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Power and Privilege in Fantasy

I’m going to start off my first blog post for Orbit with a non-sequitur. Because that’s how I roll.

I’m going to talk about movies rather than books. See, I can’t really call myself a fan of movies. I’ve seen a lot of the classics, love a good kung fu flick, occasionally get roped into seeing whatever blockbuster is new/hot/now, but I’m rarely actually excited by anything that’s coming down the recent-film pipe. I’m more “meh” than anything else. They pass the time. But I’ve found myself having unusually strong reactions to two new/forthcoming films: Avatar and Daybreakers. Very different films, and each elicits a very different reaction in me: I’m planning to see Daybreakers the instant it comes out, even though I’m not at all a fan of vampire stuff. While Avatar, despite being right in the sweet spot between my twin loves of beautiful visuals and stuff!blowing!up! space opera, has repelled me so fiercely that I don’t ever want to see it.

I’ve been puzzling over this for the past few days — especially my reluctance to see Avatar, which is making me unpopular with my skiffy friends right now. Finally, though, I figured out the common thread: both films deal with issues of socioeconomic power and dominant privilege. My reaction to them seems to have something to do with how each film handles this subject matter.

The plot of Avatar evokes, maybe deliberately, the worst of New World history: colonialism, industrialism at the cost of the environment and human lives, biological warfare, and genocide. This is a good thing; I like to see this stuff addressed in fiction. But by many reports Avatar also employs some of Hollywood’s dumbest and most offensive storytelling devices in dealing with this material, and that annoys me. Stories that touch on actual human suffering that’s still taking place in parts of the world should not be trivialized with Story Cliche #879-J. Anyone writing about stuff like this needs to think about what they’re doing, not just throw darts at a stock-plot target.

Then we have Daybreakers, a near-future film that seems to be a blend of classic spec fic and thriller tropes: a virus outbreak, humanity being supplanted by another species, vampires and vampire hunters, the need to cooperate with one’s enemies for survival. Also clearly touches on some of the same issues as Avatar, but — as far as I can tell — it addresses them more thoughtfully. Looking at the trailers, I find myself intrigued by Sam Neill’s character, who seems to be profiteering in the midst of a food (well, blood) shortage; and the cop played by Michael Dorman in this clip, who has clearly chosen to embrace his privileged status regardless of the ethical cost. There’s still the potential for trouble here; I’m always wary of stories that make a hero out of the lone good guy on the bad guys’ side. Not because such heroes don’t exist — we should all be thankful that they do — but because, as the io9 review noted, these kinds of stories seem designed to make the audience feel better about its own privileged state, without actually asking the ethical questions that the story merits. They’re a cop out; a cheat; a feel-good heavy-handed non-solution to a problem that deserves complex, nuanced treatment. Plus, they’ve been done to death.

So the common thread in both films is that they address power and privilege, but one seems to be trying to do a good job, and the other isn’t bothering.

I mention all this because I’ve been reacting the same way to fantasy for the past few years. When you really think about it, a lot of fantasy has kind of creepy subtext. All those stories about restoring a deposed king to a usurped throne, for example — well, what makes the deposed king any better than the usurper? Why must power be kept in the hands of the people who originally had it (and weren’t competent enough to hold it) as opposed to someone new, with better organizing skills and possibly fresh ideas? The message in these fantasies seems to be support the status quo! Don’t question it! Change is bad! What does it mean that we readers find such comfort in these fantasies that we’ve made quite a few of them bestsellers?

And what about all those fantasies which feature magic-users with inheritable, as opposed to learned, skills? I’m all for the idea of talent running in families; I’m a writer who’s the daughter of a painter/sculptor who’s the son of a jazz pianist. And I’m all for the fantasy of being “special”. Special people are exciting; I completely understand why those kinds of stories are so popular. But a creative bent is not the same as the ability to blow up a mountain, summon a dragon, etc. — and whenever the “specialness” transcends humanity in this way, it takes on an unpleasant whiff of eugenics.

I say all this, by the way, having finished the first two books of a fantasy trilogy that plays with these very concepts. The protagonist of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is special. She has inherited power and privilege, and even though she doesn’t want this power, she nevertheless uses it in ways that are less than ethical. Among other things she takes advantage of slave labor, uses magic to torture and kill, and is quite blatant about her desire to make sure her people survive a coming crisis even if the rest of the world goes to hell in the process. (And she’s the “good guy” of the story.) The second book of the trilogy, The Broken Kingdoms, has a different protagonist — less privileged, but more special. She’s even got inherited magical abilities! Which are again used for terrible purposes.

