More grimdark fantasy, boring literary fiction, the truth about the Amityville horror and cheese – it’s a Good Friday linkdump

We’re actually having snow for Easter this year, though at least the cold means that there’s no need to open the windows and that I’ll be spared the smoke from the annual Easter fire, a tradition I don’t mind, as long as it’s not held 500 meters from my home with the wind blowing the smoke into my bedroom window. I could also live without drunkards partying noisily around the fire till two or three in the morning.

Meanwhile, the grimdark debate is still ongoing. First of all, Joshua S. Hill offers his contribution at Amazing Stories, basically repeating a point that has been made before by Sam Sykes and Elizabeth Bear among others, namely that grit and darkness are fine, as long as they’re tempered by light and hope. This is a point I can get behind. Unfortunately, the rest of the post is rather flawed.

For starters, Hill only links to the contributions of Sam Sykes, Richard Morgan and the original Joe Abercrombie post, but not to a single post by critics of grimdark fantasy nor a single post by a woman, even though some of the best contributions in this debate were made by women. The list of writers of gritty fantasy cited doesn’t include any women either, but then we’re used to that by now.

Worse, critics of grimdark fantasy are called “hyperventilating religious wackjobs” and vitriolic “morons”. Now of all the critics of grimdark fantasy that have appeared in this and previous go-arounds, only Leo Grin and Bryan Thomas Schmidt as well as Theo/Vox Day and possibly Tom Simon have been religiously motivated. And Grin, Theo/Vox Day* and Schmidt weren’t even involved in this year’s go-around. And the only ones who might be considered to meet the definition of hyperventilating wackjob are Leo Grin and Theo/Vox Day – Tom Simon’s and Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s contibutions were considered and well-reasoned. However, the most common criticism of grimdark fantasy is not “This offends my moral and religious sensibilities” but “Your ‘realistic’ view of the past is selectively racist and sexist and by the way, real history wasn’t so clearcut as your ‘nuanced’ approximation of it with added magic and dragons and zombies”. As for “morons”, the only moronic posts during this go-around came from the pro-grimdark camp, which also did a lot of hyperventilating and wackjobbing. So in short, the Amazing Stories post missed much of the current discussion, probably because the places where said discussion has been held are not on Joshua Hill’s radar.

C.P.D. Harris also offers another take on the ongoing debate over the state of the (epic) fantasy genre and wonders whether fantasy’s great divide is not between grimdark and Pollyana-ish fantasy at all, but between fate and causality driven fantasy. I’m not sure I agree with him, especially since purely fate or prophecy driven stories are very rare these days. Even the whole self-fulfilling prophecy trope, which lies behind everything from Oedipus to Terminator, is actually a play with casuality, where attempts to prevent the prophecy from coming true cause the prophecy to come true. Still, it’s a very interesting post.

At Salon, J. Robert Lennon claims that “literary fiction is fucking boring”. Behind the inflammatory headline is actually an interesting article which exhorts all writers to not just stick to a single genre and only the most recent works in said genre at that, but to read widely and across genre lines, to read non-fiction, watch films and TV shows and generally seek for information and inspiration everywhere. And that’s great advice, whether you write romance or mysteries, SF or fantasy, westerns or literary fiction.

BTW, J. Robert Lennon wrote the short story upon which the TV show Unforgettable is based, which means that he isn’t a purely literary writer either.

Grady Hendrix has an interesting post about the truth behind the Amityville horror, that quintessential “true” haunted house story from the 1970s and the source of dozens of official and unofficial adaptions. Found via SF Signal. Turns out the hauntings were faked by the parents to make money and the only actual horror going on was the abuse of the three children by their stepfather.

The Telegraph reports that Stilton cheese may be under threat in its native Britain. Apparently, younger Britons are refusing to eat Stilton, because they’ve been taught that mold is bad for you. However, blue cheese is supposed to be moldy, duh. Honestly, how can anybody not know this? Though it would be interesting to see whether other blue cheeses or even Camembert or Brie (What do you think the white rind is?) experience similar market share losses in the UK or if it’s just Stilton. Because this might just be a case of younger people not eating the same cheeses their parents like. I don’t even exclude myself there. For example, my Mom loves Limburger cheese. I never eat it, even though I like strong flavoured cheeses, because IMO Limburger is old-fashioned and kind of boring, like the food your parents eat.

Though in general, this is sad, because I really like Stilton. I discovered it as a student in London, when the only blue cheeses available at the local supermarket were Cambozola, Danablu and Stilton. I found both Cambozola and Danablu rather dull, preferring Roquefort and Gorgonzola. So I finally decided to try the Stilton and lo and behold, it was really good. I recently found a local supermarket that carries Stilton and occasionally buy a slice, to be consumed with pickle and maybe a glass of sherry.

*Probably too busy campaigning to become SFWA president.

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2 Responses to More grimdark fantasy, boring literary fiction, the truth about the Amityville horror and cheese – it’s a Good Friday linkdump

  1. Joshua S Hill says:

    Cora Buhlert, thanks for taking a read of my piece, though I suspect you have come at it with your own biases. Unsurprising – that’s how we all work. My article was never intended to be an intensive study of the issue – I don’t read much grimdark, but I had encountered those three articles and therefore I had what I needed.

    As for your larger paragraph, I’m intrigued that you think you have encountered every and all criticism. The reality of the situation is that the ‘critics’ you referenced are only popularly known – the top of the heap, so to speak – and do not include the thousands of average readers around the world who do in fact fall under the title of ‘“hyperventilating religious wackjobs” and vitriolic “morons”’.

    I disagree with your assumptions about the ‘most common criticism of grimdark fantasy’ but, then, that’s OK too. I would just call you to possibly remember that while I might have my own biases, you do as well.

    Note: “but then we’re used to that by now” – you can do better than that.

    • Cora says:

      Thanks for commenting, Joshua. I totally agree with you that I have my own biases BTW.

      Most of the criticisms of grimdark fantasy that I saw were well reasoned, whether one agrees with them or not. And a lot of the critiques were from a feminist POV. I have no doubt that there are hyperventilating religious nutjobs and vitriolic morons criticising the subgenre out there, considering that the internet in general has more than its share of both groups. But apart from Mssrs. Grin and Vox Day, I saw very little of them. Maybe they hang out in places I rarely visit.

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