Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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You know what I’m kind of tired of?

So, the other day, I happened across this list.

It is, as you can see if you click through, a list of female fantasy writers who have written stories or books with non-European settings.

And the non-European setting thing is fine! I greatly appreciate everyone who commented in the last post; thanks! The conventional wisdom is that readers won’t buy books with non-European settings, so it is nice to see how many people feel they are likely to be interested in books like that.

(Incidentally, in case you’re interested, for me it depends on my mood. Because I expect to have to pay more attention to the story and the setting if the book is set in, say, a variant of feudal Japan, if what I want is a “comfort read”, I may reach for a more classical knights-and-kings-and-princesses medieval kind of story. But if I’m ready to enjoy paying attention to what the author did with the setting, then I’ll go for the more “exotic” setting. And man will I be disappointed if everyone turns out to speak and feel and behave like modern Americans in a story like that! But that’s a different question.)

Anyway! The list is fine, nothing wrong with the list, except GOOD LORD PEOPLE CAN WE LIGHTEN UP ABOUT GENDER ISSUES? NOT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT WHETHER YOU’RE A BOY OR A GIRL.

Can you tell I’m getting pretty impatient with judging a book by anything other than the words between the covers? It seems self-evident to me that if it’s wrong for a guy-type-of-person to reject a book because it was written by a woman, then it cannot be write for a girl-type-of-person to reject a book because it was written by a man! Jeez!

So I immediately went downstairs and looked to see what MALE writers have been writing books with non-European settings, and here are the ones I found:

Kay, UNDER HEAVEN, which was fabulous and I highly recommend it.

Mieville, THE CITY AND THE CITY, because Eastern European is not what I mean when I say “European fantasy”.

Hughart, BRIDGE OF BIRDS, oh my God you must read this story!!!!

Jones, DESERT OF SOULS, which is on my TBR pile but I haven’t actually even read the first paragraph yet, does anybody have an opinion about this one?

Garfinkle, CELESTIAL MATTERS, which is this odd intersection between Ancient Greek and Chinese.

van Gulik, THE HAUNTED MONASTERY, which is a collection of murder mystery stories set in China

Goodwin, THE JANISSARY TREE, which is another murder mystery, set in a declining Ottoman Turkey.

That’s depressingly few! So as a favor to you all, I did a quick search for OTHER lists of male fantasy writers who have used non-European settings. And guess what I found?

A much, much more inclusive list by Marie Brennan of Swantower, sorted out by type of setting but NOT by the personal characteristics of the author. Go, Marie! Actually, this list turns out to have been used as a resource for the Girls Only Club, so you can link over to it from there, too.

Brennan’s list is also not sorted out by quality, though, so let me just add that the series by Leo Frankowski? One of the very worst series I ever read. So bad! Girls that fall in love with their rapists was the most objectionable part, but not the stupidest.

I have by no means looked at the whole list, btw, that’s just one name that jumped out at me.

Oh, look, Judith Tarr’s LORD OF THE TWO LANDS! That one was fabulous!

Also, just finished one that’s not on either list: MAYAN DECEMBER by Brenda Cooper — just read it last night. Time travel, with contemporary Americans plus ancient Mayans. Quite good, though some of the contemporary details really annoyed me.

Anyway, I can see that I’m going to be spending some time gazing at the Swantower list. Hope you do, too. Enjoy!

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1 Comment You know what I’m kind of tired of?

  1. Elaine T

    Brennan’s list is missing Michael Scott Rohan’s globe-spanning Winter of the World (I mentioned in another comment below, first one ANVIL OF THE ICE). She includes Maxie’s Demon under England, but the most important stuff happens in old Prague, along with meeting Rabbi Akiva and his golem.

    Also a very new ebook that kept me up later than I should have been by James Hetley under another name… James Burton, POWERS. Starts looking like urban fantasy, draws on ancient myth of Afghanistan and other places geopraphically nearby, as well as Europe.

    Glenda Larke is from New Guinea or Australia, and has lived mostly in non-Western places, and is married to a non-Westerner. She doesn’t default to the common faux Europe milieu although she does seem to be falling into the ‘too many words for too little story’ problem. (I skimmed her last couple, instead of reading them.) Her first trilogy, ISLES OF GLORY was Oceanic, IIRC. Certainly set in a archipelago.

    There was someone else Bohnhoff? who wrote a couple Polynesian based novels.

    Frankowski…. ow, ow, ow. Yes, they were awful.

    Hughart had three Master Li novels published – what one thinks is best seems to be whichever one reads first, in my observation. I like the BRIDGE OF BIRDS best; the other two are STORY OF STONE and EIGHT SKILLED GENTLEMEN.

    I don’t see Cordwainer Smith anywhere, although he’s really sui generis.

    I don’t understand people who care about the gender of the writers. As long as the story is good, does it matter?

    Of course, I also gobbled up books featuring boys when I was a kid. Mongol, Trojan, modern American…

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