Non-euro fantasy stories?
September 23, 2013 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Looking for fantasy that's not based on your standard European/Tolkien background. Pretty much any flavor of fantasy is alright (straight, urban, science, what have ye). Just finished reading Barry Hughart's Master Li/Number Ten Ox books and enjoyed them. Would definitely prefer "adult" fiction versus YA, but no preference for novels versus short stories.
posted by curious nu to Writing & Language (24 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
A Stranger In Olondria

Stories by Nalo Hopkinson

Anything by Aliette De Bodard. There are some short stories on her blog. I like On A Red Station, Drifting. You might find that interesting as it is a reflection on the actual Chinese novel The Story of the Stone. (Which is itself a novel with elements of the fantastic - it's really long (five volumes) but it's one of my favorite novels in the world.)
posted by Frowner at 11:08 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Le Guin's Earthsea series.
posted by meta87 at 11:11 AM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I enjoyed China Mielville's "The City & the City", which is sort of a fantasy detective story. It's only European as far as it could be taking place in an imaginary Turkey. Not sure it will be fantasy enough for you though...
posted by maryr at 11:15 AM on September 23, 2013

Charles R. Saunders' "Imaro" books are pretty great if you like classic, pulp-influenced swords and sorcery. Think Conan set in East Africa.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:16 AM on September 23, 2013

N.K Jemisin and David Anthony Durham pulled me out of my Euro-fantasy rut. And if you're okay with American/Wild West style fantasy, Felix Gilman's Half-Made World books are at least different (though still told from a white-centric worldview, which may not be what you want).
posted by immlass at 11:18 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I really enjoyed Tales of the Otori series, which is based on historical Japan. It read like a fantasy, though I don't remember if it has magic in it.
posted by ethidda at 11:19 AM on September 23, 2013

African Fantasy, such as Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okarofor
posted by aetg at 11:21 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

This question has been asked before, lots of recommendations in that thread.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:30 AM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

There are a number of different lists on this blog post all about reading more diverse forms of sff.

I really liked Kij Johnson's The Fox Woman.
posted by Fence at 11:32 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Off the top of my head:
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
I'll see if I can think of any others.
posted by maryrussell at 11:49 AM on September 23, 2013

Catherynne M. Valente's "A Dirge for Prester John" series. Which sounds like it should be European fantasy, because it's about Prester John, but is really about as far from Tolkien as you can get (I always recommend reading Stephen Asma's non-fiction book, On Monsters, to get a good introduction to the legends the story is based on).
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:19 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts co-wrote the Empire Trilogy about a woman in a pseudo-Asian (Korean/Japanese) society. You get a bit of a tie-in with Feist's regular Eurofantasy world, but it stands very well on its own if you like political intrigue and world building.

Seconding Kij Johnson - The Cat Who Walked A Thousand Miles is beautiful.
posted by harujion at 1:32 PM on September 23, 2013

Oh, and for Kij Johnson, her other novel is Fudoki.
posted by harujion at 1:39 PM on September 23, 2013

American Gods - Neil Gaiman
posted by Empyrean_72 at 2:25 PM on September 23, 2013

Charles de Lint and Emma Bull write contemporary fantasy set in current day North America.

Check out the list on this wikipedia page for more ideas.
posted by Requiax at 3:10 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think Jack Chalker's "Dancing Gods" series is excellent, and it's certainly not a Tolkien me-too.

It works like this: when God created the Earth, as a side effect a second universe came into being. God was too busy on the original project to pay any attention to the other one, so he delegated control over it to a group of angels. They, not being deities, didn't have the knowledge and wisdom needed to control the outcome by diddling values of fundamental physical constants, so instead they created the Books of Rules, eight or nine books which laid out how the world would operate. Eventually they turned it all over to a small group of very powerful human wizards. And as those wizards eventually died, new ones were selected by the remainder to fill the council.

