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Sofia Samatar has posted some excellent questions regarding why we write fantasy and what can it do for us. Check it, and my response, out – it’s a topic I’m interested in and have been thinking of tackling here on this blog. Thankfully Sofia is way better at posting than I am. A good role model is a good motivator!

WorldCon is underway in Chicago! Look at these panel descriptions:
Sat Sep 1 6:00-7:30 pm Finding Minorities
Where can you find books written by minority writers? How about books with minority lead characters? Our panelists discuss the evolution and current landscape of minorities as characters and recommend books by and about minority sexualities, races, genders, and ethnicities.
Martin Berman-Gorvine, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Sarah Stegall, Sofia Samatar.

Sun Sep 2 4:30-6:00 pm Cross-Cultural Themes in SF&F
From Resnick’s Kirinyaga tales to Bacigalupi’s Windup Girl, more and more we see cross-cultural characters and worlds playing leading roles in SF&F. What are some of the best examples? How can this enrich our writing as well as our lives? What are the keys to writing it well? How does one do research?
C. J. Covington, Farah Mendlesohn, Sara M. Harvey, Sofia Samatar, Warren Hammond.

That’s right! Discussions about minority writers and characters in sf/f, as well as cross-cultural themes in sf/f. Does this relate to Sofia’s question “what can fantasy do”? I think it very well might. Perhaps not exclusively so, but I think they are related.

It might be a slippery slope fallacy: how many fantastical elements, how many that’s-not-the-way-it-is-now (but it could be, right?) must there be in a work of fiction before it gets labeled genre or fantasy or speculative or science fiction? Two degrees of separation? Two levels removed from what we do and understand and believe now? Was Jules Verne, for example, speculative or just ahead of his time? Is there a difference? Before the end of our own Jim Crow era laws, were stories of a future without segregation fictional? speculative? fantastic? surreal?

What about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? Today we transplant organs from humans as well as non-human animals into human patients, not to mention artificial joints, limbs and prosthetics, and most recently a prosthetic arm that the patient herself controlled by thinking about moving it (read about it here at Wired, and here at PBS)! We play god more than we’ve ever been able to before. We’ve created super-strains of bacteria that threaten our health (lately, antibiotic-resistant STDs, and some brief info on MRSA and links), we introduce fish genes into our produce… the list goes on.
This is in some ways the question of is it science fiction if it could happen? But define “could”, define “probable” – are we talking decades, centuries? Are we talking if society gives up the mandate that we each work to earn money and supplant that with work to better conditions for life and for creativity and understanding, &etc.

Which is not the same question as to why write and read fantasy. But I think they are related. We need at least a two-pronged approach, it seems.
More discussions later.
What do you think?

“Look at them,” troll mother said. “Look at my sons! You won’t find more beautiful trolls on this side of the moon.”

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