasy are overwhelmingly straight white cisgender men.
Cheryl Morgan responds to Foz Meadows and also points out that dismissing happy endings for characters from marginalized groups as unrealistic denies readers from those marginalized groups the hope that things can and maybe someday will be better.
Now I don’t believe that Joe Abercrombie meant to say that since gritty epic fantasy portrays the world “as it is”, that automatically means that women only exist to be raped or abused, GLBT people only exist to be killed and people of colour often don’t exist at all. And indeed, Abercrombie pops up in the comments to agree with Foz Meadows. However, there are other authors of grimdark fantasy (cough – R. Scott Bakker – cough) who defend the prevalence of rape and general misogyny in their works with exactly this argument. “I’m only writing it because it’s realistic”.
Writer Jerol Johnson also responds to Joe Abercrombie’s post from the POV of someone who quite enjoys the grittier side of fantasy. What struck me most about this post was that Johnson includes three female writers (Robin Hobb, N.K. Jemisin and Cherie Priest) and at least one writer of colour in his list of writers of gritty fantasy. This is remarkable, because – as I’ve noted before – women and writers of colour are usually assumed not to write gritty fantasy, even if they do. Even more remarkable is that Cherie Priest does not write epic fantasy at all (gritty fantasy is usually assumed to be epic rather than some other mode of fantasy) but steampunk and urban fantasy.
Finally, here is an Italian response to Joe Abercrombie from writer Andrea Santucci. What I find most interesting about this post is Santucci’s assertion that gritty epic fantasy apparently does not exist in Italy or at least it doesn’t sell. Even George R.R. Martin isn’t very popular over there. Come to think of it, Martin wasn’t all that popular in Germany either, until Game of Thrones aired over here (on a channel mainly associated with crappy reality shows in a horrible “chunks of three or four episodes broadcast over a single weekend” format which meant that even people who might have enjoyed the show did not bother watching, because who has the time and the patience to sit in front of the TV for hours on end?) and the books started showing up on bookstore display tables and on the bestseller lists.