“Songs of the Ainur, Unfolding”: My most recent piece of writing theorism and the present zenith of my self-indulgence. It’s a beautifully-written meditation on major fantasy influences over the last seventy-odd years. Within that Gothic deluge, given forth by my dark heart’s depths, I finally found words for so many notions that lingered, as wraiths half-remembered in a land where the shadows lie, in the utmost reaches of my psyche.
It’s just a shame that the only writers I saw fit to cite were a parcel of pasty Anglo-Saxon men, no?
I am pleased to announce I’m making excellent headway on fixing that. Hence, this little post. I’ve sought out and am reading the works of some rather more varied fantasy writers.
It’s not as though I don’t have other influences, with Lois McMaster Bujold remaining a favorite. I often gushed about the works of Mercedes Lackey when I was younger, but those haven’t had the same staying power for me.
Anyway, we’re not here so I can discuss the writers I’ve already read–though I do need to check on what Bujold’s been up to lately–but those I’ve newly committed to reading. Note that I say, “I”; this is a necessary disclaimer, for the first is one Ursula K. Le Guin. I’m presently reading the complete illustrated collection of her Earthsea novels, and can simply say that it’s a grave injustice I didn’t hear much about her before a chance video on Booktube–itself by a creator lamenting that he should’ve learned about Le Guin’s work far sooner! I just finished The Tombs of Atuan today, and it holds up astonishingly well.
Her writing hails from a time before constant jokes at the expense of tone and storytelling became engrained in the fantasy genre. I highly recommend the books thus far! Just keep in mind that at least as far as the first two, you may find they drag in places if you’re insistent on high-tempo events and world-shattering stakes. Much of the storytelling focuses on smaller, more personal experiences. There’s a great deal of meditation and exploration across forlorn landscapes, with brief bursts of action where appropriate. I’m surprised to admit I’ve found this quite refreshing! These stories make for a lovely breather from the breakneck haste of modern tales.
As for more recent authors, I’ve already gone through M.L. Wang’s Theonite novels as published up to the present. I enjoyed them, though I rather wish she’d chosen to focus on writing for adults. The Sword of Kaigen was a beautiful character drama, but the more YA-centric main series tended to feel shallow. Heavy “I’m not like other girls” vibes from its leading lady didn’t help this. There’s also some rather iffy worldbuilding involving the canonization of reverse-racism and the idea that humanity is fated to make different versions of the same mistakes across multiple realities. My own opinion on the former is, of course, unqualified–I am very white, as has been well-established by now–but it does make me hesitant to recommend the books straight out.
Once I’m finished with all the books of Earthsea–it’s likely to be a week or two–I plan to read Evan Winter’s The Rage of Dragons, then chew through the entirety of N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth Trilogy.
As I said, I’m quite late to the party on reading many of these authors. I’ve bent so much of my energy to The Necromancer and the Revenant for the past four years that I’ve scarcely read in my own genre. So far I’ve found that I’m not quite so far behind the curve as I’d feared, but it’ll be nice to ground myself in the work of writers who are relevant today.
Look forward to another all-Gothic piece in a year’s time where, hopefully, I can put the perspective gained to good use! Meanwhile, if anyone has recommendations for PoC and LGBTQIA+ writers in the adult fantasy genre, please do leave a comment for me below. I’m particularly interested in authors who delve deep into the power systems of their worlds, both social and supernatural, and those skilled in horror that goes far beyond blood and gore. No straight white folks, hm? I’ve read, or am reading, enough of those already.