Britocentric fantasy

Allison Marles apm at
Mon Apr 12 13:05:15 EDT 2004

Mostly, I don't notice it... it's fantasy, afterall.  If I can accept
multiple worlds, magic, and so forth, why can't I accept this alternate
view of Britain.  I guess realistically, if I were to analyse it, I'd
assume there were similar people to Chrestomanci who work in India, 
Japan, Brazil whatever, but DWJ just happens to write about the British ones.

And anyone who levels such criticisms really /shouldn't/ be American IMO
since they are forever producing films where the US President is the 
ruler of world or saves the world or something.  That's hardly

I don't think it's surprising for American films to be American-centric
or for British novels to be British-centric.  That is afterall what
those filmmakers and novellists know.  I think reading anything more 
into it than "that's what the author knows", has to be done very
carefully.  Afterall, if there is a saviour for the world, s/he has to
come from somewhere, so why not Britain or America or wherever the 
writer/filmmaker feels like ?

If these books were being written for historical or purely educational
purposes, there might be a fault to be found in them focusing on one
geographic location.  As they aren't, I think it should just be accepted
along with all the other bits of the story.  

On a personal note, because I read so many fantasy novels written by
British authors, who base their stories in Britain or parallel
Britains, I have a rather romantical vision of the British Isles as
being flooded with magic.  And as with all good stories, it mostly 
goes unnoticed because people are very good at explaining away things
they don't really want to see/know.  And really, my view of the world
is so much more fun this way, I wouldn't wish these authors to change
a thing even if I had the power.  Everybody's world needs a bit of


On Mon, Apr 12, 2004 at 05:30:57PM +0100, Charles Butler wrote:
> Okay, here's a topic I've been thinking about recently. I was reading a
> couple of academic articles (both I think by Americans) on Susan Cooper, and
> both criticise the Dark is Rising sequence as colonial/imperialist texts
> because they make it clear that all the important stuff involved in the
> saving of the world goes on in Britain, and that the rest of the world (the
> worldwide circle of the Old Ones) are involved, if at all, only in a
> subsidiary way, passing on messages like 'Tell Will Stanton that the Old
> Ones of the South are ready,' etc.
> Okay - as it happens I largely disagree with this line, but what's almost
> more interesting to me is why the same criticism *hasn't* been levelled at
> other British fantasists whose British hero(in)es also save the world (and
> often more than one): Pullman, for example, and maybe even Rowling (has HP
> saved the world yet? Does he look likely to?). And - obDWJ - it is quite
> clear that Chrestomanci, the most powerful magician in the world, who seems
> to have a multiverse-wide brief to police magic, is also an employee of the
> British Government first and foremost - in fact he plain says so in
> Magicians of Caprona. And Britain (or Britain-analogues) are at the centre
> of world-saving in several other books too, such as Hexwood, Merlin
> Conspiracy, Sudden Wild Magic, and so on. Yet no one, to my knowledge, has
> accused DWJ of having imperialist tendencies in the way they have Cooper.
> Isn't that odd?
> How does this look from outside Britain, I particularly wonder?
> Charlie
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