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African fantasy and the lack of it.

Ivory11

Star
Joined
Sep 13, 2013
Location
Australia
So this thought came to me while reading some reddit comments yesterday and i just remembered it so it's going in here.

We have all seen European fantasy, knights and wizards, slaying dragons, trolls, orcs etc... considering the high weeb population on this site i'd wager most of us here are familiar with japanese and possibly korean fantasy where some samurai or whatnot is tasked with saving the world from some evil demon lord or are rehashing the journey to the west for the umpteenth time.

I dunno about you but, I'd really like to see some fantasy inspired by African folklore and set in ancient africa. There were many kingdoms and empires in Africa before the Europeans started messing up the place, stories, histories, ancient sites etc... still remain today, the material to draw inspiration from is still there. Yet we see pretty much no fantasy stories inspired by African cultures, legends and kingdoms.

Am I the only one who has noticed this? There's a whole huge chunk of the world full of history and stories to draw inspiration from yet we don't see any fantasy stories in the modern day emerging from it.
 

gelidAtelier

Super-Earth
Joined
Jul 13, 2013
I'd recommend a book, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James.

That all goes for pretty much any part of the world that isn't Europe or East Asia. Though I've noticed some more diverse fantasy being released in this past year (aforementioned book among them), so perhaps now is the time things will change, and there will be more opportunity more such works to be published or get a spotlight.
 
OP
Ivory11

Ivory11

Star
Joined
Sep 13, 2013
Location
Australia
I'd recommend a book, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James.

That all goes for pretty much any part of the world that isn't Europe or East Asia. Though I've noticed some more diverse fantasy being released in this past year (aforementioned book among them), so perhaps now is the time things will change, and there will be more opportunity more such works to be published or get a spotlight.
I really truly hope so. When you look at the longevity and variety in stories and worlds based on European history alone, the true scope of what is possible from more sources is truly beyond our current imagination.

Thank you for reccommending that book. Tbh my brain has been melted by years of screentime so i'll look for an audiobook of it.

And you're right, there are many more areas beyond africa which have been untouched in the fantasy genre. I really hope see some more emerge in the near future
 

RedRose

Star
Joined
Aug 30, 2014
Interestingly I've been asked for beta reader an African fantasy book last year, but it didn't happen
 

millpond

Meteorite
Joined
Dec 24, 2019
Location
USA, Pacific Standard Time
Hello! I've experienced this discrepancy in media, as well. I find it to be a shame on us, that sorely needs correcting. I recently read the novella Binti, which is certainly more sci-fi than fantasy, but I strongly recommend giving it a read. Nnedi Okorafor's writing is stunning. You can buy it on Amazon for fairly cheaply, as well. We as writers would also do well to examine our own biases, and invite more writers of color to the scene. Thanks for bringing this up!
 

Matariel

Moon
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
While I do not necessarily agree with all the issues raised here (such as bunching up all of Europe as "White fantasy" when European nations are plenty diverse) there is a game on Steam that might interest you. It's called Aurion Legacy of Kori Odan or something like that.

I can't say whether it's a good game or not since I haven't played it but it might help scratch that itch.
 

Tazreale

Architect of Worlds
Joined
Nov 12, 2016
Well, aren't Conan Barbarian works more or less fictional Africa along with other places? I mean, looking at the map, a good chunk of it looks like it is a copy/paste of Africa.
 

skyfetcher

Poorly Tamed
Joined
Sep 17, 2019
Location
A high horse. Nice, wooden, sharp horse.
Pretty sure what you're noticing is the very westernized attitude that overwhelmingly prevails the English internet. I'm going to try and give the business a honest look, not my aim to put anyone down.

Firstly,
such as bunching up all of Europe as "White fantasy" when European nations are plenty diverse
OP didn't write this, and honestly, I think the OP does have a point. I'm personally set in extreme bias regarding european-centric tastes. I don't think there is anything wrong with that either. That said, it closes the door to a lot of influences, including the unique influx of japanese through predominantly anime sources. Many people integrate that too given its popularity, but just looking at a map you have a lot of unexplored area. More fundamental asian mythology outside of anime straight up is invisible in most places. You don't see much out of even far eastern europe cultural influences, such as Russian myth. You would certainly not see much of African influences, which are, to be blunt, 'alien' to an audience that finds it difficult to take terribly much from other parts of the world, as Europe and by extension mainstream North America do, again with rare exceptions. African history and sources is just not something that comes to mind to most folks. People don't care. I imagine exposure and constructing that material in a way the 'western world' would like beyond something like the Black Panther movies could do quite a bit to expand. I'm personally not interested in it, but on the other hand, there could be interesting things to draw from it, and lets face it, Africa is generally perceived as a complete third world continent when everywhere else save South America and Antarctica take higher precedence in people's scopes for care outside of international aid.

