I’ve been thinking a lot about magic this week.
As an SFF writer (both in fandom and outside of it), almost all of my work involves building fantastical worlds and magical systems that are both realistic and believable. Systems in fiction more often than not depict systems in real life. “Magic” for me, as an urbanized and educated kid growing up in the Global South has translated to what can be captured within the confines of the English language—spells from Harry Potter or rituals from Supernatural, which draw their linguistic roots from Latin and the Judeo-Christian tradition.
In the introduction to The Dark Fantastic—Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games, Elizabeth Ebony Thomas describes the lack of diversity in popular fantasy media for kids as an “imagination gap”, created by the lack of diversity in childhood experiences and teen lives depicted in kids’ media. She goes on to further argue that
“[w]hen youth grow up without seeing diverse images in the mirrors, windows and doors of children’s and young adult literature, they are confined to single stories about the world around them and ultimately, the development of their imaginations is affected.”Ebony Thomas, Elizabeth. “Introduction.” In The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games, 1-14. New York: NYU Press, 2019.
For me, this imagination gap has often manifested itself in a linguistic gap—one that has Othered me and my work, both within my own culture and that of the larger tradition of fantasy writing. English is a poor language to write in; it doesn’t make space for non-white vernacularisms very easily. And magic already exists in my culture—English just calls it “exotic”.
What are some of the racialized imagination gaps you have experienced? How is “magic” perceived within your fandom spaces?