One of the very first fantasy books I read was Patricia McKillip’s The Book of Atrix Wolfe. Though it is an utterly beautiful book with a heartrending plot, it exemplified much of what slowly started to bug me about fantasy: the setting and plot devices tend to be utterly European, drawing from traditional fairytales (and in particular from a strong Celtic tradition, as is evidenced by the figure of the Fairy Queen, and that of her husband, leader of the Great Hunt). Over the years, as I delved deeper into the genre, I realised that most settings were faux-European (especially faux-Celtic, rendered with varying degrees of skill and accuracy by various authors). Coming, as I did, from reading a variety of mythological books and historical mysteries, among which non-Western cultures were at least equal to medieval England in terms of pre-eminence, this seemed to me rather sad, and failing to do justice to the great variety of human culture across the globes and the time periods.
Fortunately, one of the other books that I read early on was Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet, which, not content with reversing the race dynamics (her heroes are brown-skinned, the evil invaders distinctly Aryan), also drew heavily on Polynesian cultures as well as on Asian philosophies (the ending of A Wizard of Earthsea in particular has always struck me as exemplifying the yin/yang dichotomy). When I started writing fantasy some years later, I wanted to step away from the traditional faux-European culture that seemed to be the backbone of most secondary world fantasies (though this has changed in the last decade, it has done so very slowly).
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