The perception of Africa being a pretty uncivilized, superficial place with few entities that could contend with european historical ideals, a place with no country that is even a power to contend with the big names elsewhere in the world, and a history that's generally uninteresting to most who would be looking around here (I make big assumptions, but other sites and looking through this one and plenty of years of looking make me confident in saying this) leave the influence very little room to take hold and grow.

None of that is to say things don't exist that take Africa for its geography, or have a superficial take on the influences and percieved culture, or in some uncommon cases even indulge the culture itself like some of the specific examples above. Just to say that a meaningful deep look and mainstream appeal is just not something that's happened as it has by proxy from eurocentric influences and the influx of japanese influence per anime and the like. You're free to find who/what you can to encourage it, although generally speaking, "Africa's Presence" on the internet as a cultural influence is very small, and it would be an uphill climb to see it gain prominence in a way even remotely comparing with conventional fantasy or anime.

I'm personally fine without it, but I support efforts to branch out; I'd call that a mark of a better writer and I never claimed to be great. I still think there's plenty to ek out of knights, wizards, dragons and so on with my own content, even if the approach is quite unconventional to what's being implied.
 

Dirty Fingers

Super-Earth
Joined
Jul 31, 2019
I think for starters you need to know something of the culture and history. Regardless of our cultural backgrounds we all know about Knights, Castles, Dragons (Europe) or Samurai, Ninja etc (Japan). Simply knowing those things alone still isn't enough and that is when you need to understand something of the culture. Films and TV shows like Game of Thrones make it pretty universal. Even the Middle East is more accessible through old stories like Ali Baba, The Mummy as well as actual history like Ancient Egypt, French foreign legion etc.

Africa though? I can tell you a little of Shaka Zulu but that would be about it. To be honest asides from a possible Tarzan inspired RP there isn't much that compels me to study further. And that is the point in a way. People should play what interests them rather than have a quota type system where each culture has to be represented even poorly. I've never seen a Mongolian set fantasy or Eskimo/Inuit either.

Some settings are just more appealing.
 

Tanakalian

Dreamwalker
Joined
Dec 11, 2019
Location
Eindhoven, the Netherlands
Africa though? I can tell you a little of Shaka Zulu but that would be about it. To be honest asides from a possible Tarzan inspired RP there isn't much that compels me to study further. And that is the point in a way. People should play what interests them rather than have a quota type system where each culture has to be represented even poorly. I've never seen a Mongolian set fantasy or Eskimo/Inuit either.

Some settings are just more appealing.
Nor any of the South-American civilisations, or the natives of the US, Australia and the Polynesian Islands.

Isn't it all a matter of demand? If the percentage of roleplayers from continents like Africa and South-America becomes bigger, wouldn't they bring their stories with them, for others to participate and learn?
 

Dirty Fingers

Super-Earth
Joined
Jul 31, 2019
Nor any of the South-American civilisations, or the natives of the US, Australia and the Polynesian Islands.

Isn't it all a matter of demand? If the percentage of roleplayers from continents like Africa and South-America becomes bigger, wouldn't they bring their stories with them, for others to participate and learn?
I agree and yes you would think that if people from different places joined up they might bring aspects of their culture with them.

Speaking of Australia, where I am from. I have noticed that the USA becomes a default setting for real world RP's. One day I was playing with an Aussie and we were both trying out of habit to adapt it to America. It dawned on me that we could actually set it in our own country!

Sometimes I mention aspects of Aussie culture/society I would like to include anyway even if the person is American.
 

Matariel

Moon
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Actually myths and fables from Eastern Europe get some attention. Baba Yaga is probably the single best known one and the Witcher series actually brings some attention to Poland/Russia as well, mostly through monsters present in the games as well as some quests (for instance the method of undoing a Strzyga curse as well as the whole Baron's baby plotline from Witcher 3)

It might be an unpopular opinion, but with African stories we might face a problem with their availability. Take for instance Poland where writing appeared along with christianism circa 10th century and we barely know anything of the original faith or culture. When did writing appear in central and southern Africa? How will that affect our knowledge? Oral retelling can only take you so far.
 

