A Hero’s Guide to Fairy Tales by Steven Fischer, Grimdark Magazine #16, June 2018

I stumbled upon this publication while looking for publications to submit short stories too. While I don’t really read much work within the grimdark genre, the magazine seemed an intriguing entry point.

For those who are unsure what grimdark is, I think I can give an adequate definition.

Grimdark is the opposite of Lord of the Rings. If Lord of the Rings is about the grand adventure and the heroes that rise to the occasion, grimdark is the less Disney version of this. grimdark is the heroes that suffer from survivors guilt. Grimdark is the hero who sacrifices the few for the many, no matter the ethical conundrum. Grimdark is the realist side of a fantasy story in which demons and dragons walk the earth, and instead of everything working out and people being fine during and after the adventure, it’s about how fucked up everyone is because they’ve seen and done horrible things. It blends realism with fantastical worlds. Grimdark states: “War is awful and horrible things happen during war.” Then it asks: “Why would this be left out of fantasy stories?”

16-monster-1-300x400I hope this overview makes sense.

A Hero’s Guide to Fairy Tales picks up at the end of what would be the Lord of the Rings or somesuch and follows the hero through his everyday life after he returns home.

As a young man, he lived on a farm and watched his family get slaughtered by some type of demonic hellhound. Then he killed the hounds and killed the hound’s pups. He defeated demons and led soldiers in pursuit of witches, but he cannot tell his wife what his men did to the witches. He cannot tell her that he didn’t stop his men from raping the witches. He did not rape them, but his silence, he now sees, is just as bad.

He tells everyone the wonders of his adventures. But he never tells the truth. The truth doesn’t make good fairy tales.

This story is about a lot of things. It’s well written and I like that it asks the real questions concerning the cost of battle in a fantastical world. I was pleased to see that Mr. Fischer lives in the Pacific Northwest. I hope to come across his work more often, and maybe the man himself. (C+)

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