SFF from Less-Represented Cultures

soulsinging

the dude abides
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You can generally find someone somewhere who deems something offensive :p But yes, I suppose it is possible.

That said, I certainly believe there's nothing wrong with authors exploring the myths and history of their heritage in fantasy, even if they're doing it in ways that other sharers of their heritage mightn't care about. And while I do think it is a shame if non-Anglosphere authors are ignored, as has happened with this list, but Anglosphere authors of non-white ethnicities deserve all the good things they're getting.

And as for what's representative - well, representative of what? I'm wary of getting too involved in such arguments, but it's not like every person in China or the Middle East shares the same views - or that the cultures of various diasporas don't deserve representation. So who knows? Probably best to take the most positive view and give full credit.

I just wish it had given more props to a wider circle.
The last sentence is where I'm coming from as well. You're right that China and the Middle East both have huge, sprawling cultures that are everything but monolithic. But I feel you can learn a lot about a culture from their mythology, the way we still use Homer to inform our understanding of ancient Greece, or Tolkien's Norse-Celtic-Anglo-Sax-Catholic fusion can inform our understanding of the greater English speaking Western world's notions of heroism, sacrifice, etc.

I think there's value in fiction from that perspective: strip away the well-trod political and theological tropes of these cultures that get plenty of coverage in news, etc., and dive into a few stories about what they imagine about when they get to imagining. So that was the appeal for me, and while I am going to read a few of these and am curious how these authors approach these stories and how their background informs their approach to speculative fiction, part of me was a little disappointed to not see more non-western writers.
 

soulsinging

the dude abides
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To be fair, the Detroit metro area contains Dearborn, home to the largest Muslim community in the U.S. (somewhere around 40,000 people). In fact, I'd say it's the epicenter of Islamic and Middle-Eastern culture in the U.S. So, I wouldn't say that the author was far removed from his subject matter, especially since he is Muslim of Middle-Eastern descent.

Getting back on topic, as a Native American, I find the description of Rebecca Roanhorse's series interesting. For once a Native American culture is not portrayed in an offensively stereotypical or belittling way. Hurray? It's kind of a low bar to clear, but still... I'd like to see more NA cultures portrayed correctly in sci-fi and fantasy, but alas J.K. Rowling currently dominates with her offensive renditions.
I thought about mentioning Dearborn, but didn't want to dive into the sociology too much :) He does present an interesting case in that sense, so I probably will still check it out at some point. I didn't this time because it was a little pricier and it's very short, and 6-7 years later the follow up hasn't been published.

Rebecca's book looks excellent, very excited about that one. I'm hoping it will be everything I wanted Michael Chabon's Summerland to be and wasn't.
 

The Big Peat

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The last sentence is where I'm coming from as well. You're right that China and the Middle East both have huge, sprawling cultures that are everything but monolithic. But I feel you can learn a lot about a culture from their mythology, the way we still use Homer to inform our understanding of ancient Greece, or Tolkien's Norse-Celtic-Anglo-Sax-Catholic fusion can inform our understanding of the greater English speaking Western world's notions of heroism, sacrifice, etc.

I think there's value in fiction from that perspective: strip away the well-trod political and theological tropes of these cultures that get plenty of coverage in news, etc., and dive into a few stories about what they imagine about when they get to imagining. So that was the appeal for me, and while I am going to read a few of these and am curious how these authors approach these stories and how their background informs their approach to speculative fiction, part of me was a little disappointed to not see more non-western writers.
Maybe have a look at this list here for authors published in translation?
 

OHB

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What's Rowling done that involves Native Americans?
It's not just those awful posts of hers. The Fantastic Beasts series also treats Native American spirit beings as magical creatures (and some are owned by a white guy) instead of treating them like the religious figures they are. But I don't want to derail this thread, so I'll stop there.
 

tinkerdan

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I have read the Rebecca Roanhorse and enjoyed the book:
Getting back on topic, as a Native American, I find the description of Rebecca Roanhorse's series interesting. For once a Native American culture is not portrayed in an offensively stereotypical or belittling way. Hurray? It's kind of a low bar to clear, but still... I'd like to see more NA cultures portrayed correctly in sci-fi and fantasy, but alas J.K. Rowling currently dominates with her offensive renditions.
:however as far as representing Native American culture inoffensively I'm on the fence about that and apparently some Navaho Natives are not pleased. I'm not sure why she picked Navaho because she is not Navaho herself and I'm going to go on a limb here and say she could have used some other tribe(such as her own or even some fictional tribe)and it probably would have still stood as well as it does; as in being an interesting and well written though somewhat generic zombie apocalypse novel with two Native American cultural 'figures' who seem responsible for the Zombies.

