Fantasy Moderne.

If you weren’t already aware years ago I was a huge huge lover of fantasy as a genre. From my obsession with Arthurian myth (starting around age 9) to Dune, to the Last Unicorn etc I have been a lover of fantasy tales and fantastic magic, myth and monsters.

As I got older and tried to read a lot of fantasy I started having a problem.  The same problem I frequently have now which is, where are the Brown people? Why is it always European derivative? Where is the miscegenation? Where are the Black brown or non exoticized Asian people?

Because I am a person of color I have had to learn how much Whiteness I can tolerate and still enjoy something.  Which means essentially that every kind of media I take in, TV/books/music etc I have to be aware of when I’m getting angry about erasure or othering. I have to be aware when I should put down the book or turn off the TV and give up.

In the past few years that is where I found myself with SF/F lit. After what was it Racefail 09 and subsequent seeing a lot of White authors showing some serious ass I gave up on modern SF/F aside from trusted authors.

And then along came PodCastle.

I’m not sure what story drew me in. I already was a fan of one of the other podcasts in the Pod Kingdom.

So what is important and wonderful about what PodCastle does?

The first thing I noticed after being a listener for a few months is that they do diversity correctly and without expecting a pat on the back. Within a couple of months I”d heard stories from authors of color, Queer authors. Authors from all over the world.  From the fan perspective who yearns for these things without having to search hell and high water this is fucking awesome.

Also awesome is that they don’t spend a lot of time talking about having a diverse selection of stories because it’s clearly evident that they do.

Editors who don’t know what to do about representation, regardless of what you print could take a lesson here.

As a writer who would really like to try her hand at some Magic laden fantasy (beyond one I already wrote and will tell you about in a minute) looking over what they publish even at a casual glance through the archives it’s very clear that my Queer Black self would be welcome without them having to say so specifically.

As a someone who could given the chance submit there, it is really a beautiful feeling to see that I wouldn’t have to look at my work and say well, this story is really queer or has a lot of POC in it and I don’t think it would fit in. That feeling is sad and terrible. As an author it can grow to heartbreak proportions because sometimes even if editors say that in theory they are open to these stories but never print or run them, who cares?

Through Podcastle I have been exposed to some writing that has opened my eyes to what’s going on right now in the industry and that there are alternatives to the Whitest of all Worlds fantasy I had been seeing.

Now some individual recommendations.

Edited to add. After I finished this entry I went and listened to the story by Nalo Hopkinson Ours is the Prettiest. It’s fantastic. Not only did she read it herself which tickles me to no end but part of this and I am so intrigued by the stories from the Bordertown Series that I’ve heard.

Fable From A Cage by Tim Pratt is an excellent story.  There is a recurring line/image in it about hands of air and fire that I think is just gorgeousness.

Buried Eyes  by Lavie Tidhar. I’ve actually listened to this story about four times. The world Tidhar has created does what good fantasy does for me and it makes me want more. I want to know more about it and explore it.

In the Stacks by Scott Lynch. This episode is more akin to an old school radio play as it is performed by a full cast. I love this story. From the setting of this wild magic library to the fact that there are POC characters who are not defined by their otherness or presence in that world. A welcome thing. Also this story is just really well written and again is one that makes me want to know more about the world.

Last link for now. My absolute favorite story I’ve heard at PodCastle to date The Interior of Mr. Bumblethorn’s Coat by Willow Fagen. The world in this story is so intricate and I actually have listened to the story several times and I still am not totally sure I got everything. Also this line:

At the sound of his voice, a cluster of dark red roses turned towards him.

Just tickled me. The image of that happening at that moment in the story just makes me smile.

Now I really urge those of you who are like me and love being read to check out PodCastle. If you do come back and tell me what stories you like.

Oh I said up there I’d talk a little about my own forays into fantasy.

Once upon a time about six years ago I wrote an entire alt-history from the time period just before the rise of Babylon up through the year 2000. I used this alt history to um, entwine an alt history having to do with Merlin as an immortal creature and him waking up with a whole new mission involving this very old sorceress/seer/presumed goddess  turned vampire from Babylon.

I wrote that for Nanowrimo years ago and the only person who ever read it was my best friend.

I may if I can find it, clean it up some and offer it as a free novella.

If anyone would be into that, that is.

Okay now I’m off.

The takedown is this. Go forth and experience the awesomeness that is PodCastle.

About Shannon Barber

I am a strange little woman who likes pie. View all posts by Shannon Barber

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