grimdark n.

a subgenre of (esp. fantasy) fiction characterized by a nihilistic, violent, and dystopian atmosphere or setting

Also as adj.

[allegedly from a tagline of the strategy game Warhammer 40,000: ‘In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war.’]


SF Criticism


  • 2008 ‘Galen’ Hell Girl vs Death Note in rec.arts.anime.misc (Usenet newsgroup) 9 Apr. page image

    The trend I see is that grimdark gets licensed for R1 and waffy doesn’t; Japan makes both.

  • 2008 @GoneFormOfMan 25 Aug. (Tweet) page image

    Also, rebooting Superman again? Cool. Eviler and grimdark? Superdumb.

  • 2011 G. Given Grand Year, a Grand in Games in Hippo 29 Dec. 29 2011–4 Jan. 2012 55/1 page image

    There is a middle ground between the camp of ’60s Batman and the grimdark realism of the recent Christopher Nolan features.

  • 2014 D. Bradley in SFX (#250) 120/3 page image

    Something unexpected—grimdark fantasy for people who aren’t necessarily very young, just those who don’t have the patience or stomach for Game of Thrones

  • 2015 G. Valentine For A Taste Of Grimdark in 25 Jan. page image Genevieve Valentine

    Grimdark…[has] become shorthand for a subgenre of fantasy fiction that claims to trade on the psychology of those sword-toting heroes, and the dark realism behind all those kingdom politics. But there are arguments over who fits the definition…and whether the nickname is a useful genre marker or just a needle. Some…have embraced the term (his Twitter handle is @lordgrimdark). Others see it as a dismissive term for fantasy that’s dismantling tropes, a stamp unfairly applied.

  • 2015 T. Frohock Is it Grimdark, or is it Horror? in 2 Nov. page image T. Frohock

    Grimdark is a subgenre or a way to describe the tone, style, or setting of speculative fiction (especially fantasy) that is, depending on the definition used, markedly dystopian or amoral, or particularly graphic in its depiction of violence. In most grimdark literature the supernatural is a passive force, controlled by humans—unlike supernatural horror where the preternatural forces are most often an active entity with agency.

  • 2018 A. Romano Hopepunk, the latest storytelling trend, is all about weaponized optimism in 27 Dec. page image

    [Alexandra] Rowland [in coining ‘hopepunk’] was responding to the idea of ‘grimdark’—a literary descriptor for genre texts and media which evoke a pervasively gritty, bleak, pessimistic, or nihilistic view of the world. These are the worlds of modern-era Batman, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and so many other contemporary pop culture properties—universes in which cruelty is a given and social systems are destined to betray or disappoint.

Earliest cite


Research History
Suggested by Ben Ostrowsky.

Jacek Dobrzyniecki submitted a 2008 cite from Usenet.

Last modified 2021-03-22 08:30:10
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.