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Home of Authors Stefan M. Nardi, Jacob S. Nardi, and Damian Jeffrey

Battle of the Sub-Genres: Noblebright vs Grimdark

I have always loved fantasy. SciFi and thrillers are great, but fantasy will always be my one true love. I read pretty broadly in the genre too. From sprawling epics like the Wheel of Time, to nice quick urban fantasy reads, I like a mixture. One thing I have come across in the past year or two is the rise of two new sub-genres; grimdark and noblebright.

The two terms originally came about in the gaming community and eventually expanded to book genres. Grimdark and noblebright have both been around for a fair while, but the terms have become more widely spread and more prominent over the past year or two. Thanks to some stellar authors like Mark Lawrence, Joe Abercrombie, and Miles Cameron, grimdark has by far become the more popular and widely used term. What exactly is encompassed within each of the sub-genres can be pretty vague and whether a book is considered grimdark or noblebright will vary depending on who you ask. I think C.J. Brightley put it best in her article on Noblebright.org:

GRIMDARK

The notion that the actions of one person can do little to improve this world in decline, that the forces of evil and inertia and temptation will ensure that all of us are doomed. The best we can hope for is a little struggle with morally ambiguous heroes to oppose danger and maybe rescue for a brief time a few others.

NOBLEBRIGHT

The notion that the actions of one person can make a difference, that even if the person is flawed and opposed by strong forces, he can (and wants to) rise to heroic actions that, even if they may cost him his life, improve the lives of others.

One thing that I have come to realize, is that a lot of people seem to think that you have to choose one or the other. Fans of grimdark will often slander noblebright saying that it is all just unicorns and rainbows and fans of noblebright will do the same of grimdark (obviously without the rainbows and unicorns. If someone can write a grimdark book with rainbows and unicorns in it, I would be seriously impressed). I see people insisting that if you like one, you cannot like the other. And I hear this from both authors and readers. But I’ve never understood why.

Both grimdark and noblebright are fantastic sub-genres and both have their place. I have books in both genres that I love. Miles Cameron’s ‘The Red Knight’ is a great book that I absolutely loved reading. Yes, it can be a bit dark and yes it can be violent, but it’s a great book. Even though I haven’t gotten to the other books in the series yet, I’ve already bought most of them and they are sitting on my shelf glaring at me. I also love Chris Riddel and Paul Stewarts ‘The Edge Chronicles.’ They are brilliant examples of noblebright and they definitely don’t have unicorns and rainbows in them and I have loved them since I first found them when I was a teenager.

And that is what really bugs me about this. I get that people have different tastes and like reading different things but given the broad range in both sub-genres, I’m sure if people gave it a try, they’d find something to enjoy in both.

Anyway, that’s the end of my mini-rant. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Drop me a comment below and tell me what you think!

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8 Comments

  1. Kat

    Hitting the nail on the head 😉

  2. CaZ

    I’m with you Stefan – I love both genres and both have the ability to help me get through various trying moments in my life.

  3. Some people have to define themselves by something, whether it be a sports team or a philosophy. And some of those who do this insist on believing that their way is the only way and will fight to the death for their right, and their right only, for the world to be like this.

    In other words, intolerance and stonewall-thick bloody mindedness.

    We can only hope these people gain wisdom and realize what jerks they are.

  4. Don

    “If someone can write a grimdark book with rainbows and unicorns in it, I would be seriously impressed”
    In 1224 Genghis Khan was poised to conquer India. Behind him he had left mountains of skulls from anyone who opposed him. It was truly a GrimDark
    time for those who chanced to catch his attention. However … Genghis was a true believer in omens – and would consult with his advisers as to what the omens might mean. This is significant because at the Buzgala Pass Genghis met a unicorn which he saw as a sign of divine protection of India. Now today we recognise the unicorn as being a rhinoceros, and yet it was this encounter which caused Genghis to spare India and lead his armies against the Tanguts (modern day Jiangsu).

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