There is nothing wrong with grimdark. There, I said it. Despite my own writing/tone flavor resting squarely in the realm of “you might not win but at least you tried” melancholy, many people both praise and berate the grimdark subgenre. I’ve riffed on the darker elements of the subgenre by often using Warhammer 40k as a litmus test for bleakness inducing comedy.
But there is nothing wrong with grimdark. Despite both detractors and fans of the subgenre fiercely debating the motifs and elements associated with it, the genre is as valid as high fantasy. Regardless of your feelings on some of the darker, or at times “absurd”, elements, the genre has established its particular traits. These elements—grim worlds, good often being detrimental, endings where countless die, and the forces of darkness generally winning—are firmly entrenched within grimdark’s almost 30+ year “modern” existence. When genres condense/establish certain motifs, or preferred genre elements, fans start to have certain expectations. This doesn’t mean writers have to blindly author rigid stories. Hell, that would defeat the purpose of writing.
But it’s a good short hand, when you first begin to research into an unfamiliar genre, to read the iconic novels, the evolution of the genre, see what’s changed, what’s deviated, what’s gone out of style, too. Grimdark serves/entertains a certain fandom of the broader fantasy one. It’s blood. It’s guts. It’s farts. And people cussing, doing the bad stuff, and a slightly exaggerated take on the darkness in real life. This is a style choice. In the same way detective noir is framed in a 1940s LA changing, with dames, gangsters, wisecracking PIs, there’s imagery and motifs associated with these established genres. But, as any good writer knows, the purpose of the tools, the images, the associated elements? It’s the writer’s playground. Subvert, deconstruct, go at it from a different angle, It’s up to them.
Grimdark may, at times, come across as grossly inaccurate, but most genre fiction isn’t meant to be an exact replica of real life. Remember that the next time you think the genre is overly dark or ridiculous. I do.