On the changing faces of fantasy literature

Two essays tackle the genre that’s been dominated by white men for too long. At Aeon, they look at the change that’s coming to the Oxford School of high fantasy (basically, Tolkien and Lewis), and at the Independent, they look at the diversity problem, how it’s being handled, and how it’s changing things. Some of the best SFF I’ve read in years comes from authors of Colour, like NK Jesimin, Marlon James, and Cixin Liu. Given how much of this genre I consumed as as teen and how much I’m watching my own nerdy teens continue that tradition, it’s great to have these options.

Yes, there were always women in fantasy. But, with the exception of perhaps the great Ursula K Le Guin, they were forced into the margins. Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mercedes Lackey, Robin Hobb, Anne McCaffrey, Margaret Weis, etc, were never part of the canon of authors you “had” to read (there is also JK Rowling – but she is better thought of as a children’s writer). Nor were minority novelists, who stood about as much chance of landing a fat publishing deal for a doorstopper trilogy as a pacifist dwarf had of surviving the Mines of Moria.

That finally has started to change. The most acclaimed science fiction/fantasy author writing today is probably African-American NK Jemisin, whose Broken Earth trilogy uses dystopian tropes to explore racial, gender and environmental issues. A recent Time Magazine countdown of the 100 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time, meanwhile, gave prime billing to new authors including Kuang, who had two books on the list – more than George RR Martin or Robert Jordan.

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