In my last poll, I humbly asked you, faithful readers, if you were reading anthologies. The results are in and it was a close call. 55% of the respondent said that they were doing so. With a margin that short, the conclusion write itself naturally, you either love them or you're indifferent to them... As I said, I'm among the non readers but judging by the comments you posted on the topic, there's several anthologies that seem worth our time, whether we read the whole thing or only a couple of short stories from it. Interesting...
As the title of my post evidently stated, this time I'm interested in your opinion on a new "style" or trend affecting many young and not so young authors of epic Fantasy in the last years, gritty, violent, morally ambiguous, full of anti-heroes or even to a certain degree dystopian Fantasy novels (although I know from past discussions that this last term should not be used slightly...). Gritty may not be the perfect term to encompass all these concepts but I'll still use it to summarize this particular fashion of Fantasy. The complete list of these elements can't be applied to the usual gritty Fantasy book but in the end, I think that they are all aspects of a more realistic Fantasy sub-genre.
When I say realistic, it's not simply in comparison with the real world we're living in or that we can learn about in history books when reading about the medieval era. I'm speaking of the feeling of authenticity that should come with the kind of worlds the authors create. The settings I'm relating to are characterized by warfare at the point of swords, nasty magic powers, political agenda where the greater good is not at the heart of concerns and harsh futures for the protagonists and their people. In these worlds, sex is not always seen as an act of passionate love, the prophetic or prodigal farm boy doesn't become Prince Charming the savior who surprisingly master magic, blasphemes are not censored, a sword thrust can lead to a graphic depiction of an organ being pulled out of a body and death is around the corner.
Hopefully, the characters living in these environments are usually anti-heroes becoming heroes despite themselves where the whole spectrum of morale finds its home (this is the best part for me without question). There's still a good share of pure good or pure evil individuals but they fit in more laboriously. What they experience, their actions and how they interact with each other within a gritty framework is more representative of a complex world centered on survival or personal needs and justification.
This sub-genre, in its modern age, certainly took its roots in series like the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donalson, Michael Moorcock's Elric, Glen Cook's Black Company and George R.R. Martin's aSoIaF. Then came Steven Erikson, Brian Ruckley and R. Scott Bakker, to name a few, who incorporated this trait into their epic tales, also adding, to a different degree, some philosophical thinking to the pattern. More recently, Joe Abercrombie, Richard Morgan, Mark Lawrence or Stephen Deas joined the group.
I read Fantasy mostly because I want to escape into another fantastical reality. Consequently, am I interested in that reality if I find it to be gritty? Yes I am, it's an interesting mix of imaginary creation and realistic interpretation, but I have to admit that I could never read only this kind of novel. What's important about this gritty wrapping found so often in epic Fantasy these days is the dose and the line that the author has to trace to avoid going too far. That's where a good gritty novel can really bring something to the genre.
You may dispute some of the names I have mentioned or the complete list of elements associated in general with gritty fiction that I chose to talk about but I'm sure you get my point and I'd love to hear you on the subject.
Do you like your Fantasy gritty?