“The Dark Lord is really bad, we know this”

“Despite such differences, what’s most striking about the fictional worlds Durham and Jemisin have created is how cosmopolitan they are. Their cities are populated by people of different races and religions, mixing together and comparing their respective values. They bridle at the limitations of class. Economics drive many of their actions, and the conflicts that inevitably arise can’t be easily parsed. “The strange thing about some of [the most popular epic] fantasy worlds,” Durham said, “is that it does seem that the entire world is northern Europe. That’s all there is. It’s always easy for me to engage with that, but then a part of my mind is also wondering, ‘What happened if you spin the globe?’ What are the people doing there? How is their history been shaped by the magic of that world? There’s something exciting about acknowledging that everybody is not the same and that affects their struggles.”

Jemisin finds deeper problems in “certain expectations of the genre that are rooted in Western cultural assumptions that are not necessarily true. For example: the whole good-versus-evil focus, the binary. You see that in so much of epic fantasy. The Dark Lord is really bad, we know this. Because he’s dark. Well, did you do something to him? Doesn’t matter, he’s dark. That’s why he’s bad and that’s why you’ve got to go kill him. That kind of thinking I inherently do not trust.”

read more | Laura Miller, If Tolkien Were Black | Salon