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Again on Europe and Fantasy

book, reading
Today two wonderful posts by LJ friends made me sit up and pay attention (not an easy task, since I'm still running myself ragged from one school to the next).

The first was from  la_marquise_de_ , introducing this very interesting article about the myths (as in 'things we believe are true but aren't') about the Celts (first thing, did a more or less unified Celtic culture even exist?, go read to find out).

By the way, I've always hated the use of myth in this specific meaning, I'm going to adopt the suggested furphies instead (do you know the etymology, Kari? I'm curious!).

The second, just as great, is by kateelliott : why does world building matter? There are a lot of reasons, among which arguably the most important is: the status quo does not need world building 

I hope Kate will forgive me if I elaborate a bit on one specific sentence in the whole post, one that is rather tangential, and is meant to be, but touches this European for reasons that will be immediately clear.

Towards the end of her post Kate writes: There is nothing wrong with using (say) medieval Europe for your inspiration if you have a story to tell there. Judith Tarr‘s deeply-imagined medieval landscapes attest to that.

I am European, my culture and my country are somehow part of what is considered the 'standard fantasy setting' (somehow because we are in Southern Europe and so, in some way, do not count, I still remember a list of 'non- European-setting' fantasy novels that included books set in Rome and in Russia because 'that's unusual').

I have recently read Alamut  by Judith Tarr and I was blown away, just wondering why it took me so long to discover it : appealing, strong, complex characters, great world-building, serious, not-in-your-face research (it was wonderful to have snippets from primary sources of the period pop up in conversation), it was a complex time (the book is set in Outremer) and the relationships among the different political players were complex and shifting, Judith Tarr, an historian, knows it well and doesn't downplay it but doesn't let it get in the way of good storytelling either.

You see, my problem (and that of many other European readers as well, la_marquise_de_ has written multiple times about it) is not that 'the standard fantasy' setting is European, is that, most of the time, it is a bland pap made up of furphies. Moreover, since those are things 'everybody knows' if some of us dare to protest against the theft and butchering of our cultures (yes, plural), virtual pitchforks appear along with cries of 'Down with the imperialist' and 'Who are you to complain?'.

I whish more people realized that a vague European ancestry does not mean you (generic you) know Europe, European history or any of our traditions or cultures. Cultural theft and appropriation aren't any more acceptable when they are against us than they are against anybody else.      


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Sep. 30th, 2013 11:47 pm (UTC)
Yes, this so much. The "standard" setting is too often just another version of the status quo. Which is comfortable and familiar.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


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