5. You said you came to the conclusion that you were an author of fantasy. If you think it’s relevant, why did you fight that definition of yourself and why accept it? And how did accepting that fact affect what you did with Loki and JIM? What does being a writer who accepts the importance of such a tradition mean to how you go about your work?
Well, I burned out on awful mainstream fantasy books as a teen. That leaves scars.
I’m not saying anything new here, but mainstream fantasy tends to be a socially conservative genre. Go grab any of the obvious Moorcock or Mieville essays, and I’ll basically agree with them. And frankly? Science Fiction writers are just much cooler. I tended to think of myself as a speculative fiction writer until a particularly wise ex called me on my bullshit. If your speculations are basically “what if music were magic?” you’re a bloody fantasy writer, dick.
Obviously, as Moorcock and Mievelle and many others show, it doesn’t have to be like that, but when so much shit fantasy accepts turning foreigners into monsters and having your heroes slaughter the fuckers as a standard trope, it’s problematic. As much as Tolkein’s work lies right at the heart of me as a writer, I’m aware that if I was living in Middle Earth, I’d be an orc. I’d be working in one of those smelting pits until some elf decides to shoot me.
(Don’t start me on Elves. My perennial bugbear. Elves are basically “What If Aryans were right about there being a master race”. Fucking Elves.)
In short: I resisted defining myself as a fantasy writer because fantasy tends to be iffy. I became fine with it when I realised how core it was to how I processed and commented upon the world. And, of course, the tradition of anti-trad-Fantasy Fantasy writers is always looking for recruits. Hell, the problematic nature of the genre makes it almost too easy. In any other genre would I got away with THE MANCHESTER GODS ARE ACTUALLY THE GOOD GUYS as a reveal? But in a genre that demonises technological progress and hails the status quo of inherited power, you just put someone in a black hat and a bit of soot and everyone presumes they’re another working-class/foreigner-surrogate to be stomped on by the pretty blonde people.
Good brain pickings here.