But like I said, it’s not the presence of these themes that bothers me, but seeing them mishandled. So it’s my hope that the Inheritance Trilogy will deal with these complex, nuanced issues in a suitably complex, nuanced way.

But also fun. Because while I believe power and privilege topics shouldn’t be trivialized, I also understand we’re dealing with fiction, here, and fiction is meant to be entertaining. Which is doable, IMO; it just takes thought and a willingness to question the subtexts we’ve all absorbed. There’s a lot of room between the extremes of entertaining but stupid cliche and harsh reality, after all, and my favorite authors — Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Tanith Lee, China Mieville — have been the kind who successfully navigated this middle ground. Hopefully I’ve managed to do the same in my own work.

(Oh, and you can read the first chapter of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms on my website, if you want a taste of how I’ve handled this. Let me know what you think.)

about the author

  1. Graham Storrs

    December 28, 2009
    at 7:21 pm

    It’s so nice to hear you say this. I often wonder whether fantasy writers ever think about the implicit support of inherited wealth and power their work provides. Science fiction isn’t much better. It is sad that, in genres where questioning the status quo would be so easy, most writers simply accept it – or even look back fondly to more oppressive times.

    Writers really need to care more about what they do in the name of entertainment. TV and film has become a morass of torture, rape, murder and (my own bugbear) vigilanteism – mostly just to pack in a few more ‘thrills’ rather than to say anything about such atrocities. Books are much the same – especially the horror and fantasy genres. I almost never read fantasy now, partly because the political views the genre supports are so offensive.

  2. Dave Gullen

    December 29, 2009
    at 6:48 am

    Let me get this straight – this is a critique of two films by someone who hasn’t seen either film and doesn’t really like films, right?

  3. N. K. Jemisin

    N. K. Jemisin

    December 29, 2009
    at 11:36 am

    Hi Dave,

    Nope, it’s a critique of the films’ marketing, in essence, and why it’s working or not working for me. I’m a big believer in not only voting with my dollars, but saying why I’m not giving my money to this or that project. Just in case anybody who’s reading cares. =)

    I do like films, BTW, or I wouldn’t bother ever going to the movies. I just don’t consider myself a film afficionado, i.e. a lover of the art form for its own sake (whereas I very much do consider myself a bibliophile). Sorry for not being clearer.

  4. Jeff VanderMeer

    December 29, 2009
    at 2:27 pm

    Great post–and Avatar is fully as dreadful as you suspect.

    This issue of power and privilege in fantasy is ultimately what destroyed C.S. Lewis’s Narnia for me as an adult, among other thigns. Especially in the movie version, it becomes increasingly clear that the woodland animals, for example, have just traded a tyrant for a king. So they’re gonna get a benevolent ruler, but…that’s kinda sad and kinda creepy, the more you think about it.

    Again, awesome post.

    JeffV

  5. Rachel Swirsky

    December 29, 2009
    at 8:06 pm

    This essay is great.

    I’ve been hearing very similar points for a long time — My good friend Ann Leckie has been picking out these two examples of retrograde politics as her beef with much epic fantasy for a long time. I’m not inherently bothered by inborn magic per se, but I agree with you both that it’s got a whiff about it.

    Your thoughts on your own book are extremely interesting. Again, great essay!

  6. Jha

    December 29, 2009
    at 11:38 pm

    Thanks for this! I love how you articulated what, exactly, is wrong with the story-telling – it’s not the themes per se, but how they’re handled. (And I also believe in voting with my dollar!) Being aware of this has definitely killed my love for just reading any fantasy novel, but I think there’s a certain payoff to it: if you know you’re going to hate it and excise it, it just means you have more energy to love the things you DO enjoy!

  7. Nicolle

    December 30, 2009
    at 10:48 pm

    Oh dear, you’re expecting thoughtfulness and complexity in the Inheritance series? Please let that be a series different from Christopher Paolini’s (of the same title).

