Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Grimdark Magazine issue 4# review


    I've mentioned my fondness for Grimdark Magazine in previous articles for the United Federation of Charles. It's a delightful fanzine which contains articles, interviews, reviews, excepts, and short-stories about the darker side of speculative fiction.

    I'm particularly fond of the nonfiction side as it's introduced, at least, the first levels of scholarly discourse which will go a long way to legitimizing grimdark as a legitimate movement in fantasy fiction versus a simple adjective for describing stories where the heroes curse as well as have sex.

    The fanzine isn't perfect, at least for my discerning tastes, because I would like some more focus on the video game side of grimdark development. A regular feature of the magazine reviewing a game which shows the darker side of pixellated entertainment would be most welcome as there's no shortage of such games. I also think they should consider adding a second essay to each issue since they are, hands down, my favorite part of the magazine.

    But I'm just a reader so what do I know?

    In any case, the fourth issue catches me up at the time of August 4th, 2015, so I'll just get to reviewing what is yet another of a great magazine you should be picking up if you haven't already.

Cover 

    Yet another awesome cover from the artists at Grimdark Magazine. I like the whole scene of the skull-face-painted witch standing back-to-back with a warrior against presumed horrors to come.

    Very nice.

Nonfiction

    "The Mud, the Blood and the Years" by Ragnarok and Orbit author John R. Fultz is an awesome article which justifies the price of purchase alone. This article talks about how grimdark is the reincarnation of the old Sword and Sorcery pulps of yesteryear, an idea I've had myself. I think there's numerous differences with them, not the least that grimdark tends to be more in-depth, but the literary roots are definitely present. Great article by THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE's author.

    The Vagrant by Peter Newman gets a review here and it paints a Lone Wolf and Cub-style storyline of a mute man wandering the post-apocalypse world with a goat as well as a child. It doesn't strike me as my kind of story but the review is well-done, pointing the ups and downs of such a story.

    I really enjoyed the interview with Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn, Wheel of Time) as he had some really good thoughts on grimdark and why it's necessary for fantasy to spread out. It's interesting that an author not really associated with the genre had such strong opinions on the subject.

    Conversely, the interview with Peter V. Brett (Demon Cycle) talks about his skepticism about whether grimdark is really a thing or not. According to him, very few authors deliberately set out to do grimdark and a few of them (Robin Hobb was his example)being cited as examples were ridiculous.

Fiction
 

    In Brazen Dreams by Matthew Ward is about shady characters converge on a powerful relic. This has a Warhammer 40K-style feel where technology of the old world is incredibly powerful, mysterious, and full of superstition. It is also a work with a delightful twist that shows, if you're going to betray someone, you need to do right. I really liked this short-story and the twist at the end was quite enjoyable.

    Ashes by Tara Calaby is best described as a feminist grimdark retelling of Cinderella with the titular character being re-imagined as a asexual (possibly lesbian) character who finds her state as Queen to be nightmarish along with the status requests of becoming a mother as well as wife. What follows is a slow, perhaps quick depending on how you measure things, descent into madness. This story made me rather uncomfortable, as it was meant to, and I'm not sure what to think of the ending other than to say, "girl needs some serious psychotherapy."

    Redemption Waits by Mike Brooks is set in his Keiko universe (Dark Run). It is a story of a robbery gone wrong in a very unique church/casino set in the far future. I give kudos to any story which assumes that My Little Pony will be one of the few pieces of media to survive across the millennium. This was a fun little story without much in the way of consequences and intrigued me about the author's greater works.

    A Steelhaven short story by Richard Ford, The Halfwyrd's Burden, is my favorite of the magazine's contents. A man pursuing a ruthless vigilante part of a Death-worshiping cult ends up discovering that, unfortunately (fortunately?), they're not quite talking out of their ass when they say their god is real. This is probably the best story of the magazine and really-really atmospheric.

    An excerpt from Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall is a story which goes in several unexpected directions. In the aftermath of a brutal civil war, an incompetent knight and his associates journey to a distant part of the countryside to deal with some obstinate locals. Things turn out to be not what they seem. The twist really surprised me given how incompetent the main character had been treated as throughout the tale.

    The Liar's Key by Mark Lawrence has an except where we follow our anti-hero dealing with some local trouble he's found himself in. It doesn't give us much insight into the fellow but just enough that I'm intrigued enough to pick it up.

    In conclusion, this is still a great magazine and everyone should pick it up who has any love of grimdark. My biggest complaint is there's not more of the magazine but you get what you pay for (and then some) at $2.99.

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