The Glorious 25th May, how do they rise up?
I love the dynamic in the Discworld fandom on this site, I think it's mainly because there are a lot of dormant fans, if you will, who've read and loved the books for years but haven't engaged much recently, who sort of reappear whenever a fun post is doing the rounds. It's fantastic. We get the cozy small fandom vibe without the screaming matches, but also get the popular posts from time to time, y'know?
YEP. In fact for some people it’s Emotions Day right now.
To everyone tagging and commenting with some variation of “Oh, I almost forgot that it’s tomorrow!”“Damn! Damn! Damn! Every year he forgot. Well, no. He never forgot. He just put the memories away like old silverware that you didn’t want to tarnish. And every year they came back, sharp and sparkling, and stabbed him in the heart. And today, of all days...”
That’s so very meta of you.
The author’s biography doesn’t always tell you anything terribly significant about a literary work, but when I think about the fact that Sir Thomas Malory, the compiler of the most well known English-language literary interpretation of the Arthurian myth cycle, was a double-dealing knight who fought on both sides of the War of the Roses, was repeatedly charged with horse thievery, escaped from prison or skipped bail at least five times, and evidently made himself so obnoxious to those in power that he was specifically excluded by name from a general pardon of prisoners on two separate occasions – an accomplishment in which he is, to the best of my knowledge, unequalled – well, that tends to suggest a certain interpretive lens, is what I mean to say.
I had to look up lots and lots of things in Moby Dick. I was pretty skeptical of all the “whale facts” in that book after an early chapter where he lists the various types of whales and includes about forty that sound totally made up (“quog whale”, “grampus whale,” “sulphur-bottom whale”, “junk whale”, “thrasher whale”, “pudding-headed whale”, “scragg whale” etc), and also included dolphins.
How-some-ever, everything else I looked up turned out to be totally true, to the point where I decided Melville MUST have gone on a whaling ship as part of his research. So I looked up his biography!
My dude Herman was born in aristocratic wealth until his father blew it all and they became impoverished, and he did indeed go off to sea on a whaling ship. Then he deserted in Polynesia and lived with the natives for a year before signing up on another whaling ship, where he promptly joined the crew in a mutiny and got thrown in jail for it. He escaped and lived as a beachcomber and “island rover” while personally battling God/having an intense spiritual crisis. Then he went home to New England, became a celebrated author and dinner party guest on the strength of thinly fictionalized retellings of his adventures, and fell shatteringly in love with Nathaniel Hawthorne.
So uh yeah sometimes an author’s biography can really illuminate the work.
What I love most about Sir Malory is that he is so un-chivalric that some interpreters have spent a great deal of time trying to convince the world that this must be the wrong Thomas Malory!*
*See William Matthews The Ill-Framed Knight: A Skeptical Enquiry into the Identity of Sir Thomas Malory or Richard R. Griffith’s essay ‘The Authorship Question Reconsidered: A Case for Sir Thomas Malory of Papworth St Agnes, Cambridgeshire’
I’m not sure what my favourite part of that whole discourse is: the tortured efforts to explain away the Winchester manuscript literally saying “yeah, the author wrote this in prison” as metaphorical or something, or the fact that there’s a reasonable case to be made that the most popular alternative candidate for the Le Morte’s authorship was also into brigandage of some description.
Wait, wait, wait.
“fell shatteringly in love with Nathaniel Hawthorne”?
How are we not talking about this?
We are talking about it, this is just how conversations with bi people are
You’re not wrong!
You know it’s funny, but I come across stuff like this:
And I laugh bitterly because YOU KNOW WHO PENALIZES ME IF I DON’T ADD THAT SHIT?
This is like. An awareness of fucking YEARS. It is hard won. It is won from metaphorical blood. I have had conflict with men, sure. But actually them I’ve always been able to push through or neutralize.
The people who decide they don’t like my attitude, who decide I’m bossy and pushy and that’s a problem and a grudge they’re going to HOLD AGAINST ME?
Always been women.
So maybe as part of this whole idea something at least SOME women need to do is decide not to PUNISH other women who don’t hedge everything they say to YOU with this. Just a thought.
Exactly. There is no-one with whom I will be more careful about language and tone than a woman in a senior role, which is absolute self-defence reflex.
And also - I've said this before - phrases like these are tools in the toolbox.
