Date of Award
Dr. Johnny Wink
Dr. Doug Sonheim
Professor Nathan Fayard
Fantasy (and speculative fiction in general) is often looked down upon. People don't see it as having any literary value beyond entertainment. I respectively but vehemently disagree. Stories have power. Our emotional involvement in stories makes their lessons stick more than the simple presentation of an idea will. They can slip things into our minds without us realizing, sneaking in behind our defenses....
When I began to think about what I would write for my OBU Honor's Thesis, I was, naturally, drawn to the idea of writing a fantasy novel. For my Directed Study, I worked on doing a bit of research and hashing out some of the background for my story, which has the working title Interwoven....
In the past year, I have read a lot of articles and blog posts discussing how fantasy is dominated by straight white male characters. N.K. Jemisin, Foz Meadows, and many others have written extensively about how it is problematic than so many stories are based on medieval Europe, with straight white male protagonists. Like I said earlier, stories have power, and excluding voices can be damaging. Too many fantasy works marginalized people of color, women, gays, and other who are different from the perceived norm. In coming to understand more fully the problems within my beloved genre, I have felt challenged to do better. I do not want to contribute to the marginalization of others. There should be a place for all kinds of voices and stories within fantasy.
In light of this, I decided to base my story on African rather than European societies. I knew this would be difficult, but I did not realize just how difficult. My mind automatically gravitates towards a European-style setting. So often as I wrote I realized that something I had just assumed about the setting wouldn't be true in an African society. From food, clothing, and hair, to family dynamics, social interactions, and names, I have had to reexamine my initial thoughts. I haven't done anywhere near enough research to presume to write about Africa, even a fictional setting based on Africa. I know practically nothing about African in general, much less all the vast differences on the continent. It terrifies me to try to write this story, as I am sure I will make many, many mistakes. But neither do I want to write in a way that blindly continues to propagate the same problems. Thankfully, I am not a famous author with thousands of readers, so I don't have to worry about doing too much damage. However, it is important to me to pay attention to these issues....
Eubanks, Ellen, "Interwoven" (2014). Honors Theses. 214.