Whence fantasy?

I was born on the same continent that gave us the stories, legends, myths, and fairy tales that underlie things like Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Wheel of Time, and, hell yeah why not, Game of Thrones (yeah, Khal Drogo. But the Dothraki have a definite patina of Here Be Exotics…)

Those, and more, and any number of EFPs (Extruded Fantasy Product).

The definition of classical fantasy rests on people taking long journeys on tree-lined dirt roads with European seasons hanging in the tree tops and the clouds, and stopping for bathroom breaks in generic Ye Olde Inns with ale on tap and the generic stew bubbling in a cauldron over the fire. It is entirely surprising that Europe never ran out of rabbits, the amount of stews that were on the boil all the time. And we won’t talk about the Magic Potatoes which make their way into European stews while their real life counterparts still existed only in Hy Breasil or whatever they called that land far beyond the western ocean…

The thing accepted as and feted as classic fantasy is rich but it has been very well mined. And so it is not surprising that so many readers are looking for places and things and stories which *they haven’t seen before* — the “silk road” fantasy oeuvre. Anything that isn’t obviously rooted in the cheerfully misrepresented and romanticized European High Middle Ages.

Embers of Heaven

 

I didn’t set out to write that, but my “Secrets of Jin Shei” and “Embers of Heaven” were set THERE, a mythical land inspired by imperial China rather than anywhere closer to home.

Yes, it made things more difficult because there was THAT much more research that needed to be done before I could be comfortable telling a story set in a milieu so distant from my own cultural heritage.

 

 

Worldweavers

 

Similarly, my Worldweavers books take place in the U.S. and are infused with Native American myths. And my new series, The Were Chronicles, invokes modern life in The New World by Weres far distant from their ancient European roots.

But dammit, it’s worth it, when the resulting stories shine with a brighter glow. It is ALL our world, after all, and it is high time some cultural shut-ins learned that there is more out there than just stew in inns crewed by the likes of jolly red-cheeked Butterbur of Bree.

Speaking from the inevitably Euro-based divide that dictates standards of beauty – which is all too prevalent, in both fantasy and Real Life (TM) – It is high time that it was accepted that a woman whose heritage is South East Asian or Central African, rather than red-haired Celtic, can, should, and must be called beautiful too – and may step up to the adventure gate in her own right.

It is high time that we looked at “other” and saw something worthy of curiosity and honor and respect rather than just the differences that frighten and repel and lead to dehumanization and slaughter. It is high time we all learned… how to  be human together. It is time the OTHER stories get told. Make room by the fire, there – those of you who have had plenty of chances to speak – and learn how to listen, instead.

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Paul Weirmer explores the same thing at SF Signal

Silk Road Fantasy and Breaking the Great Wall of Europe

Wolf on the Steppes

 

Tired of nearly every secondary world fantasy being set in a world that seems to borrow only from Medieval Europe, especially Western Europe? Most especially Northwestern Europe (England, France, perhaps the Low Countries)? … So am I. And I’d like to tell you about fantasy that transcends that barrier.

 

Read the Article

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From Stand-Up to Twitter, a New Generation’s Fresh Take on Storytelling

If we make it through this time of climate crisis and economic upheaval, the new storytellers will deserve some of the credit, Sarah van Gelder writes at Yes! Magazine.

The new storytellers are writers, poets, musicians, documentarians, radio producers, and others who are reporting the story of a new world being built around the frayed edges of the old….a new society is emerging from the bottom up, born of the hopes and hard work of many people who have been excluded from the old society and who yearn for a more just and life-affirming world.

arundhatiArundhati Roy said it beautifully at the World Social Forum in 2003: “Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.”

 

Read the Article

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Every cliche you know about a woman’s handbag is probably true.

I am just SO not a fashion bunny, not the Duchess of Cambridge who has to have a matching bag and shoes. I have been carrying the same damn bag – season in, season out – for, uh, well, yeah, years.

The other day I decided that I  wanted a change, hauledl out another bag, and started to transfer stuff.

Ho. Ly. Cow.

I found receipts in there dated. 2013. 2012 … 2008, and some so faded that they were blank. At the very bottom of the bag there was a folded piece of paper which was the itinerary for when my aunt came over to visit from Europe… almost four years ago.

There was a charger for a defunct cellphone, and a silver cigarette lighter engraved to my Dad for winning a chess toiurnament which I nicked just after he died as a memento fully intending to put it somewhere safe when i got home. My father has been gone for almost a year now.

I felt a little like Mary Poppins, half convinced that the next thing I was going to pull out was a Tiffany floor lamp.

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Speaking of Mary Poppins…
Mary PoppinsAunt Sass in fiction … Julie Andrews in the 1964 film of Mary Poppins. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex

The real-life model for Mary Poppins will be published this autumn

The tale of ‘stern and tender’ Aunt Sass appears in a PL Travers story originally written as a private Christmas gift, Alison Flood writes in The Guardian. The resemblance to Travers’ most famous creation, the nanny whose spoonful of sugar made the medicine go down for the Banks children, is no coincidence.

Travers writes in the previously unpublished story about the moment she heard of her aunt’s death. “I thought to myself, ‘Some day, in spite of her, I shall commit the disrespectful vulgarity of putting Aunt Sass in a book.’ And then it occurred to me that this had already been done, though unconsciously and without intent. We write more than we know we are writing. We do not guess at the roots that made our fruit. I suddenly realised that there is a book through which Aunt Sass, stern and tender, secret and proud, anonymous and loving, stalks with her silent feet,” wrote the author. “You will find her occasionally in the pages of Mary Poppins.”

Read the Article

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Sergeant Milunka Savic stands her ground

In 1912, when Milunka Savic was 24, her brother was called up to serve in the first Balkan War, Therese Oneill writes at Mental Floss.

We’re not sure if Milunka took his place or just went along, but we do know that she assumed a male identity and became a highly decorated soldier in the Serbian army.

Sergeant Milunka SavicShe apparently kept her gender a secret through the First Balkan War and into the Second, when a Bulgarian grenade wounded her so severely that her gender was revealed to the field surgeons.

Sgt. Savic was called before her commanding officer. They didn’t want to punish her, because she had proven a valuable and highly competent soldier. The military deployment that had resulted in her gender being revealed had been her tenth. But neither was it suitable for a young woman to be in combat. She was offered a transfer to the Nursing division.

Savic stood at attention and insisted she only wanted to fight for her country as a combatant. The officer said he’d think it over and give her his answer the next day.

Still standing at attention, Savic responded, “I will wait.”

It is said he only made her stand an hour before agreeing to send her back to the infantry.

She fought for Serbia through World War I, receiving honors from several different governments for her distinguished service. Some believe her to be the most decorated female in the history of warfare. She was decommissioned in 1919 and fell into a life of relative obscurity and hardship. She died in Belgrade in 1973 at the age of 84.

Read the Article

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Alma Alexander
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