An Author’s Journey: What is Literary Epic Fantasy? (4) The Sources: #8-9 (Africa & the Silk Road)
3.9.14 An Author’s Journey: Some Inspirations & Influences, Part 4.9: What is Literary Epic Fantasy? (4) The Sources: #8-9 (African & Silk Road/Spice Route Influences)
Good Afternoon, Everybody!
As we navigate across the medieval Mediterranean worlds & find safe harbors in the various ports of a new kind of “epic fantasy,” I’ve come to two of the most exciting influences for a universalized genre: the (1) the lands and peoples of the North African coast and (2) the Silk Road & Spice Route entrepôts that transmitted economic goods & cultural exchanges for centuries during the period 500-1500.
The last ten to fifteen years, particularly, have seen a wide variety of tales told based in traditions that canvass regions which participated in the Silk Road and Spice Route, from the Egyptian pantheon to ancient Persian civilizations to Chinese & Japanese mythologies. When we expand our definition of “epic fantasy” to include both the worlds of Europe to the those societies which interacted around the Mediterranean Sea in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, the stories gain both a broader perspective and depart from cliches that abound when writers simply retread the same ground already trodden by Tolkien.
Here then, are Sources #8-9, from which writers of a newly rebooted & universalized epic fantasy genre should feel free to draw from:
8) any medieval African folklore & mythological traditions that survived Roman & Islamic conquests & would have been accessible to the Mediterranean World via contacts throughout North Africa (remnants of Berber, Egyptian, Somali, Ashanti, etc.)
Current authors & works that incorporate/analogize African sources:
David Anthony Durham, Acacia Trilogy
N.K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Orlando Smart-Powell, Gods of Egypt
Tim Powers, The Anubis Gates
(9) the Persian, Hindu, Chinese, & Japanese myths conveyed via commercial interactions with travelers on the Silk Road, Spice Route, etc.
Current authors & works that incorporate/analogize Silk Road & Spice Route Destinations (Persian, Hindu, Chinese, & Japanese mythos):
Lian Hearn, Across the Nightingale Floor
Alma A. Hromic, The Secrets of Jin-Shei
Barry Hughart, Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China that Never Was
Guy Gavriel Kay, Under Heaven
Paul Kearney, The Macht Trilogy
Sean Russell, The Initiate Brother Series (The Initiate Brother, Gatherer of Clouds)
Outta here, Friends: the blog’s a short one today, as Sophia’s pulling me from desk for a Sunday walk with the kids and dogs!
Next time: Carlisle’s Definition of a New Kind of Epic Fantasy Continues…