Sharing — and contemplating — a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming

I get a lot of really nice fanmail, and I try to respond to all of it (though I can be slow). But I got one last night that really made me feel warm and fuzzy all over. Mentioned it on my FB earlier today, but the reader let me know it was OK to post her note, so I’m putting it here.

True Story: So I ordered a half dozen white cotton handkerchiefs (men’s) from Amazon and when they finally arrived (took forever) they were in a box with two copies of The Fifth Season by a writer I’d never heard of but figured was a woman because of the initials. Contacted Amazon – said mistakes were made, how to return, how to refund, never ordered…blah, blah, blah. Keep them, said Big A. Not worth the price of return when the error’s on them, their loss, my gain.
“Celebrated new voice epic fantasy,” on the front cover, more of same blah on the back, but what the hell – I used to read this kind of stuff when I was a kid; Tolkien out loud as my own kid grew up. No wizards or Orcs or Rangers or Elves. No fairies or witches and (thank God) none of that vampire-teenage romance business. To be honest, tough going at first – who are these, where are these people? But a mother’s just lost her son and the world’s coming apart at the seams and pretty soon it’s clear that I’m sucked down this rabbit hole for good.
Be still and be brave, he tells her for her own good, and I think, this writer knows the way of it, as my heart breaks right along with a little girl’s hand. Everything about this intricate, difficult, beautiful story just resonated for me and I can’t thank you enough for writing it. What a joy it is to discover a new writer who manages to not only tell a good yarn but to reimagine a dusty old genre in the process. I look forward to reading more, more, more! Sincerely, Kathy

OK, pause —


OK, just had to get that out. (A box of handkerchiefs! I got a new fan from a box of handkerchiefs!) Let’s resume.

There does seem to be a theme running through a lot of the fanmail I get, along these lines: people who’d stopped reading fantasy for whatever reason have been reading my work and then feeling pulled back into the genre. And that’s awesome. I love that my audience contains so many “non-traditional” fantasy fans. But this is the kind of thing that shouldn’t be happening just because of my fiction. There’s plenty of fantasy out there with “no wizards or orcs or rangers or elves”… and while I think there isn’t nearly enough fantasy out there starring middle-aged mothers of color (or biracial polyamorous proto-goddesses, or blind black women, or Asian male ex-gods with daddy issues, or gay black male assassins, or shy black female healers, or…), there’s some other stories like that out there, too. So what’s happening here, that so many ex-fantasy readers — readers who really just need one non-formulaic book to bring them back into the fold — aren’t aware that there’s stuff here they might enjoy?


6 thoughts on “Sharing — and contemplating — a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming”

  1. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 11/20 Some people call me the Pixel Cowboy, some call me the Pompatus of Scrolls | File 770

  2. I think you are a lot more unique and awesome than you think. Neal Stephenson, David Brin, both of these guys were outside the box and both brought disappointing books to the table. Or you get books with great ideas, but the writing is awful, until it’s not (Hugh Howey).
    And it’s very rare to get characters who are outside the mainstream idea of beauty, nevermind characters who even Twisty Faster could love.
    You are a lot more awesome than you think you are!

  3. I used to frequent /r/fantasy and I have asked and asked for non-traditional fantasy recs and every time I’m told that they’re only interested there in sword and sorcery type fantasy. I know this isn’t true, but it seems to be how they perceive themselves. And if even self-proclaimed fantasy fans seem primarily to be aware of grimdark sword and sorcery stuff written by and about white men… can we blame people who have left the genre for not being aware of how much other, more diverse stuff is out there? Mainstream fantasy seems to be about wizards and white dudes, and the self appointed ‘gatekeepers’ of populist fantasy are uninterested in more diverse stuff. So where do we go to find spaces to talk about non-mainstream fantasy? I’d love to know where I can say, ‘hey, I loved 100K, what else is like it? I devoured Palimpsest, is there anything else in that same vein?’ But the spaces for fantasy are all about Brandon Sanderson, Martin and Scott Lynch*. All of whom have written, I am sure, perfectly passable books, but it’s lacking what I want in fantasy and reading in general.

    …sorry for rambling on.

    *To be fair, Red Seas Under Red Skies does have a black middle-aged single mother PIRATE CAPTAIN. But just the one. And the story’s not really about her. She’s just in it.

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