Like, sometimes you find yourself in a position where you're the only person who understands $thing, and you want to communicate that understanding in a way that doesn't make anyone else feel like shit for not getting it straight off, maybe because they're good people and you like them and they do fine at their own jobs and have different strengths to you. And that's when you soften your language like this. When you want them to know they can come back and ask if it still didn't quite click, without feeling silly about it. Otherwise you don't have a team supporting you any more, you have a bunch of people who think you're up yourself, and also are fucking shit up because they're afraid to ask for clarification.
I am frequently caustic as fuck in my work, but I retain a reputation for being helpful and nice to work with because I target that shit. (Twice last week, men I had been caustic at came back and thanked me later.)
I am baffled at how one gets from 'some women reflexively blunt their edges in circumstances where sharpness would help' to 'no woman anywhere should ever soften her language'.
Plus also as someone else said in their reblog, and are quite right: sometimes I don’t know if I managed to make it make sense. Communication is hard! People - ironically here in the other direction especially women I’ve worked with - often have this impulse to pretend they understood a thing when it made no sense and are floundering and desperately want the opportunity from me to imply that I won’t think they’re stupid if they didn’t get it!
And sometimes it matters if that’s okay.
But yeah at the core of it is also: like, the reason I have this tic even in the way that the post MEANT it? the reason I do sometimes automatically hedge and blunt and make myself small?
Almost always because when I didn’t, in the past, another woman with authority over me made me pay for it. That’s who labelled me as “pushy” and “bossy” and “a know-it-all” and “impossible to get along with”. That’s who told me (a woman, to be clear) that I took up too much space, that I was causing conflict, that I wasn’t nice or humble or kind or deferential or quiet enough. And so on.
And that’s just really twinging for me again lately for Reasons That Do Not Need Exploring At This Juncture. I literally never felt like I needed to hyper-check myself and hold myself back until I entered a woman-dominated academic space.
And then, whooooo boy.
I also feel like there is another level of sexism here in that, well, why do we think being blunt and assertive is ‘better’ than using hedging language to make people around us more comfortable? Every so often, I’ll read stuff like this talking about how women use a lot more ‘softening’ language than men, and it’s framed as a deficit of confidence and assertiveness among women. But...why do we think men are doing it ‘right’ and women aren’t?
Yes, it’s important not to treat people badly for communicating in a more ‘assertive’ manner. But it doesn’t have to be universally seen as a sign someone is making themselves small
sick of hearing about "healing crystals" that "cleanse your mind and body of negative energy" i want to know which rocks can hurt you and fuck up your vibe so bad
everyone suggesting uranium isn't wrong but anyone who said "literally any rock if you're willing to resort to violence" are the only people who can get on my level. you're hired.
okay which fandom that sprung up out of nowhere overnight like mushrooms after rain is this a reference to i can't keep up anymore
oh you meant like. that guy from the bible who invented murder. right.
my favorite video game quest trope is "HELP US, THEY ARE STEALING OUR ANCIENT ARTIFACT. THANK YOU FOR HELPING US, AS A REWARD YOU MAY HAVE OUR ANCIENT ARTIFACT"
the ancient artifact was less important than having agency in its distribution
Nothing is more important than keeping it out of the hands of the British museum
idea: scene with two characters eagerly stripping each other clearly about to bone, but they keep getting interrupted by finding carefully concealed weapons in each other’s clothing, so they keep just unholstering, revealing and unstrapping increasingly ludicrous amounts of hidden guns and knives as the clothes come off, and it’s lowkey killing the mood a little
Alternatively: it's not killing the mood at all but it's totally making both of them giggle like they're twelve and possibly get lowkey competitive in a subconscious way about who has the most to drop.
The more that I think of it the more I'm seeing the incredible intimacy of letting someone know where you keep your backup knife.
Like my god, the trust involved in letting someone undress you and learn your secrets instead of popping into the bathroom to change where they can't see and hiding all your weapons under the sink
second alternative: you go to hide all your weapons under the sink but there’s already a bunch of weapons hidden underneath the sink.
It’s not that there’s already a bunch of weapons hidden underneath the sink that makes it awkward so much as that there’s so many weapons hidden underneath the sink that they fall out of the cabinet with the unmistakable sound of a knife-alanche, and then the other person comes in like “I can explain!” and you’re just dead-ass standing there with your own armload of weapons like “I can also explain.”
Married version is shoving your hand in your partner’s clothes when you’re out of weapons because you KNOW where their spare is. Or wearing a weapon in a spot you can’t draw from yourself because its now spare storage for your spouse’s weapons.
