Monday, April 06, 2009

Asian fantasy

Sci Fi/Fantasy readers--my buddy Ello is hosting a discussion over at The Enchanted Inkpot about fantasy themes in Asian literature: which ones are common in American fantasy novels, and which ones should be more common, because they're so awesome.

I threw in my readerly experience--Laurence Yep's YA fantasy books, and Jeanne Larsen's (now unfortunately out of print) fantasies set in different Chinese dynasties. Any others?


Jo said...

The Master Li and Number Ten Ox series by Barry Hughart are fantastic. He is not (I believe) an asian author but the books which are wildly funny are set in an imagined ancient China. The Bridge of Birds is the best but I think there exists a compendium of all three books.

writtenwyrdd said...

I love Bridge of Birds!

I'm looking forward to Ellen's book Silver Phoenix.

Her article on Enchanted Teapot is really wonderfully informative.

Scribe said...
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Scribe said...

It's an interesting article. I've thought for a while that Asian style themes are sadly missing from fantasy, and that a change from the pseudo-mediaeval European setting is long overdue. But I'm not sure I agree with a particular point - the author seems to suggest it's a bad idea to 'westernise' Asian themes in fantasy. Problem is, if you present the themes exactly as they are you risk turning your work into a showcase of Asian myth, rather than an exciting and original story. If the Kappas are defeated by getting them to bow, where do you go with that? Just bow to every Kappa you meet and your problem is solved! Could it be that the reason so many Asian style fantasies have failed in the west is that they stick too closely to the myth, and allow themselves to be too constrained by existing rules of the game? Just a thought. I have to say though, I'm really glad to see Asian style fantasy starting to make more of an appearance - especially since I've spent the last two years writing one :-)

Richard Lewis said...

Interesting. I don't normally blab about my work in blog comments, but this is too apropos. My novel, THE DEMON QUEEN, (Simon and Schuster YA, 2008) takes Balinese mythology and sets it in an American Mid-West town,as brought over by an anthropologist and her teen daughter.

Kim Kasch said...

American Fantasies that there should be more of:

Okay, how 'bout The Dark Tower by Stephen King? I love everything King - so maybe that's not a fair example.

What about Watchmen - that's fantasy but more graphic novel?

And it's Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix that I'm looking forward to reading.

The first two aren't Asian but they are great fantasy. I'll let you know what I think after reading SP

kelljones said...

Thanks for the link -- I've added to my list, but I agree there should be lots more! :)

I've read and enjoyed Kara Dalkey's Little Sister and the Heavenward Path. I'd call these teen.

I was delighted to find a tengu with a minor role in Delia Sherman's Changeling. I'd call this middle grade. It isn't Asian fantasy overall, though.

I found the Art of Arrow Cutting by Stephen Dedman to be more USian than Japanese, but with some cool Japanese mythological creatures (kind of dark urban fantasy meets Japanese myth). Teen.

Catherynne Valente's The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden is adult, but has one of the best kumihos (no idea what the plural would be?) ever, along with an enormous literary fantasy mix from all over (I lost track of what I'd heard of before and what I hadn't almost immediately), all in some of the most gorgeous writing I've read in quite a while.

Pink Ink said...

I'd have to add Lisa See's "Peony Flower".

Anonymous said...

Hi, Moonrat. If you like Laurence Yep's YA fantasies, you'll be happy to know that CITY OF FIRE, the first of a new fantasy trilogy by Yep, will be published in September 2009. Lots of Chinese, Japanese, and Hawaiian mythology blended together in an alternate version of our world in 1941. Also dragons--including a dragon disguised as a Pinkerton agent!

moonrat said...

Anon--that's AWESOME news! i didn't realize he was still writing! being a little out of the YA loop.

i still remember the first thing i read by him--it was a short story in American Girl magazine, which i would read cover to cover as a kid. it was the story of a girl who wanted to be a ballet dancer, and her vaguely mean Chinese grandmother, who had unwrapped her bound feet to help her family escape during the war and who couldn't understand why her granddaughter wanted to destroy her own feet with toe shoes. i immediately went out and borrowed all his books from the library. my favorite was the one set in the coal mines.