When grimdark is too grim and too dark

Grimdark is popular these days. This did not begin with Game of Thrones but it certainly encouraged writers to consider more fatalistic story telling. It seems everyone wants to be gritty and serious and while it can work, I think it often falls flat.

Life is almost never truly grimdark. It can feel that way at times but even when we are on our deathbeds, it is often human nature to face the long night with humour. Setbacks hurt, but they tend to hurt more when we were genuinely hopeful of success.

I think this is often a problem with Grimdark. For the kick to really hurt, there had to be a realistic hope that the outcome would be positive. When the fifth awful thing happens in a row, not only can it seem trivial due to the existing situation, it becomes expected. Relentless grimdark is predictable and there were points in Game of Thrones (TV at least, I’ve not read the books) where I honestly lost interest due to how expected some of the deaths became.

It can also lead to unsympathetic characters. People surviving in grimdark universes are often shown at their worst. We don’t see the bright points of their personalities and the humour that often exists in real life is rarely present.

I want to use Star Gate Atlantis as a counter example. Bear with me, it’s a good one, I promise and if this is as geeky as you think this blog is going to get, wait till I put on my weeaboo glasses.

Star Gate Atlantis is not grimdark. It’s an adventure show using a plot of the week structure. One of the characters in the show is called Rodney McKay and he was there primarily as an engine for humour. He was awkward, arrogant and neurotic but ultimately sympathetic and entertaining. Over several series they built up another character, Katie, who was attracted to him despite his flaws. She was shown to have a seemingly endless supply of patience.

In season 4 there was an episode called Quarantine. In this episode, Mckay was trapped with Katie as the base went into lock-down. His neurosis and paranoia went into overdrive and over the episode, bit by bit, he finally managed to wear her down. What had been a cute ‘not quite relationship’ failed in a genuinely heart wrenching way. It was powerful because it had started on a high. Had Atlantis been a ‘grimdark’ show like the failed Stargate Universe (Apologies, I know it has its fan) then the effect would have been far less potent. If we didn’t like Mckay and didn’t care about him, this scene wouldn’t have been that memorable.

Grimdark can of course work. There have been several spectacular examples recently and it’s that success that draws so many people towards it, but I fear many looking to emulate that success are missing the pitfalls. Grimdark is not a style to be attempted loosely or you end up with Star Trek Discover (Apologies to the Star Trek Discovery fan as well!)

Cherry and Rosa Hazelwood, Supernatural Detectives

It’s no secret that I have been working on a novel for the last five months. In fact, if you count the time i spent writing short stories in preparation, I have been at it for almost a year.

The plan always went write the first draft, produce a second draft and send it out for feedback. Produce a third draft and then…something.

That something is a hard question. Do I self publish? (probably) do I try and go the more traditional publishing route? (I suspect not) do I burn it in an industrial incinerator and hope everyone forgets how bad it was? Well, fingers crossed its not that bad.

But that’s where we are. is it any good? What route should I pursue based on it’s quality and could it be moved up the chain from Incinerator to Self publish to Traditional Publishing with more work?

This is my first attempt at a novel. I am a new Writer. I do have a support network but its not enormous and I have little knowledge on what I should do when I decide that’s it. This is the final draft. It’s time to go.


After discussion with a friend considering a similar path, I decided I should open up the first few chapters of my work to open criticism. This should help me get feedback on what needs to improve but if people enjoy it perhaps it will also help me get a little attention. If it feels a little bit like shilling, I cannot deny there is an element of that but I am a complete unknown, and my end goal is to entertain, so, hopefully everyone wins. I get advice to improve and you discover a potential work you might like in future.

Regardless of anything, whether you read the first paragraph and stop, whether you don’t read it at all but took the time to read this post, I appreciate it. New writing is produced everyday and the number of self published works on Amazon is staggering. As hard as I’ve worked to reach this stage, it feels like it is only the beginning. At least if I want this to be more than a self satisfied anecdote where i can proclaim “I wrote a novel you know!”

