Modern fantasy owes much to J.R.R. Tolkien, including his problematic colonialist views and othering of cultures and races different from his medieval European-inspired setting. Many authors since then have used ‘historical accuracy’ as a defence against a lack of diversity in their similarly inspired settings. But even if we gloss over the fact that this is fantasy and not realism, it simply isn’t true that medieval Europe was monochrome. And yet these troubling representations continue to be regurgitated and un-dissected in a lot of contemporary mainstream fantasy.
Today we are talking to Eliza Chan about the lack of representation of diverse characters in fantasy and also the problematic othering and exoticism that can sometimes be employed, even today, when characters are people of colour. Eliza’s novel, Fathomfolk, imagines a world where two cultures collide – humanity and the mythical – and what happens when immigration and housing shortages are brought into play in such situations.
Make sure you head on over to pre-order Fathomfolk, out in February 2024. Eliza describes it as being ‘full of angry women making terrible decisions,’ and if that doesn’t make you want to hit pre-order immediately, what are you doing listening to Breaking the Glass Slipper?! 😂
Well, folks, here we are at the end of the year. Thank you for your continued support and we hope you enjoy our final episode for 2023! If you like what we do, please consider supporting us on Patreon where you can hear extra clips from episodes, see reviews, and more.
This episode includes mentions of the following authors and texts:
- Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
- George R.R. Martin
- David Gemmell
- Terry Brooks
- Star Wars
- Stark Trek
- Dungeons and Dragons
- The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
- Terry Pratchett
- American Gods by Neil Gaiman
- Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeanette Ng
- Jade City by Fonda Lee
When it comes to representation in our fiction, it isn’t the writer’s job to educate you. As Eliza so eloquently put it: ‘I’m not here to educate you, I’m a writer – I’m here to entertain.’
Eliza Chan is a Scottish-born speculative fiction author who writes about East Asian mythology, British folklore and reclaiming the dragon lady. Her short fiction has been published in The Dark, Podcastle, Fantasy Magazine and The Best of British Fantasy. Her debut novel FATHOMFOLK — inspired by mythology, ESEAN cities and diaspora feels — will be published by Orbit in Spring 2024.
She has been a medical school drop-out, a kilt shop assistant, an English teacher and a speech and language therapist, but currently she spends her time tabletop gaming, cosplaying, crafting and toddler wrangling.
Find out more on her website www.elizachan.co.uk.