Saturday, July 19, 2014


A few years ago, I was ready to be done with new SFF. I still loved the genre, but Sanderson, Rothfuss and Martin were disappointing me, and every time I tried to strike out on my own based on a review or a blurb I was similarly frustrated.  I enjoy rereading books, and I was ready to just dive back into my bookshelf again and again while exploring new genres and hoping another would grab me the way Tolkien and Le Guin and C. S. Friedman had.

In fairly short succession, I read Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon and N. K. Jemisin's 100,000 Kingdoms, and my interest in SFF was renewed.  I was so happy to meet a character like Adoulla who inhabits a distant but enchanting realm (full of tea!) and wears his religion comfortably, side by side with the Zealot Rasheed bas Rasheed and the tribeswoman Zamia.  The horror of flesh ghuls (I almost set aside the book early in the prologue) set against the banality of Adoulla's life in the city was like a breath of fresh air.

Either just before or just after reading Throne, I also read N. K. Jemisin's 100,000 Kingdoms, which is to say I was swept away in Nahadoth's arms and enjoyed every minute if it.  If Throne showed me that there were still characters I'd like to adventure with, the Inheritance Trilogy (in particular the gods) restored my flagging interest in being transported into another author's imagination.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the two authors who renewed my interested in a genre that felt increasingly stale are both people of color, though I also don't want to read too much into this (or at least I don't want to hold them up as two identical and interchangeable diverse authors.  They are emphatically not).  I suspect that I was unconsciously reacting to some of the sameness in the genre that each is consciously writing against.  Because of their books, I began following each on social media, and they led me to a community of people working towards a more diverse community of SFF writers, authors, and fans, a community I'm still exploring and learning from.  But when I first encountered Throne and the Inheritance Trilogy I was a much less critical reader.  Each of these books grabbed the me who grew up on Tolkien and Dragonlance and C. S. Friedman, who was growing bored with the SFF I was finding, and they gave me a good shake and said "this genre that you enjoy so much, it's still awesome. So if you can't find something you want to read, go look harder."

N. K. Jemisin and Saladin Ahmed restored my interest in reading fantasy, and reassured me that's there's new and exciting stuff being written in a genre I'd feared was becoming stale. (And yes, this has a lot to do with the authors I was looking at and the places I was looking for recommendations).  They also led me to the discovery of authors and editors and writers in the SFF community who are committed to more diverse books.  I'm grateful to both of them for a lot of reasons, but mostly because if I hadn't read Throne and Hundred Thousand Kingdoms I might just not be reading many books right now, and that would be sad.

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