What is Noblebright Fantasy?
Updated: Oct 18, 2022
If you're reading this, there's a chance that you're already familiar with my books. There's also a chance that you saw the term Noblebright somewhere and wanted to know what the heck it means. On the surface, Noblebright is a newer sub-genre of fantasy. It might not be super well known as of the writing of this post. In fact just today I was scrolling through a Facebook post in a well-established fantasy group, and when someone mentioned Noblebright, it immediately led to questions by both readers and authors. It's understandable because it's newer, and goes a little against some of the recent trends. But I think this is a good time to shed some light on this new emerging fantasy genre.
From my reading on the subject, the terms grimdark and noblebright actually arose in the world of gaming. It has been used to describe the settings in role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) as well as tabletop games like Warhammer40k.
Since the early 2000s, grimdark started to gain popularity in the world of fantasy writing. If you search around the web long enough, you'll find many different people give their own definitions of what it means and what elements it must contain to qualify. In essence, Grimdark is fantasy written with a bleak worldview, where Might-is-Right and all the glory goes to those who wield it. It also typically means that no-one is good or honorable, that deep down inside, everyone is wicked. These stories rarely have a "good" ending, and hope is non-existent. British novelist Adam Roberts even described the genre as an "anti-Tolkien" approach to writing fantasy.
I'm not bashing the genre (or it's authors) in any-way either. Authors like Mark Lawrence, George R.R. Martin, and Joe Abercrombie to name a few, have made quite the career for themselves, and their works are highly regarded in fantasy circles.
Noblebright, in many ways, is the antithesis of this. Which is ironic, that it is the anti of the anti. But I digress. Noblebright is written from a worldview that believes quite the opposite. It believes that our choices and actions do matter and that they can change the world for the better. It is based on a belief that anyone can make a difference, and the good is worth fighting for. This Gandalf quote from the Lord of the Rings echoes the sentiment.
Noblebright doesn't mean that the characters are perfect, that people don't suffer, or that there isn't evil in the world. In fact, it's usually quite the opposite. As fellow noblebright author CJ Brightley writes:
"Noblebright fantasy is not utopian fiction. The world of a noblebright story is not perfect, and indeed can sometimes be quite dark. Actions have consequences, and even good characters can make terrible mistakes. But a noblebright story is generally hopeful in tone, even if there are plenty of bad, grim, dark things going on in the world."
Anyone who's familiar with my work knows that I spare no expense when it comes to dealing with dark issues or scenes. It's not my goal to glorify the darkness, but rather use it as a backdrop for the good, or to use a literary term, as a foil.
I consider the majority of my own work to be noblebright. It's just a part of who I am. And even when I'm not trying to, hope still finds a way into the story.
So much so, that a few years back I coined a tagline for what I write:
Dark, Epic Fantasy that Dares to Hope...
I was quite proud of myself until I realized that there was already a term for what I wrote:
Noblebright Interested in checking out some Noblebright books?
Obviously I'd love for you to check out my books, but I've actually partnered with a number of amazing authors to help launch an entire community dedicated to readers and creators of Noblebright fantasy! You should come check it out, I'm confident you're going to love it.