On his tumblr, Steven Attewell was asked what he thought of Grimdark. His answer deserves being quoted in full:
Let me just say at the outset, I used to LOVE grimdark. Huge fan of Warhammer (both 40k and Fantasy), read all of the “groundbreaking, adult” graphic novels of the late 80s/90s, bought as many of White Wolf’s RPG books as I could, even if I almost never got to play them, and so on and so forth. But, and I don’t mean this at all in a condescending way, I matured out of it. This stuff that had spoke to me when I was a teenager was less appealing now that I’m in my early 30s.
A lot of this of this comes from the way that my personality works. I’m fundamentally an academic and a policy wonk and a reformer, which means when I see a bad situation either in real life or in media, my mind immediately goes to how it could be fixed, how it can be improved - I look at Westeros and start thinking about economic development plans, after all. Grimdark, however, requires stasis in order to maintain mood and atmosphere and setting:
“Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be re-learned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war.”You can see the contradiction there.
Another big part of this is my realization, after a while, that grimdark is ultimately just as as sterile and fomulaic and predictable as its opposite. If the universe is always doomed, if the bad guys are always going to win, then there’s no dramatic tension, no possibility of surprise or innovation beyond a point.
One of the truths I feel I’ve stumbled across over the years is that the essence of good storytelling isn’t found in extremes, but in variation. No matter whether it’s grimdark or its opposite, too much of the same thing leads to habituation and a decrease in effectiveness. The result is either apathy or a constant arms-race of intensity that eventually becomes ridiculous.