So! What of the book, What of the three chapters I am offering up?

It is a tale of two were fox detectives taking inspiration from the likes of The Dresden Files, World of Darkness and a number of other sources. It is Urban Fantasy at heart, a genre I enjoy and need to read more of. I offer a short, inexpertly written blurb below.


Setting up a detective agency seemed like a good idea. It required no qualifications, modest initial costs and demand was only growing as the supernatural world merged with the mundane. Unfortunately, a series of overlooked costs, the fact that people expect supernatural detectives to be mages and sudden, unexpected competition, meant that the predicted rocky start has become downright hazardous. Fortunately, Cherry and Rosa are shifters, a race of were-creatures with powerful senses that can help compensate for their lack of training, but if they don’t get a good case soon, none of that will matter and they will have no choice but to close the office.


I am offering the first 3 chapters but if there is demand ill post the fourth as well. Any feedback is welcome be that ‘I enjoyed it’, ‘I thought it was rubbish’ or ‘I only read stories written in second person presented in future tense’


Rosa&Cherry HazelWood Supernatural Detectives 1-3

To stand before Eternity

So something I am considering doing is regular(ish) Writing prompts. These are story titles or suggestions that people post of Reddit for people to base short stories on.


This one was [WP] You decide to actually touch something in a museum now unfortunately if you write for an already popular writing prompt your story might not be seen as it below a lot of other stories. If you write for a fresh one you won’t really know if its popular by the time you finish. as a result, it might mean this is the only story written for this prompt (and this is the case at time of posting)

To stand before Eternity

I was not sure whether there really was a word to describe it, well…Black obviously, but that didn’t seem enough, it wasn’t just black, it seemed to absorb light from the surroundings, releasing none in return. The object was so dark that it appeared completely two dimensional, no definition at all, which honestly gave me shivers as I walked around it.


I was not the only one with an obsession with the sphere, half the room seemed to be crowded next to it but then it was interesting for more than just its color.


Eons was an unusual place, technically a museum, it was built on a geostationary asteroid forced into orbit around the moon Titan. Where most museums exhibited the past rather than the present, Eons essentially did both at the same time.

Visiting Eons was eye-wateringly expensive, something not really surprising when you consider that each of the exhibits still exist in their original periods. The glass cases here were not really glass and the exhibits were tiny pieces of reality warped to be in synch with the object on show. That 12th-century vase really was here in front of me but it was also simultaneously in the 12th century.


I adjusted one of the pods in my ear. It had taken almost 3 years working maintenance on a hotel ship just to afford my entrance fee and I wasn’t about to waste it. Life was…kind of difficult for most people, there weren’t a lot of jobs and those that did exist were usually dirty and dangerous. I had kind of an obsession with the past, it just seemed so romantic compared to today. I wondered sometimes what it might be like to just work behind a desk or stand with a roman army, you know, as opposed to reducing the oxygen levels in my room to 80% to save money.

“The sphere is by far the most unique item in Eons” stated the voice in my ear, I could hardly believe that a museum this modern would still use ear pods for the audio tour but I guess you have to save money somewhere.

“As we have described previously the process for syncing areas of space is more art than science. Locating objects to put on show is done by skilled archivers. The ‘Sphere’, as it has been named, is to date the only object we have managed to retrieve from the future, an act widely considered impossible”


Wasn’t it ironic? My love of the past brought me here but look, here I am, obsessed with the only thing from the future.

“The spheres purpose is unknown, theorized to perhaps be some kind of future energy source, it is so dense, so heavy, that it defies measurement. It captures all light directed at it, even hawking radiation. Unfortunately, the object is too dangerous to study beyond basic measurements”


It wasn’t just light or ‘hawking radiation’ it attracted, it was attention. I guess I couldn’t blame myself for being so fascinated with this mystery object, I mean…so was everyone else.

Suddenly without warning, the lights went out. I could sense a feeling of panic in the air as people began to make uncomfortable noises, me? power cuts were almost a weekly event back on the Hotel, I really struggled to understand how they made money sometimes. As I expected, a few moments later, the emergency lights came on. A baleful red glow which cast sinister shadows across the room.