  8. Candace Myers

    December 31, 2009
    at 12:32 am

    Thank-you. I believe you answered a question I’ve had for years. I used to devour all epic fantasy but lost the taste sometime in my early twenties. I still read fantasy (just not usually the kingdom misplaced heir sort of stuff). I always wondered why I just suddenly became “picky” about fantasy.Looking at the very random epics, in the classic style, I’ve picked up and enjoyed over the last few years, I see your point. They were all books which dealt with politics, power, and domination in radical and thoughtful ways while providing the action and fun. Thanks for your essay and your book is on preorder after reading the first chapter. Here is a thought, is anyone else bothered by the mishandling of sexuality in many Urban Fantasy series? Don’t get me wrong, I am addicted to several series most would consider fairly racy or even erotic. But, other series which sound fantastic immediately leave me cranky. I can’t quite figure it out. Some series seem to push the boundries but in a completely plot enhancing non-creepy way. Others dealing with many of the same themes and sexual practices seem rife with offensive phrasing and general creepiness mixed with a complete mishandling of sexual politics and power. Some authors seem completely oblivious to how a character’s sexual behaviors can undermine or enhance the author’s intended perception of character personality. Anyone else or is it just me?

  9. N. K. Jemisin

    N. K. Jemisin

    January 1, 2010
    at 10:47 am

    Nicolle,

    Yeah, mine’s called “the Inheritance Trilogy” too. I noticed the similarity to Christopher Paolini, but figured since he was expanding his beyond a trilogy (it’s now the Inheritance Cycle or something like that), maybe I could get away with it. =) Also, mine’s pretty drastically different — no dragons! — so I highly doubt people will get them confused.

  10. N. K. Jemisin

    N. K. Jemisin

    January 1, 2010
    at 11:03 am

    Candace,

    Yeah, I notice the odd handling of sexuality in some UF books. Not all of them by a long shot, but quite a few of them seem to fall prey to the worst habits of the romance genre — and I’m a romance fan, so I’m not just genre snarking here. But for example, one of the things romance does that infuriates me is the endless “white woman loves ‘savage’ brown man” trope. The stuff with this trope that uses Native Americans as the savage seems to be fading in popularity — at last, thank God — but I’m still seeing quite a few using Arab sheiks and other “ethnic” men in the savage role. (Never black men, note: that makes it too obviously racist.) Anyway, I think a lot of UF emulates the feel of that stuff by putting werewolves or vampires in the role of the savage. The non-humans aren’t always “ethnic” (though often they are; I’m getting very tired of the “Native American = werewolf” trope), but the feel of the trope is very much the same even if the non-humans are white: the creepy essentializing and reduction of the men to animalistic stereotypes, the use of vampirism or lycanthrophy to play with rape fantasy, and so on. There might be some UFs that can handle this without treading on skeevy territory re racism and sexual messages, but the ones that handle it badly are making the whole genre look bad, IMO.

    But there are quite a few urban fantasies that don’t do this. (Doesn’t contain sexuality, but I’ve been enthusiastically recommending fellow Orbit author Kate Griffin’s A MADNESS OF ANGELS — UF that is beautifully written and brilliantly plotted, with a fabulously weird and snarky protagonist.) It sounds like you read more of them than I do, so maybe you could share a few of your non-skeevy faves? I’m on the lookout for more good UF myself.

  11. Elena Nola

    January 3, 2010
    at 9:48 pm

    Interesting post, and as several people have said an idea that has occurred to me. I’m glad to know of a new voice exploring the idea with this sort of thoughfulness about it. :)

    RE Kate’s book – it was one of the best 5 books I read last year, maybe one of the best 3. However, I would not classify it as the same sort of UF that is marketed as UF, if that makes sense? I mean, it IS UF in the sense that it’s set in a modern city with magic, but it has none of the other aspects of the UF that gets shelved as paranormal romance in one bookstore and urban fantasy in the next.

    Great post, am definitely planning to check out your book!

  12. N. K. Jemisin

    January 4, 2010
    at 12:24 pm

    Elena,

    Yeah, I waffle on how to classify Griffin’s book too. But the thing that first struck me about it was how much it felt like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, which is very much part of the current UF “movement”. It’s a police procedural in structure, even if the protagonist isn’t a cop and is actually trying to solve his own murder. The fact that it’s so beautifully-written doesn’t change that.

