Why Celtic Fantasy?

I recently read an article about how European-based fantasy is ethnocentric and overdone. The writer lamented that English I speaking writers did not branch out into the other cultures of the world to mine their myths and history to base fantasies on.

Point taken. Europe is not the only culture in the world and other cultures present a rich, largely untapped resource for fantasy writers.

I based my main society on Celts. Maybe I was being ethnocentric. My own heritage is Irish, Welsh, Swedish and French-speaking American Indian. I mine the Celtic and Scandinavian cultures for the first book of the Daermad Cycle. At some point I may touch on the Wyndake culture. I hint that other Earth cultures exist in Daermad as well. If the Cycle goes long enough who knows where it will end up.

It’s important to know that writing what you know is good advice that even fantasy writers should heed. I am most comfortable with my own culture and, frankly, so are most readers. It’s hard not go wrong when you use one thing you know as a foundation to fiction. Then further you go into the story, the further afield you can roam because the reader feels comfortable with the world you started in.

Kate Elliott is one of my favorite writers and she often uses Asian or, most recently Caribbean and North African culture as resources. She does that very well and I admire her skill. Time will tell if I can do as well In my own way.

In the meantime, the Kin od Daermad are not Celts. What was my source for them?

Not sure I want to tell.


3 responses

  1. I’ve heard this said before about writers in English. I disagree, though. In my writing I reference cultures I’ve experienced around the world – sounds as though you do too. And the first thing I think when I see a comment about ethnocentric writing is, “Dear God, has no-one heard of Neil Gaiman?” The man seems to have mined the gold out of every mythology there is!

    • I suspect the observation is motivated more by American public schoolings campaign against perceived national xenophobia than the actual ethnocentricism of English speaking writers. Postmodernism rejection of narratives gets taught in public schools as a rejection of our own culture. Unless we base what we believe or write on some culture other than our own (and almost always non European) we are inauthentic and ethnocentric. Gaiman and Elliott notwithstanding, all writers must stop using European culture as am springboard or then revolution is incomplete.

      At least that is how I read it.

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