All fantasy authors write about foreign cultures and countries they’ve never visited. When an author makes up an imaginary place, that is what they’re doing. Elizabeth Moon told me that back when I first started writing Of Blood and Honey. She was right, of course, but that didn’t remove the anxiety I (rightfully) felt when tackling Northern Ireland as a setting. There were many reasons why.
Shortly after the start of my research, I attended a literary discussion about fantasy and foreign myth appropriation. It was the first time I’d heard the word ‘colonialism’ associated with genre fiction. One of the panelists was an author who worked with an American Indian tribe. She said that everything else had been taken from Native Americans and that disrespectfully stealing their myths made everything worse. She said she felt that fantasy writers had a responsibility to the cultures they borrow from — a responsibility to do thorough, thoughtful research and to be careful and respectful with the borrowed myths. One audience member loudly disagreed. He said that everyone has been perfectly fine with doing whatever they wanted with Irish myth for decades. No one complained. However, that story-mine was now tapped. It was time fantasy writers moved on to other cultures, and they had [Read more…]