Europe Gets Boring.

I read and participate in a lot of discussions about representation in genre fiction. People of color, LGBT folks, the disabled — many of us in historically marginalized populations suffer from lack of positive representations of characters who are like us in our fiction.

But one aspect of representation that I have pretty much never seen discussed — or at least, never seen defined — is that of the Global South.

I could use a thousand or so words to define the Global South, but I’m just going to make it easy here: it’s the term that replaced “developing world,” for all intents and purposes. It’s basically everything that is not the U.S., Europe, Canada, Japan, and a small handful of scattered nation-states like Israel and New Zealand.

Obviously, this has a strong overlap with the representation of people of color. But besides just a need for diversity for all the standard reasons — the relative dearth of fiction featuring the Global South in these genres in particular is stupid. The Empire of Mali in the Middle Ages was every bit as fascinating as the War of the Roses.

We need this not just for equality, but for the sake of our entertainment.

I mean, come on. How many stories do we need about white dudes swinging swords?

I mean, look, I love these stories and I love these eras. I happen to think that the metal armored skirt is the best thing that ever happened to men’s fashion, that its going out of style is nothing short of tragic, and I may or may not bribe my husband to wear one sometimes.

But we are indundated, particularly in fantasy, with stories about Europe, with knights and lords and ladies and a host of the familiar. Does no one else get fatigued with this?

So I compiled a list of what I could find, of books that feature places that aren’t, you know, England and Greece. Places like Egypt, and the Aztec Empire, and India, or analogues of them. This isn’t a comprehensive list by any stretch, but it’s a start.

Africa:

  • Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor
  • Black Man’s Burden, Mack Reybolds
  • The Salt Roads, Nalo Hopkinson
  • Patternmaster series, Octavia Butler

The Middle East and Egypt:

  • Dreamblood series, N.K. Jemisin
  • Creatures of Light and Darkness, Robert Zelazny
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed
  • The Harem of Aman Akbar, Elizabeth Scarborough
  • Between The Rivers, by Harry Turtledove
  • Three Princes, Ramona Wheeler

South and Central America and the Caribbean:

  • Obsidian and Blood series, Aliette de Bodard
  • Brasyl, Ian McDonald
  • The New Moon’s Arms, Nalo Hopkinson
  • Midnight Robber, Nalo Hopkinson

Asia:

  • Lord of Light, Robert Zelazny
  • The Secrets of Jin-Shei, Alma Alexander
  • Hinduustan, Mainak Dhar
  • River of Gods, Ian McDonald
  • The Fountains of Paradise, by Arthur C. Clarke
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5 Responses to Europe Gets Boring.

  1. Thanks for putting together this list. Reading your blog has bloated up my to-list list to an obscene and wonderful degree.

  2. rhchatlien says:

    One of my writer acquaintances, L.M. Ironside, has a historical series set in Egypt. I haven’t read them yet, but they are highly rated on Amazon.

  3. Nathan says:

    Nice list. I have a group of book marks set just for lists like this one, so on the computer it goes. I have read a few of them, Bodard being my favorite so far.

    Would love to expand the List for fantasy based in Africa. One would think it would be a perfect setting for a story with its rich tapestry of landscaped.

    • cecilykane says:

      Indeed — one would think. I’m going to do some mining and see if I can’t come up with more books for an Africa-specific post. I took African lit in college and it was one of my favorite courses.

      If you’re interested in going back to the primary sources, there’s a Malian medieval epic, Sundiata, that’s a delightful read. It’s novella-length; D.T. Niane translated it and did a wonderful job.

  4. btlowry says:

    Excellent! I’ve been feeling this exact same way. (Basically) European dudes with armor and big swords is cool and all, but it’s a big, diverse world, and I want to see more of it translated/transposed/reimagined/recombined into fantasy!
    This is historical fiction but I’d like to mention the works of Amitav Ghosh. He writes mainly about India and the surrounding countries, including Burma and China. He does a lot of research and the characters come from all different stations of life. A friend of mine recently put me on to him and I got very pulled in to Glass palace. I’ll definitely read more.
    Thanks for the great list. There’s so many on here I haven’t read. I’ve got to get going!

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