Unfortunately, over time there was quality decay, and the inevitable result of bureaucracy was more and more books being written, with ever more detail, about how things should run. By the time of Chalker's stories, it's up to something like 1800 books and new ones coming out all the time.

The thing is, what's written in the books has the power of physical law. You cannot violate it. And a lot of what's in them is extremely pernicious. For instance: "When a party goes on a quest, it must number 7, of which one is not totally trustworthy."

The head of the council is named Throckmorton P. Ruddygore -- or at least that's the name he goes by now. No one knows his real name (since knowing someone's name grants power over them) and he's a white wizard. The rules say that dark wizards will always contend with the white wizards to take over the world, and the latest instance of that is someone called "The Dark Baron". Ruddygore decides he needs a special kind of help, and he recruits two people from our earth to come across "the Sea of Dreams", which separates the two universes. He ends up with a man named Joe and a woman named Marge. Anyway, the book series is about their adventures in the other world.

There are elves and dwarves and pixies and mermaids but they ain't like anything out of Tolkien. And in fact, it's almost more science fiction than it is fantasy.

I wish, however, he'd have stopped after 3 books. The fourth book wasn't very good and the fifth was even worse, and he died before writing any more.

Another possibility is "The Warlock in spite of himself" by Christopher Stasheff. It's the first book of a series and I haven't read any of the others, but the first book is excellent. The protagonist, Rod, is a scout for an interstellar civilization who seeks out lost colonies and tries to prepare them to join the civilization. The latest planet he's been assigned to turns out to have magic, which is astounding since nothing like that has ever been seen before. It also turns out to be in the midst of a political crisis, with mysterious agents from ?somewhere? trying to destabilize the place. Rod ends up bringing about a resolution (I won't go into details).

Anyway, he has available to him all kinds of very sophisticated and advanced technology, and when he uses it the people of the planet accuse him of being a warlock, which he always denies. That's the reason for the title.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:27 PM on September 23, 2013

Some critics have argued that Mervyn Peake was chanelling the ghosts of old China for Gormenghast.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:05 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I strongly recommend The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham.

Also, Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson.
posted by shesbookish at 4:08 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Little, Big by John Crowley
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 5:30 PM on September 23, 2013

If you'll take your fantasy wrapped inside a shell of mostly-hard SF, which itself has a thread of the elven ineffable to it, perhaps you'd enjoy Peter F. Hamilton's nicely thick Void Trilogy. Synopses seem to focus on the framing story, which is the larger share of the wordcount, but the world within the titular void is governed by magic and receives almost as much ink. Recommended for a nutritionally complete serving of SFF.
posted by mumkin at 11:12 PM on September 23, 2013

They are not to everyone's taste, but you might try the Kai Lung books/stories of Ernest Bramah. They seem to be freely available online via Project Gutenberg and other sites.
posted by gudrun at 4:33 PM on September 24, 2013

Though published as YA, the Octavian Nothing books are incredibly well-written and wrenching. They're more alternate/critical history than fantasy-with-magic, but they have a strong feel of the fantastic. They are fantastic in spirit. They're set in the proto-US but it's very much a different US - not so much in literal terms but in emphasis. It's an understanding of the US which emphasizes the diasporic, the bizarre and hidden aspects of the Enlightenment and the proto-US's relationship with Africa.
posted by Frowner at 6:34 AM on September 25, 2013

Nearly everything by Zen Cho and a lot by Ken Liu, and the fanfic "Fifty Years in the Virtuous City". I didn't much care for Ashok Banker's work but you could try it. Also check out the Carl Brandon award-winners.
posted by brainwane at 8:19 PM on September 25, 2013

thanks for the excellent ideas. I was thinking to propose Orson Scott Card, but then again he also claims his work is inspired on Tolkien. But for me when it comes to SF he is right on the top there... just love his books!
posted by TolkienLibrary at 12:14 AM on September 26, 2013

« Older How do I approach my needs with a guy without...   |   See a doctor soon, now or right now? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.