    Actually, I talked a bit about this elsewhere, if you want some more discussion about UF. (Though I think the discussion has died down there by now.)

  13. S. V. Rowle

    January 5, 2010
    at 12:17 am

    JoJo, I’m so glad you’re discussing this. Everyone has Avatar fever, and I’m not infected. (Frankly, the ableism is as disturbing as the racism/colonialism — why, OF COURSE disabled people want to escape from their bodies! They’re miserable, donchya know?) As badly executed as they are, I prefer plots where aliens are going to wipe us off the face of the planet or colonise *us,* and people have to convince them of the worth of humanity before it’s too late. Think Bruce Coville’s My Teacher Is an Alien series.

    You also touched on something dear to my heart — heroines who have to *earn* their place in history as opposed to ones who inherit it. That bugs the hell out of me in fiction. Why is Harry Potter so freaking special? I love the guy, but seriously. Destiny is what you make of it.

  14. Robert Jackson Bennett

    Robert Jackson Bennett

    January 5, 2010
    at 3:06 pm

    Personally, I find flaws with any work that assumes that there’s a default, harmonic state to the world, be it one of simple innocence or one where you were ruled, but ruled wisely and justly. It’s very much a reactionary viewpoint, presuming that we have somehow deviated from a set path that was inherently morally superior. I always want to ask, who set that path down for us? And for what reason? And if they set it down for us, why didn’t we follow it? Why give us the ability to deviate at all?

    It seems far more likely that the present, no matter when it is, is just a few moments in a constant state of flux. Things change at such a rate that it’s difficult to see where we came from, let alone where we’re going.

    But that’s not a particularly comforting idea to people. We would prefer to think that peace and morality is the norm, not an aberration, and that the handful of happy decades long ago was a Golden Age rather than a rather insignificant outlier from a very, very large field of data.

    This brings up the unnerving question about whether the fiction we read is written to entertain and comfort, or to provoke thought. It’s not easy to both well.

  15. JWerth

    January 6, 2010
    at 10:32 pm

    This is a great and very thought-provoking post. I’m trying to think of examples of SFF that I’ve read that tackle these issues well, and I’m coming up very short, which is obviously a sign that I haven’t read enough.

    I’ve recently discovered Steven Erickson and the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, and I’m loving it, but this has been a major disappointment of mine: Erickson envisions a fully egalitarian world without ever getting into the challenges or tensions in that kind of society.

    I think there are flashes of these issues in A Song of Ice and Fire, when GRRM gets into how the war games of the lords are hell on the rest of the population, but there’s no question that if you’re not the child of someone famous you’re not going to amount to much in his series.

    If anyone has recommendations of SFF–especially epic fantasy–that tackle these issues thoughtfully, I’d be eager to hear them!

  16. Daniel Solis

    January 21, 2010
    at 11:35 am

    I was pleased with Daybreakers, primarily because I was worried about the “one good member of the oppressing people” archetype you mentioned wasn’t there. Yes, he was a reluctant member of an oppressing people, but he wasn’t the only one, nor was he really the most heroic. The Senator vampire that appeared briefly was the real traditional active hero, for the most part. Our protagonists were mostly unarmed, ill-equipped and stayed away from direct combat. I realized this most in the climax where they weren’t in the thick of things while a battle raged, they just waited it out and let their dominoes fall where they may.

  17. Tatterfoal

    January 21, 2010
    at 12:59 pm

    David Brin has written quite a bit on this subject, but unfortunately the essays are no longer available on his website. Two are still up at Salon.com here http://www.salon.com/ent/feature/2002/12/17/tolkien_brin/index.html and here http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/feature/1999/06/15/brin_main/index.html both of which are relevant to what you’re discussing.

  18. Max Gladstone

    January 21, 2010
    at 1:13 pm

    Hi Nora-

    Great post! I’ve been thinking about this exact question a lot, recently, with respect to books I’ve been reading and to my own SFF writing. A situation that feels completely invented & “in good fun” to an author can have deeply disturbing subtext due to the way our own mental geographies have been affected by the culture in which we are born and raised; do you feel you spend a great deal of time & effort examining your work to see where (or if) your subconscious is tipping its hand?

