Book of pioneering essays explores fantasy with Native American influences

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In 2006, author Amy Sturgis  presented a paper at the  Mythopoeic Society’s Mythcon 37 in which she suggested that specialists in fantasy studies and Native American studies have a lot to offer each other. In an August 2009 interview, Sturgis said, ‘Both sides I think are missing out on great opportunities to talk about and share the remarkable — and remarkably similar — literature in their respective fields. In my talk I recommended ways of bringing together those who love fantasy and those who love Native America.”

After her Mythcon talk, Sturgis was approached by the Mythopoeic Society Press and asked to edit a book of essays that would use her paper as a catalyst for exploring: (1) Native American mythology in literature, (2) Native American authors writing works with fantasy elements, (3) non-Native fantasy authors incorporating Native America into their own work.

As an author interested in the cultures and stories of the native nations traditionally associated with the locations in which my novels are set, I’m was happy to see the publication of The Intersection of Fantasy and Native America: From H.P. Lovecraft to Leslie Marmon Silko (Mythopoeic Society Press, October 2009) with pioneering work about the long-neglected impact of native themes in fantasy genre novels.

Publisher’s Description

A number of contemporary Native American authors incorporate elements of fantasy into their fiction, while several non-Native fantasy authors utilize elements of Native America in their storytelling. Nevertheless, few experts on fantasy consider American Indian works, and few experts on Native American studies explore the fantastic in literature. Now an international, multi-ethnic, and cross-disciplinary group of scholars investigates the meaningful ways in which fantasy and Native America intersect, examining classics by American Indian authors such as Louise Erdrich, Gerald Vizenor, and Leslie Marmon Silko, as well as non-Native fantasists such as H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolkien, and J.K. Rowling. Thus these essayists pioneer new ways of thinking about fantasy texts by Native and non-Native authors, and challenge other academics, writers, and readers to do the same.

Author’s Comments

In an April 2009 interview in which she was asked about myth, fantasy and science fiction, Sturgis said, “All three are involved in the project of answering the question of what it means to be human: the nature of humanity; the nature of humanity’s relationship to the earth, the cosmos, the infinite; and other questions like these. The very first storytellers, through their mythological stories, parables, and other tales, were trying to come to some sense of the world and to figure out their place in it. I see mythology as a “mother figure” out of which the other two have grown.”

Reviewer Opinions

  • “With excellent and accessible scholarship, this book opens wide the door of Native American mythology and fantasy by connecting it with the fantasy many of us already know and love.” — Travis Prinzi, Author of Harry Potter and Imagination and editor of Hog’s Head Conversations.
  • “The essays in Sturgis and Oberhelman’s The Intersection of Fantasy and Native America open our eyes to the kinship between families of literature hitherto seen as separate-fantasy and Native American fiction-showing their interconnections in subject matter, in techniques of dream and trance and magical realism and post-modern meta-narrative, and most importantly, in their ability to penetrate appearances in search of underlying truths. The result is that we see each in light of the other and both as parts of the larger, so-called mainstream, and as essential to our understanding of literature, its  writers and readers, in the 21st century. –Verlyn Flieger, Professor of  English, University of Maryland at College Park, Author of Interrupted Music, A Question of Time, and Splintered Light.

The myths flowing out of classic Greek and Roman mythology and the impact of fact and fiction about kings and queens and elves and faerie folk from faraway worlds have, I believe, partially obscurred the role of Native American folktales and belief systems in creating both our world view and the fantasy fiction given birth by our imagionation in the place where we live. By examining the work of widely known authors, The Intersection of Fantasy and Native America helps interpret the rich landscape we may not have noticed just outside the front door.

–Malcolm

contemporary fantasy with native themes

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4 responses

  1. Pingback: Book Bits #53 – Haruki Murakami, That vs. Which, Philippa Gregory | Malcolm's Book Bits and Notions

  2. Pingback: Native American Themes in ‘Sarabande’ « Sarabande's Journey

  3. I love Leslie Marmon Silko. Only read one of her books–Garden in the Dunes (of the Dunes?), but I have several more titles on my wish list. I’d love to read this paper you talk about here; it sounds fascinating.