Fantasy shouldn’t read like a history book

May 7, 2009

An interesting discussion is happening about Patricia Wrede’s Thirteenth Child – where people are surprised that there’s something problematic about a fantasy book in which the colonists come to find an uninhabited America filled with wild, dangerous, magical creatures.

Of course, “it’s just fantasy and NO impact whatsoever on anyones’ lives as part of a larger metanarrative of false history, right?

It’s unsurprising this is happening at Tor, where earlier this year we had two editors not only stay classy by calling people of color “orcs” but also make threats of a professional nature towards writers of color.

And people still seem surprised that, ultimately, the response from a lot of us at this point is to walk away. Thankfully, we’re building our own.

(ETA: Also, this just a week after We Shall Remain aired.)


  1. Ignorance is one thing. I have to deal with my own all the time, right? White guy: ignorance. It’s a package deal.

    But the entitlement makes me so damn angry.

    • For me it’s the fact of how many layers this had to go through for publication- there had to at least be 4 people – the author, the editor, a publisher, and a marketer, and at no step did it occur to them that this might be a controversial thing to roll out with? It’s that kind of shit that basically points to hostile territory in a field where, in theory, people are only limited by their imaginations.

      Which, sadly, doesn’t include imagining the possibility for harmonious, or even decent existence for people of color.

      I’m also curious how many folks who read this post will get what I mean that fantasy books shouldn’t read like history books, that is- it’s not speculative to “imagine a history without indigenous peoples” when our history books already do such a good job of that.

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