Every single one of you is a genius
Update 2 someone needs to understand that typing fingers are not for chewing on. https://www.instagram.com/p/CdydQ_7pzVk/?igshid=NGJjMDIxMWI=
Update she got up but I lingered to tell discord I was going to do things and she came back. https://www.instagram.com/p/CdycLtXJIPC/?igshid=NGJjMDIxMWI=
I’m trapped. https://www.instagram.com/p/CdybfhoJBCu/?igshid=NGJjMDIxMWI=
From tags: #also—from the original post—you know there can be grimdark tragedies....right? tell me you know that
I mean, the position being taken by that post is that essentially no, there aren’t. There can be grimdark stories where everyone dies, but the post is positioning a binary for stories where bad things happen and/or people die at the end:
* if TRAGEDY, then CATHARTIC and GOOD
*if GRIMDARK, then NOT cathartic and LAZY/BAD
In this categorization, as the original post used it, to be “grimdark” is to inherently be without artistic or emotional worth; “tragedy” is instead the category that includes “stories where very bad things happen and ‘a happy ending’ is utterly denied, but have artistic and emotional worth”.
So if something is a tragedy, it is by definition not grimdark! Because the two are mutually exclusive: the “tragedy” category is the category for dark stuff that is Good and Useful (by the measure of the OP) and “grimdark” is the category for dark stuff that is Bad and Lazy (by the same measure), and the claimed measure is “the purpose of tragedy is catharsis”.*
[*as another reply pointed out: this very part is another area of “speak for yourself” - while yes this was Aristotle’s distillation of the social “purpose” of tragoidia, there are a) all sorts of reasons we shouldn’t take him at his word or as an absolute authority even for his own time and place and b) even if we did, that’s talking about Hellenistic plays in Hellenistic times and is very culturally specific]
My original point was that this division, this supposed quality of “this makes a tragedy (which is good) and this makes a grimdark thing (which is bad)” doesn’t work: that even if you accept this as the defining feature (see problems mentioned above) you (whoever “you” are) don’t actually get to make categorical statements about what has and does not have emotional or artistic worth to other people, and if you’re using the concept of “catharsis” as the One Critical Thing that makes a story where terrible things happen artistically and emotionally “okay” or “valuable”, then I personally can promise you that there are people who find the most egregious offenders among what most people think of as “grimdark” deeply cathartic, so that no, this is not the dividing line you (general you) want if you’re trying to divide tragedy (”good”) from grimdark (”bad/lazy”).
If that is your definition, then you cannot claim that Game of Thrones (the usual Archetypical Example) is grimdark, because I promise you there are people who find it cathartic and that’s why they watched it.
That there are even queer women! who find it so!
Indeed reason I made the pornography reference is that this is basically the same as any binary someone tried in the 90s (or previously, but my formative experience of both first encountering this attempt at division and discovering it was bullshit was in the 90s) about books or other works that contained relatively explicit sex: that there was EROTICA (which was an artistic exploration of explicit sexuality) and there was PORNOGRAPHY (which was bad and exploitative and could not be art).
But of course nobody could ever actually hammer down what qualities, what explicit elements, differentiated the two: when it came down to it even trained jurists gave up and went with “I know it when I see it”. (see also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobellis_v._Ohio for some reason it won’t let me make the sentence into a link and I’m too lazy to keep fighting with it.)
This, of course, is also kinda bollocks and makes it clear that the division has nothing to do with intrinsic properties of the artwork but rather rests entirely in social perceptions of the norm vs the abnormal, and the tastes of the deciders.
That it is based in social authority within a group. And boy howdy does that get fucked up fast.
