It’s high fantasy. You know the drill: personalities are defined by race. Elves are pointy-eared snobs who are unbearably pretty, orcs are barely sentient lap dogs, dwarves love gold and mining… And this is how it’s been, for the most part, since Middle Earth. 

Not only are these narrow stereotypes incredibly problematic, but they are also boring. They’re cliches, tropes. And while many of us love our tropes – it is, after all, why we keep going back to the same genre sections in the book shop – if we wanted to read exactly the same thing every time, we could. It’s called re-reading!

So what does a more modern interpretation of fantasy look like? Will there ever be a dwarf who shuns gold? An elf who cares nothing for her appearance? An orc who is more than a mindless thug? 

In this episode, we are joined by A. K. Larkwood to help us answer these very questions. 

Mentioned in this episode:

  • Stargate Atlantis
  • The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester
  • City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
  • Confessions of a Hate-Reader (essay by Jeanette Ng)
A. K. Larkwood

A. K. Larkwood studied English at St John’s College, Cambridge. She has worked in media relations, higher education and law. She lives in Oxford, England, with her wife and a cat. Her debut novel, The Unspoken Name, was published by Tor Books in 2020 and is followed by The Thousand Eyes (2022). She was nominated for the 2020 Astounding Award for Best New Writer.