    On a less meta level, when I read UF I find myself frequently wondering how all these undeniably old world monsters (vampires, werewolves, angels, etc.) got to Chicago, Los Angeles, & Boston. Ok, so there’s a Celtic fairy queen of (say) Denver, Colorado… but was she there before there were Celtic-descent inhabitants of Colorado? And if not, who was there before her, and what happened to them?

    One book that skewers loads of implicit assumptions in fantasy & SF is “The Iron Dream” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Iron_Dream), a boringly traditional science fiction adventure story with mutants, a post-apocalyptic setting, a hero who unifies the shattered remnants of humanity to save the day, etc., until you read the introduction and the author reveals his main conceit: the story is actually from an alternate universe, & was written by that universe’s Adolf Hitler, who moved to New York after the Great War and used his mediocre artistic talents to write trashy adventure pulp. I’ve never been able to find a copy of the book, but the Wikipedia outline does a good job of representing its message, that F/SF needs to pay a lot more attention to its implicit assumptions about power, heroism, and violence. Seems like something you’d like to check out, if you’re not aware of it already.

  19. Steven Savage

    January 21, 2010
    at 1:40 pm

    I think fantasy has many problems for people because fantasy to a large extent has been based on tropes and assumptions taken from legends, tales, myth, etc. Science-fiction at least has some history in the speculative and thus the analytical, so even the worst of it may have some cause-effect or exploration. Fantasy, not having that foundation, can fall into some tropes (and offensive ones as noted) much easier.

    Thus I enjoy what I call “speculative fantasy” which the Inheritance Trilogy promises to be – looking at fantasy worlds through more the eyes of cause-effect than Following The Legend. After all, if I can throw fireballs and people can make potions that heal any wounds, is the world REALLY going to be some Renaissance Faire re-enactment, or something FAR different and more alien?

  20. Aaron Helton

    January 21, 2010
    at 3:51 pm

    Anyone try Sarah Ash? In her Tears of Artamon trilogy, the world is populated by very human characters, and while the majority of the story is told from the perspective those in power (minor nobles on up to an emperor), the author manages to capture how the decisions that these powerful people make affect those who have to live under the various systems imposed on them. It may not present a formidable challenge to the Fantasy status quo, but one thing I can appreciate is that the heroes are fully human (even if there are supernatural agents that may or may not be driving them), and there are few elements of objective good or evil present in the series. Moral ambiguity is what I see lacking in Fantasy, because nothing challenges our own assumptions more effectively than discovering the nuance behind the decisions of others.

  21. Eric

    January 21, 2010
    at 4:32 pm

    I have a few problems with this article.

    1) You start out by essentially reviewing two movies you haven’t even seen. Don’t try to tell me you were making a point about marketing, because you explicitly refer to the films themselves when you say one tries to do a good job and one doesn’t.

    2) You use the word “fantasy” to refer only to the epic sword-and-sorcery Tolkien derivatives with magic and kings, neatly leaving out brilliant writers like Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link, Angela Carter, Ray Bradbury, Joe Hill, Clive Barker, etc. etc.–authors that do not by and large use any of the tropes you mention.

    3) The rest of the article plays out like a thinly veiled advertisement for your books. I understand and empathize with a writer who wants to get the word out about her novels any way she can, but disguising an infomercial as critical analysis leaves the reader feeling like they’ve been bullshitted. If you’re going to sell us on how great your books are and why we should read them, you have to put that on Front Street; otherwise, we get to the end of the article feeling like we can’t trust you.

    In response to S.V. Rowle, who said, “You also touched on something dear to my heart — heroines who have to *earn* their place in history as opposed to ones who inherit it. That bugs the hell out of me in fiction. Why is Harry Potter so freaking special? I love the guy, but seriously. Destiny is what you make of it.”

    Er, did you even read the series? It’s very clear that Harry must grow and change to meet his destiny; it’s not handed to him on a silver platter. One of the many touches I found so brilliant about that series is that Harry isn’t the smartest wizard, or even the most talented (that would probably be Hermione); he’s just been thrust into something almost completely against his will and now either has to stand up to meet the challenge or let the entire magical (and Muggle) world fall prey to an evil tyrant. He’s a victim of circumstance, not a recipient of any particular genetic gift. And he definitely gets by with a little help from his friends.

