Is There a Trend Toward Dark, Gritty Fantasy?

Tolkien, Brooks, and even Jordan, all write or wrote heroic fantasy that features a naive and innocent protagonist who becomes a great hero and defeats a dark evil lord.  That’s pretty standard heroic fantasy.  But I look at some of the more modern fantasy series, and I see a move toward a darker and grittier tone.

A Game of ThronesGeorge R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is probably the best example of this.  It began in the 1990s with A Game of Thrones and has yet to be finished.  He takes a long time to write.  Well, this series has nothing of the heroic fantasy series, except maybe dragons.  There seems to be no innocence.  Everyone has a dark side. There’s a lot of violence, sex, and an incredible amount of very graphic death.  Martin kills so many characters, no one is safe.  Major characters die! Even the good people aren’t entirely good. And the antagonists seem to have some humanity.

gardensofthemoonAnother series is The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson.  In the first novel, Gardens of the Moon, also written in the 1990s, we get another vast cast of characters that has the reader briefly confused.  They are also all varying shades of grey, though there is a bit of an evil in this one.  Any innocence is shattered completely, as this is a brutally violent series with many deaths.  And this world has non-human races that are completely unique.  It’s an original world that doesn’t seem to borrow from the old heroic fantasy.  What I liked is that you never really knew who was good and who was bad.  Like in war, it’s a lot of people on both sides just following orders.

wizardsfirstruleI’m including Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth in this for one reason only, the evil antagonist is unlike any I’ve seen in heroic fantasy.  Don’t get me wrong, this is actually quite typical heroic fantasy, and our bad guy is truly evil, but this crosses a line that you rarely ever see crossed in heroic fantasy.  Let’s just say that the rapes are rather disgusting.  While the heroes are on a typical heroic quest, the villain is doing unspeakable things that felt so out of place.

What do you think?  Is there a trend toward the dark and gritty in fantasy?


The Great White Spot of Ceres

Dawn is approaching Ceres.  In just over a month, on March 6th, Dawn will enter orbit around the largest asteroid and one of the so-called dwarf planets.  It’s 952 km in diameter, which is pretty big for an object that isn’t quite a planet.  It’s relatively spherical, as well.

There are many mysteries that will be addressed as Dawn orbits Ceres, including whether it may have a possible liquid water ocean lurking beneath its icy crust, and if it’s venting water vapour into a possible tenuous atmosphere.  But the big thing that many people are wondering is what’s that bright spot?

PIA19168-Ceres-DawnSpacecraft-20150113-AnimationThe above animation was captured by Dawn on January 13th, 2015, and this is the best view we had of Ceres up to that date.  There are evidently impact craters.  The bright spot is easily visible in the images.  But what is it?  Is it fresh ice from a liquid ocean below?  Or is it a recent impact crater?  Either one is possible, but my guess is that it’s a fresh crater.  What’s wonderful is that we’ll know very soon.

jan25-dawn-ceresAnd looking at the most recent image from January 25th, we get an even clearer view.

What do you think that bright spot is?