I enjoyed it; however the editorial reviews are misleading at the least and stretching truths at the best. I had to hastily alter my expectations to get through it and I'm still looking for something with depth from someone within the culture.

Edit:
I should contribute that Liu Cixin and Haruki Murakami are two authors I have found the most promising.
 
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Randy M.

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About fiction based on Native American culture and experience, Louise Erdrich's The Antelope Wife won a World Fantasy Award in 1999. It's in Mount TBR, but it has always looked interesting.

Coincidentally, I just read "Mapping the Interior" by Stephen Graham Jones and "Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience (TM)" by Rebecca Roanhorse in The Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, 2018. The former was touching and disturbing; the latter was also disturbing but in a more satirical way.
 
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OHB

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however as far as representing Native American culture inoffensively I'm on the fence about that and apparently some Navaho Natives are not pleased. I'm not sure why she picked Navaho because she is not Navaho herself and I'm going to go on a limb here and say she could have used some other tribe(such as her own or even some fictional tribe)and it probably would have still stood as well as it does; as in being an interesting and well written though somewhat generic zombie apocalypse novel with two Native American cultural 'figures' who seem responsible for the Zombies.
Well, that's disappointing. I thought a Native American writer would know to do their research before writing about another Native American culture. But if she misportrayed Navajo figures, then she's no better than the other writers who appropriated NA cultures in their work.

About fiction based on Native American culture and experience, Louise Erdrich's The Antelope Wife won a World Fantasy Award in 1999. It's in Mount TBR, but it has always looked interesting.
I've heard of her. She wrote The Round House, which is currently in my Mount TBR :D
 

Susan Boulton

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I would suggest folks give the book, Rosewater by Tade Thompson a go. Very good and a bit mind bending at times.
 

Randy M.

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Erdrich is, from everything I've read, one of the more respected writers in the U.S. Pretty much from Love Medicine, her first novel, she was considered a literary force. It bugs me that I still haven't gotten to her work, though I keep thinking I will.
 
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Paul_C

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I've not read any of the books on the list, but I've read a number of books from foreign authors, in some cases deliberately, in others just because they are recommended books which happen to be by non-english writers.

Roadside Picnic is an obvious one, but other authors include: Nnedi Okorafor (Binti), Hiroshi Sakurazaka (All You Need Is Kill), Stanislaw Lem (various), Vandana Singh (I'm still trying to find a copy of The Woman Who Thought She Was A Planet, but I've read a number of her short stories), Xia Jia (short stories) Hao Jingfang (short stories) Liu Cixin (The Three Body Problem) Karin Tidbeck (Jagannath) and I'd suggest The Master and Margarita fits in somewhere too.
 

dannymcg

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Being a native Brit, one culture I'm constantly seeing in sci fi books is the USA culture. Even the old Lensman books propound the theory that the best space drives and weaponry are developed in North America.
Here in the UK it's a constant eye opener reading a genre book and the hero comes out with a 'Clint Eastwoodish' line of dialogue
 

The Big Peat

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I would suggest folks give the book, Rosewater by Tade Thompson a go. Very good and a bit mind bending at times.
I have a kindle copy waiting to be read... one of these days. But I hear only good things.


Also, if we're handing out general recommendations, Aliette de Bodard does some very interesting things with her French and Vietnamese heritage, and tells wonderful stories in dreamy prose.
 

Brian G Turner

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cultural misappropriation
I still struggle to find fantasy that treats historical cultures with any depth, rather than apply generic tropes. As I keep saying, swords and wenches does not make a setting medieval! :)

It's not just material details but also social ones, too - for example, stable boys are not going to become best friends with princesses and socialize with them. Social hierarchies and identities were very important in the past.
 

dannymcg

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I have a couple of Yoko Ogawa's books (electronic versions) but it's a matter of
'can I be bothered with immersing myself in something outside my comfort zone?'
'What I invest my time and attention and find I don't like them?'
'Is it better to stick with what I know from fifty plus years of reading sci fi?'
 

Randy M.

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I have a couple of Yoko Ogawa's books (electronic versions) but it's a matter of
'can I be bothered with immersing myself in something outside my comfort zone?'
'What I invest my time and attention and find I don't like them?'
'Is it better to stick with what I know from fifty plus years of reading sci fi?'
How will you know until you read them?
 

nixie

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I may live in Yorkshire but I'm a Scot
I have a couple of Yoko Ogawa's books (electronic versions) but it's a matter of
'can I be bothered with immersing myself in something outside my comfort zone?'
'What I invest my time and attention and find I don't like them?'
'Is it better to stick with what I know from fifty plus years of reading sci fi?'
I've my comfort zone but every now and then I like to try something new sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't but I don't know till I try.
 
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