Looking at the most visible exemplars of epic fantasy — from J.R.R. Tolkien to such bestselling authors as George R.R. Martin and Robert Jordan — a casual observer might assume that big, continent-spanning sagas with magic in them are always set in some imaginary variation on Medieval Britain. There may be swords and talismans of power and wizards and the occasional dragon, but there often aren’t any black- or brown-skinned people, and those who do appear are decidedly peripheral; in “The Lord of the Rings,” they all seem to work for the bad guys.
Our hypothetical casual observer might therefore also conclude that epic fantasy — one of today’s most popular genres — would hold little interest for African-American readers and even less for African-American writers. But that observer would be dead wrong. One of the most celebrated new voices in epic fantasy is N.K. Jemisin, whose debut novel, “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms,” won the Locus Award for best first novel and nominations for seemingly every other speculative fiction prize under the sun. Another is David Anthony Durham, whose Acacia Trilogy has landed on countless best-of lists. Both authors recently published the concluding books in their trilogies.
Although they came to the genre from different paths, both Jemisin and Durham have used it to wrench historical and cultural themes out of their familiar settings and hold them up in a different light. “I never felt that fantasy needed to be an escape from reality,” Durham told me. “I wanted it to be a different sort of engagement with reality, and one that benefits from having magic and mayhem in it as well.”
In Durham’s trilogy, four royal siblings are deposed and then fight their way back to the throne in an empire presided over by the island city of Acacia. Their dynasty’s power resides in a Faustian bargain made with a league of maritime merchants: the League supplies a rabble-soothing drug in exchange for a quota of the empire’s children, who are sent off across the sea to meet an unknown fate. As promised, “Acacia” is a sweeping yarn filled with adventure, intrigue, sorcery and battles.
Jemisin’s series, too, is set in the capital of an empire that has been run by an aristocratic clan for generations. The power of the Arameri family, however, resides in the gods — specifically a pantheon of deities whom they have imprisoned and enslaved. The narrator of “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” is the daughter of a renegade member of the clan who ran off with a foreigner. Raised in a remote kingdom with its own fiercely independent customs, she returns to the capital seeking information about her mother and, once there, becomes embroiled in vicious palace intrigues.
She made the main character a woman and, in an even more marked departure from the norm, she decided to have that character narrate the book in the first person. “I knew that what I was writing was inherently defiant of the tropes of epic fantasy,” Jemisin said, “and I wasn’t sure it would be accepted.”
When Durham decided to write an epic fantasy, he set out to recapture the enchantment he felt as a 12-year-old, discovering Tolkien at his father’s house in Trinidad, while “brushfires and buzzards” ranged over the neighboring hills. Jemisin, on the other hand, based her trilogy on “the old-school epics: not Tolkien, but Gilgamesh.” The gods in her imaginary world evoke the squabbling divine families of the world’s great myths: “The ancient tales of mortals putting up with gods and trying to outsmart gods, of trickster gods outsmarting other gods: That’s the basis of my work.”
“The genre can go many, many more places than it has gone,” said Jemisin. “Fantasy’s job is kind of to look back, just as science fiction’s job is to look forward. But fantasy doesn’t always just have to look back to one spot, or to one time. There’s so much rich, fascinating, interesting, really cool history that we haven’t touched in the genre: countries whose mythology is elaborate and fascinating, cultures whose stories we just haven’t even tried to retell.”
Reblogging for the books tag! (I’ve read both these series myself and they are quite good.)
Gendered kinder eggs. The world is fucked imo
I’m a disabled person, and I also work at the Disability Services Office at a college.
Not very long ago, a professor rushed into our office flustered and angry because
1. She had a blind student in her class.
2. She asked us how we planned to…
Vanessa VanDyke has amazing hair. Point blank. But it’s her hair that may cause her to get expelled from school. Faith Christian Academy in Orlando told the 12-year-old that she has a week to decide if she’s going to cut her hair, straighten it, or get kicked out.
Vanessa has attended Faith Christian Academy since she was in the third grade, but the school’s s code has rules against how students can wear their hair. The handbook reads: “Hair must be a natural color and must not be a distraction,” and goes on to state examples that include, but are not limited to, mohawks, shaved designs and rat tails.
The distraction that the school is probably referring to when it speaks of Vanessa’s hair has to do with bullying and teasing.
“A distraction to one person is not a distraction to another,” said VanDyke’s mother, Sabrina Kent. “You can have a kid come in with pimples on his face. Are you going to call that a distraction?”
VanDyke said she’s had her large, natural hair all year long, but it only became an issue after the family complained about students teasing her about her hair.
“There have been bullies in the school,” said Kent. “There have been people teasing her about her hair, and it seems to me that they’re blaming her.”
“I’m depressed about leaving my friends and people that I’ve known for a while, but I’d rather have that than the principals and administrators picking on me and saying that I should change my hair,” said VanDyke.
So instead of Faith Christian Academy doing something about the bullies, they’re going to reprimand a 12-year-old because of her hair?
“I’m going to fight for my daughter,” Kent said. “If she wants her hair like that, she will keep her hair like that. There are people out there who may think that natural hair is not appropriate. She is beautiful the way she is.”
it’s hard enough for black girls to feel beautiful without those in authority sending the message that their hair is unacceptable. this story is disgusting and unfortunately not the first or last case. it’s a damn shame that every part of a black girl’s body is politicized, at all ages
That hair is fab.
THIS MAKES ME SO FUCKING ANGRY
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has told people to stop âbashingâ the super-rich, comparing them to hard-pressed minorities like the homeless, Irish travellers or ex-gang members.
suddenly, “let them eat cake” seems almost down-to-earth
fuck off boris you posh shite
Forcing my kitties to pose for photos with me.
Totes aint a selfie if you grab a cat. :P
Lol at what I wore to uni today(other than my jumper) need to wash clothes and lol at my face and hair. Why does hair grow soo fast? :[ God hope it doesn’t look too feminine. :[
But but but i have cutie kittens so nerrrrrrrr
&&& they are getting so big.
transgirl Parvati Patil bursts into tears when she tells her sister while they’re in primary school because all the books they read have names like Catherine and Emma and she can’t think of a girl’s name like Padma’s that fits with her heritage
and Padma, who reads more…
Finding a GP:
In order to access any treatment in Britain on the NHS, you will need to see your GP first (except in cases of emergency). You should be registered with a surgery, even if you don’t see a doctor much or at all, since vaccinations in infanthood…
and let’s not forget that critiques of the hypersexualization of (usually very young) female celebrities are usually muffled by cries of “but… but but but… they’re reclaiming their sexuality” when their images are more often than not controlled by the (usually predatory)…