Grimdark is a genre which has been developing for quite some time. The inheritor of the mantle of Dark Fantasy and Low Fantasy, it just sounds better frankly. Likewise, it has the benefit of being able to learn from both those subgenres' mistakes while picking and choosing what elements it wants to take on. However, at the end of the day, it's still a pretty nebulously defined term and its fallen to authors like myself (here) and a few others to try to make sense of it.
That doesn't mean a magazine devoted to the concept can't be kickass, though.
Grimdark Magazine is a fanzine of the kind which used to be very popular in science-fiction fandom and helped countless writers get off the ground as well as exposed to a wider audience. They haven't gotten any less prevalent, really, but with the advent of the internet have become less overwhelmingly important to the proliferation of their genres. However, when you find something you really-really like, you should talk about it.
And I really-really like Grimdark Magazine.
For those who want a short summary of what the magazine is like, it's a collection of articles, interviews, short-stories, and reviews of various material dealing with the grimdark genre. Grimdark Magazine has a relationship with numerous important figures in the style such as Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence so the material is top quality. Given an ecopy of the magazine costs 2.99, I think you could do far-far worse with your money than pick up one or purchase a complete bundle.
Now for the review of this specific issue:
I'm not a big fan of this particular work and subsequent covers are much-much improved, but it was the first of the series and it wasn't enough to dissuade me from buying the interior. I do find it strange the Abercrombie review isn't mentioned on the cover but them's the breaks.
The Non-Fiction section of the magazine is my favorite part of the magazine despite the excellent quality of the short fiction. It's also why I purchased it. The interview with Joe Abecrombie gave excellent insights into the author's process.
I also enjoyed the review of his Young Adult novel, Half-A-King. Graham McNeil (Warhammer 40k) gives a good bit of insight into what he thinks grimdark is about and it's interesting to contrast that to Abercrombie.
The real meat of the issue, however, is an article called Grimdark is Here to Stay by Layla Cummins. I found this to be extremely interesting and a very good analysis of the subgenre's rise. One which was absolutely necessary for the magazine to establish what its thesis was.
Grimdark Magazine 1# contains five short-stories, all by established writers, which are in the Grimdark mold. There's science-fiction, fantasy, and contemporary--which suits me just fine since I've written a grimdark superhero and urban fantasy novel.
"Bad Seed" by Mark Lawrence deals with a man with a propensity to violence in a Medieval farming community who is doing his best to put that aside. It reminds me a bit of A History of Violence in that its conclusion is some people are just very good at something, whether they should be or not. Overall, my favorite story in the magazine in terms of pure entertainment value.
"Shadow Hunter" is a Sword and Sorcery story about a man who is hired to take down a wizard, complicated by the fact he's of the same ethnicity as the people presently invading the region. The twist was a little confusing but I figured it out quickly enough.
"The Woman I Used To Be" is just good science-fiction, to be honest, and I'm not sure I'd classify it as grimdark given it's the kind of thing which would be right at home on The Outer Limits. A amnesiac woman cannot cope with the fact she feels no attachment to her family and struggles to find out who she really is. Grimdark or not, I think it's extremely well-written and should be shared with the world.
"The Neutral" is a story about a man who has successfully escaped a life of violence and moved on to a less violent career. Much like "Bad Seed", the issue of whether such individuals can ever escape their violent past is addressed. The ending is very-very grimdark. It also, weirdly, reminded me of Far Cry 2. Excellent story.
"The Red Wraith" is a poem rather than a story and is fine, though I've never been particularly poetically inclined.
Overall, this is a great ezine and the creators should be proud of themselves.
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