It Gets Worse


A nice PSA (that’s Public Service Announcement for you non-Americans) for those of you suffering PTSD (that’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for you acronym-challenged folk) after reading George R. R. Martin’s “A Storm of Swords.”  I just finished it myself, and I’ll be on to “A Feast for Crows” soon enough.  Just as soon as I do some laundry… maybe wash the car… read something else, ANYTHING else.

Based on everything I’ve heard from friends and reviews, this pretty much sums up why I’m dragging my feet on it.  Spoiler alert, don’t watch if you’re not through book 3 yet.

Nitty Gritty, With a Side of Titty

Sand In My Fantasy

Watch out villains, there’s a new breed of fantasy sheriff in town, and they like to write dirty. Actually, villains need not beware at all. Chances are good they’re now the protagonist. Fantasy isn’t for heroes anymore, my friends. It’s gone and got all gritty on us.

George R. R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss, Mark Lawrence, and just about everyone else in this damn genre are all out there writing dark, gritty fantasy. Some of it’s good. Some of it’s even great. Some of it just feels dark for the sake of trying to be cool. Why write about an orphan who grows up to become a knight when you can write about an orphan who grows up to become a rapist? Knights are for pussies, everyone loves a good rapist hero! Oh, wait, no they don’t.

But the grittier style of fantasy is quite popular with the kids (and their parents) these days. Martin got a huge deal from HBO to turn his Song of Ice and Fire into a series. Of course, if you watch much HBO, you know that they’re not really known for happy-go-lucky romantic comedies, so it’s not a stretch to think they’d like all the blood and murder in his books. Also, they like lots of sex, and Martin delivers with the sexing. Dwarf sex, dragon sex, brother-on-sister action. You name it, he’s doin’ it. HBO loves that shit. Although it comes off a lot creepier when you imagine the old, bearded dude sitting at his keyboard pecking out that sex scene with the thirteen-year-old girl. HBO don’t love that so much, which is why they aged the characters up by several years.

The Dark Theme Rises

It’s not just books though. Consumers of all media seem to want things darker now. The Dark Knight, The Wire, The Shield, Breaking Bad, True Blood. Audiences have grown up some and decided we want some damn adult themes in our entertainment! Heck, I’m one of them. I don’t need to be fed weak stories and recycled plots. I don’t need characters in nothing but black and white. Give me shades of grey (just not fifty of them), I’m cool with that.

But I still like a happy ending. Or at least someone I can get behind. In the end, I still want someone to root for. Batman may be darker than his Avenger counterparts, but we can still root for him as the hero. Some of the newer fantasy seems to have no heroes at all. Hell, some don’t even have a damn protagonist you can pick out! Who the hell am I rooting for, Martin?! I guess with his books all you can root for is your favorite character not to die. Or die and then come back a zombie.

Readers loved that Martin had no mercy when it came to killing his characters. Until their favorite character (whom they secretly thought was safe from the axe) got the axe. Then it wasn’t so fun anymore. When you take the time to read a book or watch a show, you become invested in the characters. If anyone can die at any moment, you can’t really invest in anyone.

Yes, it makes it more like real life. One minute you’re headed for military service in exchange for denouncing your traitorous ways and the next your severed head is on a pike. That can happen to anyone. Yes, you can be shouting at your dwarf uncle one minute and choke on a pigeon pie and die in the next breath. That’s real life.  But what the fuck do I want to watch real life for?

We Don’t Need Another Hero

Heroic fantasy has fallen out of favor with a lot of readers, and many have picked up the grittier stuff in its place. I can’t say I blame them. I get a thrill reading something totally new and unique too, and some of the old tropes are just done to death. The problem now is that if everyone is doing a thing, it’s not new or unique anymore. Everyone is writing gritty now, so every author is doing their best to try and one up the last one. Martin had a pony rape a thirteen-year-old girl?! Well, I’ll show him! My guy’ll rape the damn pony! And then cut its head off! While he’s… raping it… Hmm… And he’s a vampire! Are those Twilight chicks into ponies too? Yes? This thing has awesome crossover potential!

I read a lot of the grittier fantasy. It’s hard to avoid it if you want to read the new releases in epic fantasy, really. And, like I said, some of it is really good. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the read.  But I still like a hero I can get behind. And not because I plan to stab him in the back, cut his belly open and feast on his entrails.

HBO would love that shit though.