LRDGRat

Super-Earth
Joined
Aug 3, 2015
Demographics et al are a major factor. A lot of it is about association and the language you speak. English is a 'white persons language', so you're going to have a lot more influence from English History (which lends itself to European History). The references etc you see are ones you can relate to, or know about, or can draw conclusions too. Its sort of like how for a very long time, stories were always from the Male perspective and as a society thats what we've become accustomed to. The first time I read a major novel with a female as a lead, it took me aback for a while and took me longer to 'associate' with the character, since being a male, I had a harder time 'seeing things' from the female perspective. Does that make sense?

A lot of it is about the market too - who make up the majority of the readers - so I am sure there are African-inspired fantasy books etc, but you probably have to live in/near one of the more developed countries of Africa in order to access them. The Witcher is certainly an interesting case of a localized sort of story making it international. I'd actually be interested in learning more about how that happened. But again, it ties in pretty closely to what is accepted for Fantasy Fiction.
 

Zeth

Supernova
Joined
Aug 27, 2015
Location
RI, USA
Spears of the Dawn!


Basically this is D&D based off of African Myths instead of European Myths. It is wonderfully done, but I can never find players for it or a GM. They always want to involve silly British invaders and ruin it.
 

Kyanite Key

Meteorite
Joined
Dec 17, 2019
Location
Cryptid Coast
Ivory! Thank you for asking, this is a great query.

A couple of people this thread are talking about availability like it's an issue like y'all don't have access to Google search, or asking a creator of color why these things aren't more visible. It reminds me of the "mystery" of Roanake when it the answer was carved on the fucking tree. I can assure, you, these stories don't exist as a hypotheticals.

Also please allow me to clear up answer Matariel's question about when writing appeared in central Africa! The answer is commonly to be believed around 5000 BC. It is called Nsibidi. For reference, continental Europe didn't have real writing till 1400 BC and that was Ancient Greek :D Africa is fucking full of super old writing, it's quite racist to assume it's all "oral retelling". However, for one of the many great examples of oral history having IMMENSE power in terms of mythology and historical relevance, I will point you to the Aborigines of Australia. Their oral history is SO GOOD that modern paleontologists there collaborate and work with them to confirm findings of ancient creatures and earth formations.

For those of you in genuine good faith, thank you. It's nice to read such things.

Ivory, I would like to piggyback off Zeth's helpful addition. He and Nihilistic Impact have both shared RPG resources. There is another RPG, very recently produced by an all POC crew called Swordsfall on a scale unprecedented. It's extremely cool and beautiful. I point it out not only suggest it (they're also right in pointing out it is hard to find people who will GM/play in large part due to the time and effort it takes to learn new dense systems like this), but also as a jumping off point. One of the ways to see all the amazing fantasy and sci-fi POC are creating is to follow POC creators on their social media. They often highlight others who are creating incredible projects ranging from RPG resources and sources--books, movies, ttrpg materials, comics, etc. You will find something!

There's more to say here, but I'll leave off for now and simply finish with a set of helpful links. All of the books included have delightful audiobook versions for you to enjoy :D Contrary to what some of the people in this thread seem to think, here is an example of some of the "demand". These books are ONLY sci-fi and fantasy based in African influence by Black authors. There is SO MUCH MORE if you open up some of the parameters! Also, I'm not even Black (although I'm not white either).

African-Based Sci-fi and Fantasy:

***Children of Blood and Bone (by Tomi Adeyemi)** This one I will add got its movie rights purchased for an INSANE amount, and just got a sequel.

Wild Seed ( by Octavia Butler)
Who Fears Death (by Nnedi Okorafor)

The Spider-King's Daughter (by Chibundo Onuzo)

The Beasts Made of Night (by Tochi Onyebuchi)

Daughters of Niri (by Reni K. Amayo)

The Gilded Ones (by Namina Forna--this writer is a screenwriter from LA to boot)

She Would Be King - A Novel (by Wayetu Moore) --this one is more magical realism but it's very good

Temper (by Nicky Drayen)

Afrofuturism - the World of Black Sci Fi and Fantasy Culture (by Ytasha L. Womack)

If you or anyone else needs or wants recs for more fantasy inspired by non-European cultures, please PM me. Off the top of my head I have titles inspired by and from Arab, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indoneisan, Fillipino, Mexican, Inuit, and Native American people and cultures and more. However I honestly just encourage y'all to follow some POC writer Twitters.
 