Thus my point that super bluntly I have yet to hear anyone manage to define intrinsic qualities of “grimdark (derogatory)” in a way that does not absolutely and in every way include King Lear and Titus Andronicus. Especially Titus Andronicus in which, let us not forget, Titus’ daughter Lavinia is raped and then has her tongue cut out and her hands cut off by her rapists in order to keep her from telling on them, and who later ends up tying sticks to the stumps of her hands to write it in the dirt, whereupon her father murders the rapists and feeds them to their mother at a banquet. But still also King Lear which - unlike, say, Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet or even Antony and Cleopatra - does not end with some external force or even internal event bringing some kind of closure and better way forward (Fortinbras, “that noble youth”, coming in to fix the kingdom; Capulet and Montague making peace over the bodies of their dead children; Octavian coming in to finish establishing the Pax Romana), but rather with Edgar sort of attempting to do that, in the stage full of bodies where sisters killed each other over a vicious monster who also ordered the third sister killed (and then repented of it too late so she was killed anyway), that vicious monster also being killed, Edgar’s father - whose eyes are gouged out on stage - dying because of the stress of finding out Edgar is alive and didn’t hate him, Lear dead of a broken heart over Cordelia’s body, etc, and having sort of reached out to Kent to start doing so hitting Kent going “oh no I’m done, my liege is dead, I’m gonna crawl off to die somewhere”, and Edgar sort of being Left There with a silent Cornwall and no real path forward.
That trying to come up with a way to exclude either of those two plays based on intrinsic events and qualities of the text so that they fall only in “tragedy” rather than in also “grimdark” doesn’t work. That rather when one brings these things up the discussion eventually peters out into “I’ll know it when I see it”.
I used those specifically because people are somewhat hesitant to accuse Shakespeare of having zero artistic value or emotional purpose*; they are also generally classed as tragedy, but that’s more or less my point.
[*I note that they will cancel him for being the kind of xenophobic, sexist and racist that one might expect from a turn of the 16-17th century Englishman, but not usually “this has no artistic merit”]
Granted my larger point is that this dichotomy (the idea that you have dark stories that are “tragedy” which are Good and Cathartic, and that you have dark stories that are “grimdark” which are Bad and Not) is utter bollocks as anything other than a definition of personal taste.
Now as a set of descriptors to position personal taste and experience of reading a text, they can be quite useful to communicate to other people. Bluntly speaking, using this terminology positioning of personal taste, I find The Handmaid’s Tale to be unreadably grimdark, and the experience of attempting to read it was like having a smearing coat of grimy ash painted across the inside of my brain; it was human misery and smallness without purpose or relief, for me.
I’m absolutely sure at least a handful of people just recoiled from the screen in horror and feel an emotional need to defend a text that is absolutely central to their personal history or whatever, and it’s okay: you don’t need to. I’m actually perfectly comfortable with the idea that a text which for me is a horrible ash-smear of pointless suffering is an integral and critical cathartic or supportive text for someone else. That’s how humans work; we have different needs and different experiences of art.
Why does Titus Andronicus or King Lear not hit that same feeling for me? Fucked if I know. Something about the way the different texts use language and situation; something about how my brain reacts to positioning and even to plot-related contexts. I also personally find The Handmaid’s Tale MORE grimdark than, say, that perenial favourite of Game of Thrones. I certainly find it less cathartic (for me there is zero catharsis in THT, there is only a deep desire to wash my brain out to get the grey film off).
So talking about it as some kind of personal experience is fine, with the awareness that other people will have different ones, and if a text falls on the wrong side of that line for you, that just means that text isn’t for you, but that it might work for someone else.
But this relentless need to respond to what was absolutely a very genuine cultural phenomenon (the assertion that if you did not consider things like The Handmaid’s Tale or other “dark” works to be Artistically Superior you were infantile and shallow) with the reverse implication that if you do enjoy reading or writing things that play with emotions of horror and hopelessness and, indeed, deeply grim unrelenting things, you are equally stupid, or bad, or whatever, is . . . .actually also harmful!
And attempting to carve out little tributaries of “oh but this Dark story is okay because it’s cathartic, but THAT one over THERE, I totally agree, it is inherently bad and represents a Failure on the part of the writer to do the Only Correct Form of Dark Writing” is not actually an improvement, because you’re still telling someone out there “You are very bad and intellectually suspect for liking and finding emotional resonance in this fiction, either writing or reading”.
Some of them won’t care; a lot of them will, in fact, also feel just as shitty as everyone felt when they were being shit on for wanting a goddamn happy ending when they sat down to read a novel.
Nobody constitutes The Platonic Audience. Within fiction, we all have different needs and desires and get value out of playing with different ideas for different reasons, and people are way, way too fond of assuming that they and maybe their friends’ group, or immediate surround, are Fundamentally Representative of What Audiences Want/Need.
It is, believe it or not, possible to dislike something and even talk about disliking something, and even to talk about wishing there was more of something else in a context that seems dominated by the thing one doesn’t like, without shitting on the people who do like the thing. Without implying that they are stupid, or childish, or trivial, or shallow, or intellectually suspect, or somehow a Failure in Imagination.
