Saturday, January 20, 2007

Not Another Pseudo-Medieval Fantasy!

John Crowley (Little, Big) has compiled a list of books writers who world-build ought to read. Why?

Here's part of his post:

One of my contentions about fantasy novels, and science-fantasy and future-world novels too, is that the society of the distant future, or an alien species, or another planet, or an alternate universe, ought to be at least as complex and unlikely-seeming (to Western European/American-culture-based writers in English) as the societies, mentalities and cultures that humans have in fact produced. So this year I am going to ask my students to read one book of travel, history, cultural anthropology, or similar account that will illustrate this contention, and shame them out of concocting another pseudo-medieval non-society peopled by folks like themselves (and a few dragons and vampires, also much like themselves).

The reading list he compiled is HERE.

The following from the list interest me:

Women, Fire and Dangerous Things, George Lakoff. The way different cultures view the world as exemplified in their language. Don’t invent a language without it.

Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty, Bradley K. Martin. Nearly unbelievable dystopia.

Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution, Richard Stites. All the failed, ignored, suppressed possibilities that preceded the Communist state. Utopia meets Dead Souls.

Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error, Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie. A medieval town in France – beliefs and politics in the period of the Cathar heresy.

The Death of the Woman Wang or The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, both by Jonathan Spence. Among our greatest Western interpreters of Chinese culture.

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