Dirty Fingers

Super-Earth
Joined
Jul 31, 2019
A couple of people this thread are talking about availability like it's an issue like y'all don't have access to Google search, or asking a creator of color why these things aren't more visible. It reminds me of the "mystery" of Roanake when it the answer was carved on the fucking tree. I can assure, you, these stories don't exist as a hypotheticals.
Sure you can Google just about anything. But it still requires the interest to do so and even then just reading a paragraph or two on a topic does not necessarily provide enough information to be able to write something based on it accurately. In the end it returns to the same point, lack of interest and/or a lack of people from those cultures who want to play RP's based on it.
 

LizH

Planetoid
Joined
Feb 2, 2015
Location
London
Well, aren't Conan Barbarian works more or less fictional Africa along with other places? I mean, looking at the map, a good chunk of it looks like it is a copy/paste of Africa.
Howard's Conan stories are notionally set on Earth before our own recorded history - he fudges the geography as no-one at the time was very sure of the effects of cataclysms and continental drift, but that's why the map looks so familiar. In the stories he wrote his characters range all across Eurasia and Africa, from Ireland/Scotland ('Pictland') - actually thinly disgused Native Americans - to Egypt ('Stygia'), India ('Vendhya') and China ('Khitai'). It's true that a few of the stories are set in his fictional Africa, but they're very much seen from the point of view of outsiders - Conan (Cimmerian - ie Irish) and his pirate girlfriend Belit, who is from Asgalun (effectively Palestinian). Although Howard was by no means as racist as many writers of the 1920s, and was very interested in tribal cultures, finding them more 'authentic' than contemporary western civilisation, and while he differentiates his African tribes and there are similar concepts of honour and bravery that most of his tribal peoples display, in between the were-leopards and lost civilisations of intelligent apes, he does also fall back quite a bit upon Victorian stereotypes of witch doctors and eye-rolling bloodthirsty cannibal 'savages' etc. As a setting it's clearly influenced by Edgar Rice-Burroughs' Tarzan stories and 'She' by Rider Haggard. It's of its time, and I'd hesitate to recommend it as an African fantasy setting in the 21st century.
Howard set some other stories in Africa. I think Solomon Kane (who I always think of as Conan the Puritan) goes there at one point, but the stories are much the same.
 

Matariel

Moon
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Invoking racism in what appears to be an intellectual discussion? Kudos.

My reason for oral retellings being inferior to writing is how fragile it is. Paper can last hundreds of years in good conditions. Stone tablets thousands. Spoken word tends to be one genocide away from oblivion (and those happened like, a lot back then). Not to mention how prone those stories are to being changed - every storyteller adds his own flourush to his story.

As for Africa having writing, a quick wikipedia search suggests 1000BC as the earliest date (which is still pretty impressive, my own people have no proof of pre-christian writing. Although that might as well be due to a very thorough cultural cleansing we got around 900AD) so there should be some prose in circulation.
 

LizH

Planetoid
Joined
Feb 2, 2015
Location
London
Invoking racism in what appears to be an intellectual discussion? Kudos.
Tazreale had asked about Robert E Howard. I was just suggesting that people looking for African fantasy settings might find some of the attitudes implicit in Howard's version of Africa offputting. I'm not sure why that should be controversial, but I'm open to discission.
 

Matariel

Moon
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Every author should be considered as a product of their time. Any person born before 1950 would be very, very racist by today's standards.

Howard himself achieved a very visceral vision of Africa and he does depict practices that actually took place in there. Essentially saying "some African tribes practiced cannibalism" is no more racist than "The Habsburgs inbred themselves to the point of genetic collapse" or "The Polish state owes it's fall to centuries of increasingly more blatant corruption among the nobility on a scale rarely seen throughout history of mankind"
 

drize

Moon
Joined
Jan 19, 2020
Woah, imagine how many african fantasy novels will be published in the next couple hundred years... maybe they'll have an emergence even bigger than western?
Since Africans will have access to everything that came out of America/Europe and now Asian film studios, no doubt they'll make amazing stuff.
and then us RPers will have even more stuff...
 
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