Thursday, June 14, 2012

Optimistic literature vs. GrimDark

Presented without comment:

He bent down, scratched the black dirt into his fingers. He was beginning to warm to it; the words were beginning to flow. No one in front of him was moving. He said, "This is free ground. All the way from here to the Pacific Ocean. No man has to bow. No man born to royalty. Here we judge you by what you do, not by what your father was. Here you can be something. Here's a place to build a home. It isn't the land--there's always more land. It's the idea that we all have value, you and me, we're worth something more than the dirt. I never saw dirt I'd die for, but I'm not asking you to come join us and fight for dirt. What we're all fighting for, in the end, is each other."

—Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels 

 “Who cares who’s buried where?” muttered Craw, thinking about all the men he’d seen buried. “Once a man’s in the ground he’s just mud. Mud and stories. And the stories and the men don’t often have much in common.”

 —Joe Abercrombie, The Heroes


David J. West said...

I like both. I can see where both work in their respective settings and ultimately I think it says a lot about the people I want to portray when I write (I can't escape this mindset even when I'm reading other peoples books) says a lot about the people I am reading about - one is an idealistic "hero" and one is a cynical "anti-hero" and there is plenty of room in great tales for both.

Ted Cross said...

I blogged once about how I felt some of the recent dark fantasy was taking it so far that it was no longer realistic. In real life, no matter how grim things may be, there will always still be people who try to make the best of things, who try to be optimistic, who try to still be kind to others. When I read Abercrombie's Best Served Cold there was nothing optimistic or decent about anyone anywhere. I like gritty and dark, as long as it is presented realistically. George Martin works better for me in this regard. Here was my posting on this subject --

Brian Murphy said...

I enjoy both too, David. I just thought it was an interesting comparison. The Heroes was obviously heavily influenced by The Killer Angels in form, but not in its cynical treatment of heroism and the notion of meaningful sacrifice.

Ted: I'll take a look at your post. I actually recommend The Heroes and found it to be a bloody good read (my review can be found here: My criticism of GrimDark is the wrongheaded notion that it's somehow more adult or a greater artistic achievement than "juvenile" works like The Lord of the Rings or the Earthsea Trilogy (short answer: it's not).

Anonymous said...

Ted and Brian:

Can't agree more. Cynicism is not the same as realism, though they are often conflated by the shallow. The most hideous circumstances, such as the Western Front of World War I, the Eastern Front or the Pacific in World War II, produced ugliness and genuine nobility in equal measure — often in the same moments. Tolkien, who lived through it, is far more realistic in his depiction of quiet courage of ordinary people than most hipster "grimdark" types who have never actually experienced anything horrific and get their understanding of violence from playing video games.
I can tell you for sure that the warriors in my world do not subscribe to the “Who cares who’s buried where?” mentality. They pay very great attention to what they consider sacred and consecrated ground.

Jim Cornelius

P.S. thanks, Brian, for your comment re: Waylon Jennings.