And I think people should maybe try doing that a bit more.
BUT tl;dr: the basic point of the original thread was to assert a firm line of “tragedy, which is good, does THIS; grimdark, which is bad, DOESN’T”, thus creating a set of parameters wherein tragedy and grimdark are mutually incompatible.
So I’m not adding to the reblog chain but takes like this are extremely … something.
Well, what they are is extremely alienating to anyone who dares find something that someone else has determined to be “grimdark” actually cathartic. Which is a lot more people than the OP and followup posters probably think.
Hilariously, it’s not me, and bluntly I’m making this post because I know of six or seven people who are going to see that thread and are once again going to have a huge round of battling “your tastes in fiction are bad, and you should feel bad about them, and you are artistically inferior to Good Pure People Who Don’t Like Grimdark”, so that because I’m killing some time and in a punchy mood I’m honestly also preemptively posting this to remind them “nope, this simplistic discourse is still bullshit, you’re fine, like what you like.”
So for what this is worth: actually no, the existence of stuff that you (general you, if it doesn’t apply to you it doesn’t apply) think is “too grimdark” is not inherently a failure of anything, it’s just people writing shit you don’t like, and that’s fucking allowed.
Firstly, there is indeed the problem of defining grimdark, which is a bit like defining pornography: nobody can actually come up with consistent definitions or characteristics that don’t have a splash distance wider than you really want. In my experience, much like pornography, it’s something that gets slung at “this is a dark story that is not to my taste”.
Also, I absolutely challenge you to find a definition for grimdark that does not absolutely, categorically include William Shakespeare’s King Lear and Titus Andronicus. Go on! I’ll wait.
Secondly, you are absolutely unequipped to judge what someone else finds cathartic. You, personally, might find it impossible to imagine that someone out there - especially someone who is, for example, a woman! a queer woman even! someone like you might be FRIENDS with! - could find Game of Thrones to be cathartic.
I am here to tell you: you’re wrong, I know several. Right off the top of my head, that specific franchise, that favourite punching bag of many, that epitome if “it’s grimdark ergo it’s terrible and morally suspect”?
There are people otherwise just like you out there who find it cathartic.
There’s a bunch of reasons for this; a lot of them have to do with the fact that all the violence, all the horror, all the coercion, all the backstabbing, all the everything - including, yes, the sexual and sexualized violence - is right out there in the open. Nobody’s lying about how it’s not there. Nobody’s pretending that fucking around with power doesn’t go there, that these threats aren’t lurking.
It’s open and honest and right there in your face and exceedingly grotesque horrible things are done by very bad people and then one of your Identification Characters leaves that person to be eaten by their own dogs and that is, in fact, cathartic.
(These are people for whom I have explicitly specifically said “please feel infinitely free to ignore anything I say that’s grumpy about GoT wbing/whatever, you literally are free to not care and I will, in fact, defend your right to find resonance in whatever art you want.” Which, you know. Et voila.)
Now, was/is it obnoxious when people insist that Only Dark Stuff Is Grownup/Realistic And Anyone Who Doesn’t Like It Is A Baby? Yes of course it is. That’s also bullshit.
But the opposite of bullshit is just a different kind of bullshit, and it’s just as bullshit to completely discount some people having wildly different needs and wants from their fiction than you, even if that means they need and want something from fiction you can’t even imagine has any benefit.
Sometimes catharsis comes from lighting everything on fire and screaming the bald-faced absolute ugly of the universe. Some people are gonna find your definition of grimdark “cathartic”; and some people are gonna find your cathartic tragedy to be the definition of “grimdark”; and that’s fine.
It’d be nice if we could stop shit-talking whole genres and acting like no human value can be found in them, because the subtext of that is that everyone who does like them is somehow bad, wrong, or not-quite-human.
Oh my god I got an email from staff
Yeah okay this is fair
I’m truly impressed with Staff recently.
Over the years they’ve become like Zoo employees, who actually know how to handle the animals in their care
tumblr users can have little a enrichment, as a treat
its of utmost importance you have sound on while watching this
If you can’t make use of the sound, please imagine the soft snuffles of a hand vacuum that’s capable of love.
What I love about aardvarks is that they look a lot like a sweet imaginary friend/pet a kid would think up. Like they’re just so Shaped™, what a lovely little creature
Also I’d probably cry if I met one