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Re: Fantasy and science fiction set in Africa (or an analogue)
An African-inspired world is great setting. Just living in Africa day to day seems like it would be enough to fill a novel up with. I wish their were more fantasy writers from the continent. I imagine an African author would have a lot more muses to go off on then your average American, Canadian, or someone from the UK.

IKR? Depending on the part of Africa, anyway.

In case anyone's interested in primary source materials, there's a medieval Malian epic that's fantastic. The closest familiar story I can think of is that of King Arthur, but Sundiata is a much quicker and easier read than any version of KA that I know of. It's been about ten years since my African lit class, but I remember it having at least some magic or gods. http://www.amazon.com/Sundiata-Revised-Edition-Longman-African/dp/1405849428

Sadly, I don't remember anything else from that class that qualifies as fantasy, though Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart -- which I think won the Nobel -- may have enough overlap in themes and story structure to satisfy fantasy fans. I loved it, anyway.

April 04, 2014, 09:25:22 PM
Re: SF/F set in the Middle East Thanks for the rec, Elfy. Similarly, Ramona Wheeler's book The Three Princes, a debut novel that came out like two months ago and is in my TBR pile, is alternate history in which Julius Caesar never left Cleopatra in Egypt, and thus Egypt became the world's primary superpower and it was Middle Eastern rather than Roman culture that flourished worldwide.

Of the books in my list upthread, the only two I have read are Mahfouz' Arabian Nights and Days and Jemisin's The Killing Moon. The former I read as a teenager and probably wouldn't appreciate as much as I would now, but I remember it being entertaining but not engrossing. (Mahfouz is, as far as I can recall, one of only two African writers to win the Nobel prize for literature.) Jemisin's book however, which I read in February, is the best secondary world fantasy I've read in almost ten years. Very highly recommended, y'all.

I'm also really looking forward to checking out Sofia Samatar; she's being nominated for a lot of awards these days.

ETA: I just realized that "diaspora" is a five dollar word that is probably heard very infrequently outside of certain university humanities departments, so to clarify (at the risk of sounding pedantic; forgive me):

The greater diaspora of a region is wherever the population and/or culture have spread beyond the original borders.

So in this case, for the Middle East, the diaspora would include parts of Africa (particularly north Africa but also a few parts south of the Sahara), Spain, the former Ottoman Empire, and even certain neighborhoods in, say, London or NYC.

Mileage may vary on this, but for my purposes, the cultural borders are far more important than the geographic ones, so Middle Eastern stories that may lie outside the geographic region are just as valid as those in the Arabian desert. KWIM?

(Side note -- I don't know why it's "Arabic diaspora." Do the Persians get no love? But that's the phrase commonly used so that's what I'm going with.)

April 06, 2014, 05:29:40 AM
Re: What is Literature? A) I think there's a difference between literature and literary fiction.

Literature I would define as the collective body of works that a given culture considers its canon. It's a fluid category and varies with time, i.e. what was considered "literature" in 2014 is not the same thing as what was considered literature in 1950 and certainly not 1850 (take a look at Shelley's contemporaries' reviews of Frankenstein sometime...).

A lot of people consider literary fiction to be that which tells one story on the surface of the plot events and a second story beneath them. Others consider it to be fiction that is experimental in some way. I don't think either of these is necessarily incorrect, but I tend to think of it as a category rather than a genre, sort of like young adult or women's fiction; in other words, that it says less about the book itself than it does its audience and who it is marketed to.

B) I think there's lots of fantasy both in literature and literary fiction. In literature, just off the top of my head, there's a couple of plays by Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest), the huge majority of epics: from Beowulf to The Odyssey to Sundiata, most works by Chaucer, Dante's Divine Comedy, Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Milton's Paradise Lost, Don Juan by Lord Byron, Spenser's The Faerie Queene...

As far as literary fiction is concerned, Naguib Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize for literature and a decent portion of what he writes is fantasy (based on Middle Eastern legends and folklore); Karen Lord won a literary prize for Redemption in Indigo; Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alice Hoffman, and Toni Morrison are all considered literary fiction writers and write what could be considered fantasy (it's magical realism anyway). Virginia Woolf and Eudora Welty each wrote a fantasy novel. Just off the top of my head.

C) But literary fiction readers just don't think in terms of genre. My husband has a PhD in English, and a lot of our friends are literature academics. You should see their faces when I tell them that Kurt Vonnegut totally wrote sci-fi. Or that Margaret Atwood does (she was even surprised to discover this herself). Minds = blown.

So I don't think it's correct or incorrect, but a matter of two different perspectives. Likewise, I suspect that many fantasy fans didn't realize at the time that their favorite required readings in high school and college classes were totally SF/F (I didn't).


June 03, 2014, 10:11:57 PM
Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database) *waves* Hey dudes, this is also Cecily.

Scarlet, sorry that that escalated on the main article comments section.

I sometimes go into auto-defense mode on this subject just due to pure emotional exhaustion. Talking about sexism in SF/F, which I do a lot, leads to a lot of... well, crap flung at my door, from the minor (being downvoted and having my personal reading taste critiqued) to the more serious (harassment, people following the trail to my blog and leaving hostile notes, etc.). Even though at least initially I tend to use a really polite and non-accusatory tone and talk about systemic problems rather than individuals. And I have a low profile but some women who don't and also talk about this have received much more serious harassment. See, for example, Sady Doyle's piece on the reactions she got for her feminist critique of ASOIAF, in which she points out that one of her bloggers got messages telling her to "get raped by Drogo": http://tigerbeatdown.com/2011/08/29/chronicles-of-mansplaining-professor-feminism-and-the-deleted-comments-of-doom/

All that leads to a certain amount of knee-jerkery.

Anyway, if anyone wants to discuss the content of the article, I'm down. It's a good article. I possess Many Opinions about it.

July 24, 2014, 08:55:42 PM