Sometimes the sheer number of sub-genres and niche areas within the SFF world can feel completely overwhelming. What do they all mean? Where does one thing become another? One of the most confusing – and most commonly talked about – sub-genres is Grimdark. Other than it being grim and dark, what defines it as a fantasy sub-genre?

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.

In this episode, we speak to the self-proclaimed Queen of Grimdark, Anna Smith Spark, whose debut novel The Court of Broken Knives has courted critical acclaim (and British Fantasy Society Awards shortlisting, along with some esteemed company *cough cough* not that we would toot our own horn or anything…). Anna helps us get to the bottom of the defining characteristics of Grimdark, how it differs from horror and dark fantasy, and the entrenched gender bias in the marketing of the sub-genre.

Be prepared for passionate debate and long tangents from the always fabulous Anna Smith Spark.

The Court of Broken Knives is out now from HarperCollins with the follow-up, The Tower of Living and Dying coming out on the 9th of August.

Texts mentioned in this episode include:

Further reading:

Anna Smith Spark

Anna Smith Spark lives in London, UK. She loves grimdark and epic fantasy and historical military fiction. Anna has a BA in Classics, an MA in history and a PhD in English Literature. She has previously been published in the Fortean Times and the poetry website Previous jobs include petty bureaucrat, English teacher and fetish model.

Anna’s favourite authors and key influences are R. Scott Bakker, Steve Erikson, M. John Harrison, Ursula Le Guin, Mary Stewart and Mary Renault. She spent several years as an obsessive D&D player. She can often be spotted at SFF conventions wearing very unusual shoes.

Pre-order The Tower of Living and Dying now.