Cultural Experiences in Fantasy

I’ve been spending the weekend with my in-laws for the new year. This time of year is one of the biggest cultural events in Japanese society. It’s the time when families get together, eat together, visit the shrine or temple, and give money to the children.

As the line foreigner, I stuck out. I was clumsy with the language and I didn’t know much about what to do. I stayed out of the way as much as possible, but kept myself busy keeping my daughter out of the way. It’s difficult to find acceptance in Japanese society, but they seem to have accepted me. I’m actually no longer the focus of discussion, which I’m thankful for.

In fantasy novels, characters often travel from one area to another, passing through several cultures. In some cases, we get to see the cultures and our characters’ missteps with them. This happens not only in real life, but also in fantasy. Authors of fantasy need to be able to create these cultures and show their characters making mistakes and feeling uncomfortable. I understand the feeling. I may have an advantage. It’s not enough to have the cultures, but you need the awkward interactions.

What do you think? How important are cultures to you in fantasy (or even science fiction with alien cultures). Leave your ideas in the comments below.

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