I looked around the sense of unease almost a physical force, additionally, a number of people were heading quietly to the door. Most people here I guess were pretty rich, the entrance fee wasn’t such a barrier to them and this was not something they were used to…still fewer people meant I could see better even if all the exhibits were bathed in crimson light.


Except the sphere, it remained unchanged.

The sphere captured red light just as effectively as white. The black surface remained perfect, exactly as it had been before. Somehow it seemed…more sinister, more than could be justified by the red light, there was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.


“Alright this way please” came a calm voice “We will refund half your fee or let you in tomorrow for free, just see Amber at the reception”


I looked back to see a youngish looking man in blue overalls, I guess people were being filtered out…It didn’t bother me though I wanted to stay. I spun round to look at the sphere one last time before leaving and my eyes widened slightly.


There was a ripple across its surface…It was slight, barely noticeable but the darkest black you can imagine would stand out like the sun against this things surface. Then another…then another…


I gasped as I noticed something else, the security grid preventing access to the sphere was disabled. All the little lights that ran up its surface waiting to project an electrostatic barrier to anyone who got top close had switched from green to red.


I…Honestly don’t know what got into me. I moved forward and flipped the lid. I think someone was shouting at me? It’s hard to say, it felt like time was moving slower, like the world itself was muted. I extended my arm, slowly, driven on by some unknown need and touched it.


Touched was the wrong word. How can you touch something like that, I had focused on the orb so hard it almost took a moment to realize that the whole world had gone that perfect black. I looked down…I wasn’t there. I couldn’t see myself, I couldn’t see anything, just…nothing…just this eternal void.


Slowly…I don’t really know how to describe it but my eyes started to adjust…something came into focus. I started to spot little plays of light, sparking around me, little waves of energy that grew and faded in the darkness.


I frowned slightly…thinking I had heard a voice and looked around…There was still nothing there.


Another wave of energy caught my ‘eye’…wait. I frowned hard thinking back to some of my failed Astromech classes…was…was that a quark? There was another burst of energy to my left and then just in front. They were getting more frequent and reality as far as I could see was beginning to get brighter…the blackness was becoming awash in subtle colors, reds, yellows though mostly white.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing” shouted an angry voice. I was in the room again. Someone had pulled me back from the orb…my finger hurt, oh god, did my finger hurt and the orb…oh…it wasn’t just rippling, it was starting to glow and a few others had started to take notice.

Suddenly something clicked “Wait…n…no it couldn’t be” I said completely unable to hide a rising panic


The man gave me an odd look “You’re lucky you did not die, and frankly by the time we turn you over to the solar patrol you probably will wish you were”


I shook my head angrily and grabbed his overalls “The Patrol?…d…don’t you see what it is?…t..they were right….they…the great crunch…the”


The man ignored me and shouted back towards the entrance “Something is happening with the sphere, Can we get the shields back up? I don’t want to have to get it disconnected, we will never get it back again”


“It’s the universe!” I was babbling now, don’t you see “It’s the /entire universe/…Carl Friedrich was right…the universe it’s…it’s going to collapse into a single dense point and there will be another big bang…” I point at the orb in panic “Can’t you see?..t…that is a bomb with all the energy in the entire…”


I didn’t get to finish my sentence, the world went white for a second and there was pain, more pain. I had been struck by some kind of taser and had collapsed to my knees groaning

“Can’t get the shields back up Al, these energy readings are off the charts, they are screwing up the equipment”


The man gives an annoyed noise “Fuck, well…better evacuate just in case. Give the order and call security over for this idiot”

And so, I found myself, hands trussed behind my back. My hand hurt so bad, my stomach felt burned where I’d been electrocuted. I was being slowly marched away from a boiling, perfect white sphere. So perfect it seemed almost 2 dimensional, so bright that it burned your eyes to look at and as I walked away from it, it gave me more than shivers.