When Grimdark Magazine released in 2014, it was the recognition of a need for a short fiction forum in the niche subgenre of Grimdark, which has been steadily growing in popularity over the last decade. The mission of the magazine is to promote “the darker, grittier side of fantasy and science fiction.” So how does that mission hold up? Well, we hope to answer that here on Grimdark Alliance via a continuing review series starting with issue one and extending into the far future. I am joined by Alexandru and Leona and we will take turns to bring you our thoughts on all released issues.
There’s a lot of content in the pages of the first issue so let me first talk about the short fiction. There are five short stories in the issue. My favorite two are Bad Seed by Mark Lawrence and The Neutral by Mike Gelprin, Translated by Anatoly Belilovsky. Bad Seed, for those that may be familiar with Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire trilogy, is the backstory of brother Red Kent, how he ran from his past life, and how he met brother Jorg and joined the road brothers. It was well done and helped to satisfy a rather constant urge I have for more stories in the Broken Empire. The story can be read and enjoyed by those who have not yet read Mark’s trilogy. The Neutral is a rather different tale, much more sci-fi, and is the story of a person whom is protected by an organization called ‘The Brotherhood’ to be a neutral mediator in hostile situations like kidnappings and ransom exchanges. It was really a facinating and creative story and a real strength to this issue.
The further stories in the issue are Shadow Hunter by Adrian Tchaikovsky, The Woman I Used to Be by Gerri Leen, and The Red Wraith by Nicholas Wisseman. Shadow Hunter is a short story in the world of Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series and features Gaved, a freelance Wasp-kinden, in an interesting fantasy setting where people have thier nature shaped based on the totem of Insect-kinden they are. I am not familiar with the Shadows of the Apt series so I was rather lost with the explaination behind both the setting and the source of the main character’s power. The story was well writen however and I’m sure fans of that series would enjoy what the story adds to that world, it just didn’t fit well with me personally. The Woman I Used to Be was a good and very trippy science fiction short story. The story is about a woman whom has memory loss due to a tramatic event. As she attempts to recover, a satisfying and, of course, grimdark-esque twist put an interesting backspin on the story. The Red Wraith was actually a flash fiction piece. I was rather pleased to find flash included as that is a personal short fiction preferance of mine. The piece was mysterious and had both strong word economy and choice. A short but quality addition to the issue.
The short fiction in GdM #1 is complimented by one article, two interviews, and one review. The article Grimdark: It’s Here to Stay by Layla Cummins attempts to define the grimdark subgenre and why she personally believes the genre will become a staple rather than a passing fancy in the realm of speculative fiction. The magazine interviews Joe Abercrombie, author of the First Law trilogy, and Graham McNeill, whom is a regular contributor to the Warhammer universe at The Black Library. Both are high quality and popular grimdark authors. The magazine asks them thier thoughts on the grimdark sub-genre, some of the projects they are working on, and thier feelings towards short fiction and the future of the genre. The review is Kyle Massa’s thoughts on Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King, the first in a YA grimdark series set in a very different style and setting than Abercrombie fans are used to.
Overall, I was very pleased with Grimdark Magazine’s first issue. I felt that the short fiction was strong and I was happy with the decision to add in the other content. The interviews were compelling and the article and review were both well written. My only grievance with the issue was the way each item flowed from one thing to the next. The flow is fine if you intend to take a break in between each item, but if you intend on reading in one sitting you may find the feelings a story has left you may not blend well with the fact piece that comes next or even the next short story that gives a different feel. Its a small grievance, but again, this is the first issue so we will have to see if this is a thing in the issues to come. I have a lot of hope for this magazine. I am pleased to see so much talent come together under the grimdark banner and I hope that the magazine will continue to grow and develop. This first issue is very strong, I’m excited to see what comes next.