  22. N. K. Jemisin

    January 21, 2010
    at 7:20 pm

    Daniel,

    I was pleased with “Daybreakers” too. The instant that I saw the first starving vampire, the beggar with the “will work for blood” sign, I was happy, because I knew the movie wasn’t going to gloss over classism or economic privilege. And the subplot between Sam Neill’s character and his daughter — his attempt to impose his will on her, and its backfire — made the movie for me, far more than the rest.

  23. N. K. Jemisin

    January 21, 2010
    at 7:26 pm

    Tatterfoal,

    Thanks for the links! I’ll check them out when I get a chance.

  24. N. K. Jemisin

    January 21, 2010
    at 7:31 pm

    Max,

    do you feel you spend a great deal of time & effort examining your work to see where (or if) your subconscious is tipping its hand?

    I do, but I kind of do that anyway, since I’m a psychologist in my dayjob. Obsessive self-examination is a job hazard. ^_-

    But even so, in the last few years I’ve been doing a lot more examination of the ways in which my background/culture informs my work — more sociology than psychology, with some economics and other stuff thrown in. I think that’s mostly because I’m a worldbuilding geek; I’m fascinated by alternative societies and also how our own society got the way it was. I try to recognize patterns and build those into my created societies. And I try to recognize and avoid points of irrationality — for example, my tendency to default to male characters, thanks to growing up in a sexist society — though I’m still working on that.

  25. Sean Meaney

    January 21, 2010
    at 8:17 pm

    AVATAR wasnt that great…Mining a world for Unobtanium just because it floats in defiance of gravity…OK maybe they would do that. It struck me as odd that Corporations would not listen to the scientists in their employ as to the economic benifits of may be the way the Alien Plants caused the crystalization of that mineral in deposits…or that they could clean up the environment at home by exporting a network sentient ecosystem to earth or that a cylinder full of Algae might be a more efficient computer than etched diamond. I’m sure Bill Gates the Fifth wants his floating Palace above the Planet of New Microsoft.
    I did notice it carried that age old pretty girl in the terrorist cell/communist political party recruits fence-sitter guy who was just going with the Status Quo because the Perks are better by fondling his psychological wedding tackle Plot.

    As to the Eugenics comment with Wizards having inherited power, considering a small percentage of us can see further into the UV spectrum than others (From Personal experience -It really gives violet some serious ‘depth’), the idea that some humans represent an ‘unsustainable and inferior genome’ is real. Extinction is real. It happens – even for the Human Race.

  26. N. K. Jemisin

    January 22, 2010
    at 3:47 am

    Hi Eric,

    Taking your points by number:

    1) I’m not reviewing anything, and I didn’t say I was. I was stating why I did or didn’t want to see two films, based on the available information I’d seen (at the time of this post, almost a month ago), and my own values. It’s the same conversation every moviegoer has, if only in the silence of their own head: do I want to go see this movie? Why or why not? I’m just having that conversation publicly, in writing.

    2) I’m talking about specific kinds of fantasies (note the words “a lot of fantasies” and “those fantasies which”) which have a particular problem. Obviously there are fantasies which don’t have this problem. They’re not the ones I’m talking about.

    3) Dude, you’re reading this on a publisher’s blog. Everything you see here, explicitly or implicitly, is an advertisement. What were you expecting, impartial journalism? You need a news site for that.

    And you really shouldn’t trust me, you know. I’m a fiction writer; I tell lies for a living. :)

  27. Max Gladstone

    January 22, 2010
    at 10:26 am

    Hi Nora,

    Thanks for your reply! I’m not sure I’m worthy of calling myself a “worldbuilding geek” maybe (I lack the patience required to construct robust languages, for example), but I try to get things right, which so far has entailed a lot of reading up on economics, politics, history, philosophy, postcolonial theory, etc. Creating a world without falling into easy trope-traps like “those guys are evil” takes a lot of work and involves confronting a lot of moral ambiguity on the Earth we inhabit than most folks (me) tend to do on a daily basis.

    It’s heartening to hear that even someone at your comparatively advanced stage of the writing career has to work to identify & overcome “points of irrationality” (nice phrasing, by the way). I do the same thing, and it’s good to have a reminder that it’s both a constant and a worthwhile task.

  28. […] writer N.K. Jemisin has written a blog about some of the disturbing themes that appear in fantasy novels and movies, from inherited power (of the royal kind) to inherited […]

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