Throne of the Crescent Moon
2012 • 288 pages • DAW Books
Where is the God in fantasy?
There are speculative fiction novels that deal with faith and spirituality—while I haven’t read it yet, I am told that Mary Russell’s The Sparrow touches on it. But I don’t mean faith and spirituality as a core theme of a text; I mean faith and spirituality as both worldbuilding and character building. In my experience, fantasy worldbuilding is often predicated on the existence of gods or goddesses. There is no question that the gods exist. Their decisions make be questioned or influenced or what have you, but they made the world, they exist, and that is that. Depictions of faith and religious practice tends to be dramatically diverse—the dwarves worship their god, and the elves theirs—
It’s something I’ve never really thought about. My only religious training as a kid was pointedly not being actively Catholic with no viable option presented, so religion as a whole was never on my radar. (My mother once panicked before a family funeral and tried to make me learn the Lord’s Prayer. I was what, eighteen? Nineteen? It did not take.) Since organized religion has never played a role in my life, I’ve never wondered what kind of role it can play in secondary worldbuilding.
edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson
1979 • 206 pages • DAW Books
Reading editor Jessica Amanda Salmonson’s introduction to Amazons!, the first major fantasy anthology featuring female protagonists, is a strange experience for the modern feminist-minded geek. On the one hand, I find few things as heartening (or heartwinning, as Salmonson puts it in the introduction to T. J. Morgan’s “Woman of the White Waste”) as discovering new-to-me texts that prove speculative fiction has not always been the (white, straight, cis) boys’ club people inside the genre and out often assume it is. On the other hand, it’s less heartening to realize that we’ve been having largely the same conversations about diversity and representation for decades. I’m no less motivated to fight the good fight, of course, but it makes for some bittersweet reading.
Emphasis on the sweet, though. I mean, it’s an entire anthology of lady-centric fantasy from the dying days of disco, topped off by a list of nonfiction and fiction books deemed relevant for people interested in that subject matter. And if you’re not interested—well, I think you’re on quite the wrong blog, friend.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Oh, The Name of the Wind. Nearly universally praised, my copy came to me via one of my favorite microaggression stories to tell. (Moral of the story: don’t randomly tell people you hated a book because the protagonist was gay—you will run into a queer woman eventually.) With the release of its sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, in March, the book blogosphere has been overflowing with praise for Patrick Rothfuss. While my copy languished on my shelves for the better part of ten months, I did finally get around it—after I’d built up a substantial buffer, eying its seven hundred plus pages warily. But I needn’t have bothered; I tore through this marvelous piece of work in a handful of days.
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
I had heard nothing but good things about Who Fears Death. Nnedi Okorafor has been on my radar for what seems like forever, even before I was blown away by her short story, “When Scarabs Multiply”, collected in So Long Been Dreaming. The setting was fresh and innovative—a post-apocalyptic and magical Africa—and tight, something I find occasionally lacking in short stories as a medium. I could barely keep myself from tearing through She-Wolves to get to Who Fears Death. But my luck with not over-hyping myself has run out, and I feel a little guilty in admitting that Who Fears Death underwhelmed me.