Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Fantasy Deferred

I’m primarily what most folks might call a fantasy writer, and while I did enjoy reading fantasy growing up, I couldn’t help but feel left out of so many of the books and stories I read. Where were the black folks in Lord of the Rings? Why weren’t there any Latino people in The Never Ending Story (or at least any respectable ones)? Why was She-ra such a second banana to He-man? Fantasy has been one of slowest genres to catch up to the times, which may be due in part to the fact that much of the genre was set in the good old days with the same good old boys fulfilling the same old quests. But I think those of us who still love to read and write it can agree that while it’s not where it probably should be yet, fantasy has made great strides to being more inclusive.

I’m delighted to see that most fantasy I read now, including those still set with more medieval and renaissance styles, no longer omits the fact that there are other people in the world besides Europeans. Even the stories that are still heavily Eurocentric no longer seem to be those washed over versions of some idealized Britannic society (not that I don’t love my friends across the pond). Contemporary and urban fantasies are no longer considered fringe subgenres, and are, in fact, giving high fantasy a run for its money. Emerging styles like Magical Realism are giving writers a voice who would have normally been completely ignored and marginalized in the past. There are more female, black, Latino, Asian, indigenous, First Peoples, and LGBT writers in Fantasy as well as general fiction. It’s no longer a surprise to see one of our stories set in Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, Peru, or Singapore. It’s now frowned upon to say a race of elves is “evil” simply because they have darker skin than the other elves. And while I do still consider prejudice and marginalization to be facets of human society that can never be fully eliminated, they are no longer the rules of order that aren’t paid any attention simply because the genre was so homogenous.

So what happens to a fantasy deferred? From the example we’ve set for ourselves, I say it pushes and fights to be told, because no one’s story should ever be silenced simply because a group of people feel it is too different. As they say in France (even if I am using it out of its original context), “Vive La Différence!”

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