Fantasy author N.K. Jemisin isn’t satisfied with the status quo: it “is significantly racist and sexist and a whole bunch of other things that I think need to change. With epic fantasy there is a tendency for it to be quintessentially conservative, in that its job is to restore what is perceived to be out of whack.”


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I wholeheartedly disagree with Jemisin’s take on epic fantasy. A majority of epic fantasy novels follow some permutation of the hero monomyth as presented in “The Hero of a Thousand Faces.” The clear conclusion of the hero’s journey is that he or she returns changed by their experience, which is innately progressive.

While the quest might be to restore balance, the end result is rarely that simple. Virtually any good epic fantasy, from Tolkien onwards, has featured a fundamental transformation of the world as a result of a plot, and not the hoped-for return to the status quo.

This may be why the fantasy genre is fairly progressive as a whole, but I hesitate to project storytelling into personal politics.