The Importance of the Impossible
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Why all the Darkness? An Explanation for the rise of Grimdark

Posted by A.E. Marling in Uncategorized

Fantasy author Marsha A. Moore has agreed to reprint her article on the trend toward darker fantasy, originally seen on The Speculative Salon. Moore is on a blog tour to celebrate the release of Staurolite, book four in her Enchanted Bookstore Legends series of epic-fantasy romance. Enchantress Hiresha would approve of the name of her novel, which is a rare, cross-shaped gemstone.

Much of fantasy written today is darker in nature than what was popular in the 1950s and earlier. Most often that trend is attributed to harder economic times with literature acting as a mirror of our collective economic well-being. The darker turn in fantasy/sci-fi is a sign of changes in our society. Technological optimism ended with the destructive force of the atomic bomb in 1945. Since then, darker themes took precedence, like with Moorcock’s works of the 1960s.
Our culture has been bombarded by constant negative TV news, so dark fiction is appropriate, mirroring those trends. China’s economy is currently optimistic, and they have positive Sci-fi.

Generations have become more accustomed to darker fantasies, as well as more societal
problems, so what was viewed as ‘dark’ once, is no longer perceived to be that unhappy. We’ve
embraced dark in fiction so completely, ‘happy’ is no longer trusted as real.

But beyond those trends, I’ve often wondered about the social implications of this shift in
fantasy content. Recently, I read an interesting article by Diane Wing, entitled “Embrace the
Darkness Within,” published in OM Times Magazine. That article helped answer my question.
She claims we need to embrace the dark side in order to survive.

“The dark side of humanity need not be evil; it is a source of power just as love is. The dark force energies allow us to defend, to avoid negativity, to prevent injustice, and to remove energies that do not serve us on our path. Love can create brightness and the dark forces can create personal power that when embraced, acknowledged, and honed, can show us the way to stand up for what we believe and to come more fully into ourselves.”

Not dark so much as epic

This can be likened to the balance of Yin and Yang, masculine and feminine. We each possess light and dark within our natures to different degrees. Exploring both of those sides in the controlled environment of a fantasy story provides a safe means for an individual to learn about himself/herself and be more in tune to that balance. Opening to that delivers powerful knowledge of the self, providing the impetus for personal development and self-improvement. The darkness serves as a catalyst for growth. The darkness is only detrimental when you choose to stay within it and not strive for the glimmer of light that waits on the other side. The darkness of fantasy fiction helps us to reject that which is not appropriate to our well-being and serves to show us where we need development.

Additionally, writing fantasy fiction with attention to dark forces makes the story more believable, one a reader can relate to more easily. According to Wing, “Even love has its dark side, such as jealousy or hatred, while darkness has its light by way of defending and protecting. Everything is a blend. Nothing is pure. We are a mixture of all energies. This gives us depth and the ability to create in a multitude of ways.” Allowing our fantasy characters to embrace that depth adds richness to the writing.

While darker fantasy plots and characters do reflect our economy and remind us of hardships, there is a greater good that lies within this trend—a balance of light and dark.


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