Non-White, Non-Western Authors and Characters

This story makes me incredibly sad. "Asian fantasy doesn’t sell"? Tell that to Del Rey, who recently put out Daniel Fox’s Dragon in Chains; or Night Shade, who publish Liz Williams’s popular Detective Inspector Chen mysteries; or Tor, who just launched S.J. Day’s Eve trilogy; or Subterranean, who reissued Barry Hughart’s Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox to great acclaim from Hughart’s many, many fans. The editor who told off Cindy Pon (who promptly sold her book to HarperTeen instead, in case anyone was skeptical of its quality) wasn’t just biased; he was flat wrong. Asian fantasy seems to be selling well, and I’d love to see more of it, especially from Asian authors.

My call for information for the upcoming SF/fantasy issue specifically requested information about non-white, non-Western authors and characters. One small press proudly responded that they publish "the only Hispanic woman writing fantasy today". I’m not going to name the press or the author. Instead, I challenge you to come up with at least one name fitting that description. I bet there’s more than one.

More broadly, who are your favorite non-white, non-Western spec fic authors and characters? The CFI is looking for books coming out in 2009, but I’m just as happy to hear about books that are out already. And if you find yourself thinking "Huh, I don’t remember the last time I read something by a non-white, non-Western author or featuring non-white, non-Western characters", hie yourself over to the Writers of Color 50 Book Challenge and expand your horizons. You won’t be sorry.

15 thoughts on “Non-White, Non-Western Authors and Characters

  1. Sasha

    I know we don’t all get to be colorblind, and I know there are not many chances to do so. However, for me, when I read, I do. It is a nice opportunity to be so for me. Sometimes, when I read race/ethnicity of author come up, mostly if it is a memoir or I feel uncomfortable about something said and want to know the author’s background. Or, when I get to the end of the book, if I really connected with it or something I’ll start reading about the author. I’ve often failed to notice if an author I read is male or female. I read enough British English books that I can often get most or all of the way through a book without noticing that they have been using British spellings. It’s something that until recently I haven’t chosen to be aware of, (and like I said, I feel, especially in fantasy, I have that choice. I understand people disagree) and most of what I have read recently has been for class. However, in class today we are discussing Children’s Lit and fantasy, so I am going to bring this up, since nobody on our reading list for the week was non-white or non-western. However, I am not sure who we should have included-we’re pretty much reading blockbusters. Suggestions welcome. (Note: we have had plenty of diverse reading in other weeks, I think it is specifically a fantasy &

  2. Kat B

    What about the sub-series that Feist did? I believe there was a co-author. I can’t recall the title and I’m not near enough my shelves to just go look. There were definite Asian overtones to the culture there. It was extraordinarily interesting.

  3. Kat B

    What about the sub-series that Feist did? I believe there was a co-author. I can’t recall the title and I’m not near enough my shelves to just go look. There were definite Asian overtones to the culture there. It was extraordinarily interesting.

  4. Marie Brennan

    The comment software won’t let me make this an actual link, but I maintain a list of fantasy novels that model themselves on cultures other than Ye Olde medieval/Celtic/Norse-ish mash, for anyone seeking out such books. The list is at: I also welcome suggestions for titles I’ve overlooked; please email them to me at marie (dot) brennan (at) gmail (dot) com.

  5. Joel

    David Wingrove – Chung Kuo (7 books) Leah Cutter – The Paper Mage Guy Gavriel Kay – Tigana (European, but not English) C. J. Cherryh – Ruskala Octavia Butler – Any Samuel Delaney – Any Lian Hearn – Tales of the Otori Orson Scott Card – 7th Son & Red Prophet (Native American/Frontier American) Just to name a few

  6. cindy pon

    rose, i’m a little stunned my little comment in a LJ post has made it here. wow. i think i obviously went to the wrong editor, because at the very same conference, i learned that the only other spec fic editor had specifically said he was looking for multi-cultural fantasy. i definitely think mine is a more than happy ending. i was crushed, but i didn’t let it sway me. i believed in my story. and this is essential for any new writer trying to navigate through the often heart wrenching process of getting an agent and selling her novel. i queried 121 agents and it wasn’t an easy road, but it’s all been more than worth it. books i’ve enjoyed featuring multi-cultural characters : dawn by octavia butler anansi boys by neil gaiman the wizard of earthsea [and series] by ursula le guin the secrets of jin-shei by alma alexander i am forever an optmist, and i believe there are editors out there looking for multi-cultural based fantasy. we’re making slow strides, but they are steps forward, nontheless. thank you for blogging about this. =)

  7. cindy pon

    i would also like to say the editor i met with was not mean or rude in any way–he simply shared his view on the market with me. what is wonderful is that everyone has a different view. and thank the goddess of mercy for that. =)

  8. Marilynn Byerly

    JADE LEE She writes the Dragon Lord series. Another book comes out next month. She also writes urban fantasy and historical erotica based on the Taos and set in China.

  9. Alana Abbott

    I don’t know Devon Monk’s ethnicity, but her characters are from multiple ethnicities, and her world has the feeling of being populated by a wide variety of peoples. There are also a number of authors writing paranormal romance who are using characters from different cultural/ethnic backgrounds or are being published here from overseas.

  10. Andrew Wheeler

    Well, I’m nosy, so I looked up the original examples on BookScan. And, I’m sorry to say, that if these are the popular, successful Asian fantasies, I’d hate to see how poorly the unpopular ones sold — the numbers are pretty low. Most of them are under a thousand copies in trade paperback — didn’t even sell one copy per big-box bookstore in the US. But, given how successful SHOGUN and other James Clavell novels were in their day, I’m sure there’s a big potential audience for a great, crowd-pleasing fantasy novel with Asian themes. (And I’d certainly like to see more non-derivative fantasy, whether it draws from Asian or African or Aborigine or imagined sources — there are already too many lost princes saving kingdoms and sassy leather-clad chicks kissing vampires.) As to Asian authors, there are probably many more than most of us realize, starting with great writers like Brenda Clough. It can be hard to tell a writer’s ethnicity from her name — and I think that can be a good thing.

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