Writing of Fantasy Arabia

I get the sense sometimes that people wonder why a pale white guy like myself is writing about a fantastic version of 8th century Arabia, even that they question my ability to do so, or the appropriateness of my attempt. Not because they’ve read my work, but because they’ve seen my picture, or my name.

I would like to think that we have moved past that kind of thinking, but perhaps with all the “white man fighting savages fiction” we saw in previous generations, some skepticism is appropriate. On the other hand, I’d like to think that political correctness doesn’t go so far as to assume that because I am white (and, presumably, not 1000 years old and living in Arabia) that I can’t possibly write legitimately about characters with olive skin tones. If we use the argument that we should only ever write what we know (some dogmatically think that means only personally experience, and that it can’t mean something we’ve been researching for more than a decade, say),  we should all be writing contemporary fiction set in our own towns with no fantastic elements.

The simple answer to why I want to write Arabian fantasy? Because I fell in love with the Arabian Nights. I liked many of the stories so much that I read fiction set in the time period, then moved on to history and biographies and even poetry and prose from the region. And then, one day, I decided it looked like so much fun I wanted to try my hand at it myself. The characters were there and one at least was clamoring for me to get started talking about his adventures.

And so I sat down, and got to work.

3 Comments on “Writing of Fantasy Arabia

  1. As you said in your post where you defined the genre, setting and environment are essential components in sword and sorcery. What better place than Arabia? The culture is a step or two away from the familiar European and the desert provides some of the best exotic terrain. The masters of these lands as a backdrop many times.

    Scheharazade is hands down one of the sexiest women in literature. The name alone sounds mysterious and alluring. She isn’t an empty headed babe and that too is intriguing about her when she outwits the King and gains the upper hand. She’s proof that women have ruled the world for a long time as the King never sees it coming and still thinks that he has total control.

    I’ve always liked the Arabian Knights. I was one of the few who bought the Al Qadim adventures back in the TSR days. The creatures are also unfamiliar to the mainstream and I imagine it would be fun to play with a readers head who might be familiar with a werewolf or vampire but delivered an interesting twist of the Arabian versions. The whole thing is a writer’s gold mine.

    As for writing but not being part of the culture, some of my favorite writers have done the same. Take Tony Hillerman for instance, the Navajo characters come to life without missing a step. I was stationed in the Middle East for several years. I think you catch, at least so far because I haven’t finished the book, the cultural differences of how we think versus how Arabs think. I’m not Arabic either but they act like the Arabs I’ve known.

    I have a couple of stories that take place in a pre Columbian Central America setting. I find the culture completely alien. The characters have been the most fun to write of all the ones I have. One of the myths of multi culturalism is that cultures are interchangeable. They are not. But the stories from these lands expose our common humanity.

    We had a power outtage last night and my head is a groggy from all the antics. There is nothing like blundering in the dark and breaking a toe or two. I hope this post makes sense for those who read it. If not, just keep in mind that I’m short of sleep, coffee, and patience to go back and review this comment.

  2. Desert of Souls was a blast. I’ll pick up the sequel soon. By the way, writing from a different culture is called “passing” I believe.

    Print it and I’ll buy it. You are an excellent entertainer sir.

    • Don, thanks for your vote of confidence! I hope to be writing them a little faster in the coming years.

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